How to Achieve Your Dream Fishery WebinarQ&A with Our Fisheries Experts
Following our recent educational presentation on fisheries management, our experts reviewed and discussed questions from our audience. And there were so many great questions we just couldn’t get to! Take a look at their answers and learn more about fisheries management strategies you can implement to help achieve your dream fishery.
Didn’t watch the webinar? Watch the recording here.
Note: Many variables go into creating a healthy and productive fishery. These questions are not tailored to all fisheries and the answers could vary depending on your waterbody’s characteristics and fishery goals. To speak with one of our specialists about your specific waterbody and fisheries goals, please fill out our contact form and we will be in touch to discuss your questions in detail.
- How can I maintain aesthetically-pleasing water while growing big fish?Research has shown that individuals who seek a “country club” lake—or lakes that are aesthetically pleasing—often prefer at least 3-feet of visibility and minimal algae blooms. Luckily, studies indicate that productive and quality fisheries can be effectively achieved within lakes containing 3-feet in visibility, but it should be noted that as visibility increases, production decreases. Some beneficial vegetation (15-20%) should also be maintained to promote a healthy fishery. Though many plant species are aesthetically pleasing, filamentous algae should be treated by a lake management professional to help facilitate the growth of beneficial planktonic green algae.
- How can you create a great Bluegill and Largemouth Bass fishery?A number of management strategies can help you achieve great Bluegill and Largemouth Bass fisheries. Fertilization and liming are often recommended. It’s also beneficial to strategically feed Bluegill and harvest Largemouth Bass less than 15 inches. Finally, we recommend maintaining the right amount of vegetation (15-20% coverage) to help promote a healthy fishery.
- Each summer, our waterbody experiences a lot of coontail growth, which makes fishing difficult. Can the coontail cause harm to the fish population?Coontail can do no physical harm to your fish population. In fact, it is a very beneficial plant to find in your fishery, because it provides cover. However, if you find it gets too dense (exceeds more than 8-12% of the waterbody), it could reduce the carrying capacity of the fishery and reduce the foraging efficiency of predators. A professional fisheries manager can help you reduce or maintain coontail growth with the use of EPA-registered herbicides.
- How large should a lake be to stock crappie, yet still maintain a productive bass fishery?If you want a phenomenal bass fishery, do not stock crappie. If you “must” have both bass and crappie, then we recommend only doing so in a lake that exceeds 20- to 25-acres. Even though both are apex predators, they do have different requirements—and it takes work to maintain suitable habitat, structure and forage for both species.
- What is the average annual cost per acre for a fisheries management program?This is a very common question with a very subjective answer that is based on the intensity of management you wish to apply to your lake. We are eager to provide for the needs and desires of our clients and their waterbodies, but their fisheries dreams can vary tremendously. For an estimate, please use the Contact Us form to send us details regarding your waterbody’s size and depth, the type fishery you desire, and other pertinent information.
- What are some natural algae control strategies?Algaecides can be very safe and effective tools for algae management when applied correctly by a fisheries professional, but they are not always necessary. One alternative is the use of an aeration system, which can provide beneficial circulation that improves dissolved oxygen levels and helps naturally convert nutrients to forms that cannot sustain algae growth. The benefits of aeration can be compounded through the introduction of native vegetation and flowering plants around the shoreline of the waterbody. When left to grow roughly 18 inches in height and extend 3-5 feet from the edge of your fishery, these beneficial plants will form a buffer that helps filter the nutrient-rich stormwater runoff responsible for fueling algae growth. Ask your fisheries manager about buffer plants that are native to your particular area.
- How can you maintain existing populations of trophy bass with a small budget?Budgets vary and we are always looking for ways to stretch your dollar and provide value. If your goal is trophy bass, we will work with you to develop a customized Fisheries Management Plan that fits within your budget. If your budget is limited, we recommend focusing on water quality testing, electrofishing and data collection, which helps provides valuable insight in to the unique parameters of the waterbody. If your budget is a little more generous, fertilization and fish cover installations are often the next step to help establish a productive fishery. Long-lasting fisheries require a lot of sweat equity, and oftentimes it’s more than a fishing club or community are equipped to handle—but there are innovative strategies that can help stretch your dollar further. Like we mentioned in the webinar, selective harvest is also one of the most critical management strategies in trophy bass management, but if you need to remove 500 bass under 15″ this year, can you do that on your own? Rather than arrange for an electrofishing boat to come in several times a year to harvest bass, the anglers who fish that lake can meet the quota as set by your fisheries biologist. This is one example of cutting costs while meeting the goals of trophy bass on a small budget, and your fisheries biologist can recommend others based on your goals and the characteristics of your waterbody.
- How can you balance fisheries management with swimming, tubing and other recreation?Very often, we find that the goals for a lake are split between people who desire clear water with no vegetation at all and others who want to grow and catch a lot of large fish. It’s impossible to achieve both on a large scale, so achieving balance among stakeholders is key. It’s crucial for recreators to understand that a certain amount of vegetation must be maintained for the fish population, while still considering their values and the overall budget.
- What is the ideal alkalinity range for healthy fishery? What is the best ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus for healthy aquatic plant growth? Can you recommend beneficial aquatic plant species?Alkalinity should be greater than 20 mg/l for a healthy fishery; ideally greater than 40 mg/I. The Nitrogen to Phosphorous (N:P) ratio should exceed 20:1 to help maintain healthy algae. Aquatic plant species will vary depending on regional geography and climate, the presence of grass carp, fisheries goals, and a variety of factors. For example, emergent species may be more beneficial for nutrient uptake and shoreline stabilization while submerged species are better for angling success. A fisheries manager can take each unique parameter in to account and recommend suitable plant species for your waterbody.
- Can you have bluegill, channel cat, bass and trout in the same pond? The pond is 2.3-acre ft.If the pond is 2.3 acre-feet (meaning a 1-acre pond with an average depth of 2.3 feet) then maintaining trout will be a challenge, even in Colorado. Maintaining three or four desired species in a small pond will require fish feed in order to sustain the population.
- What is the shallowest depth a 7-12 acre waterbody needs to be to allow trout to hold over? This pond does have some spring holes and two small brooks.This will depend on elevation, air temps, and other parameters. It’s important to establish a temperature/dissolved oxygen profile a few times during the summer to see if you have water <70 degrees with adequate oxygen.
- Do I have to eliminate carp to have a fishery?It depends. Carp can be a part of your fishery. They are a highly sought-after species in Europe where they are native. They don’t have that same reputation in the United States, but they can provide recreational benefits for angling. They are also highly sought after with bow fishers. The problem with carp in lakes is generally two-fold. First, many anglers don’t want a lot of their biomass tied up in carp, which generally aren’t desired. So, if you have a lot of pounds of carp swimming around in your lake, that’s less pounds of the fish you actually desire. Second, carp can become over abundant. They also root up vegetation and cause the lake to stay turbid, which isn’t aesthetically pleasing. Based on your goals and population survey, you can develop a Fisheries Management Plan that can manage carp without necessarily eliminating them.
- Can aeration help address suspended clay issues in my established pond? Aeration is an important tool to help improve water quality and convert excess nutrients to forms that cannot sustain algae and aquatic weed growth, but it is not used to help with suspended clay particles. It is important to identify the cause of the turbidity whether it’s in the form of nutrients from industrial runoff or from carp stirring up the water. Some lakes and ponds just naturally have a lot of suspended particles. The solutions range from installing a beneficial vegetative buffer to applying a treatment of aluminum sulfate to reduce the amount of suspended solids.
- What are affordable off-grid options for aeration?There are some good solar aeration options, but those are a viable solution for smaller ponds (less than one acre) and for properties where providing power to the waterbody is cost prohibitive. The upfront costs for a solar unit are 2 to 3 times more expensive than a standard aeration system, but you can make up for it on your utility bills in the long run. The goal is typically to run aeration 24/7 and we most often times encourage clients to go with the traditional aeration systems and run power to the waterbody when it’s feasible.
- How do you manage bass, perch, bluegill, sunfish, and redear in a half acre pond?At a minimum, I recommend harvesting about 10 Largemouth Bass (8-12 inches) per year and feed the Sunfish. Additionally, you could fertilize (and lime if needed).
- What type of predator fish would you introduce (besides largemouth) to control bullhead and green sunfish?Both green sunfish and bullheads spend much of their lives close to structure. They are often found in rip rap along a dam, rock piles or brush piles. In live-wells, green sunfish species are typically the last fish found hiding in the corners. For this reason, we recommend selecting predator species that frequent these habitats, including blue catfish and smallmouth bass. However, introducing topline predators like these may pose additional challenges, depending on your management objectives. Another very effective management method I’ve used for green sunfish in Texas was to stock large quantities of medium bluegill each spring when the water temperature reached the upper 60s. These bluegill were just the right size to prey on green sunfish as they came off their nests. After three successive years of doing so, we transitioned a sunfish fishery dominated by green sunfish to one dominated by bluegill. This project took place in temperatures that reached the mid to late 90s. I continue to monitor this lake and would be hard pressed to find a single green sunfish today. If practical, I would also implement a trapping program for bullheads. When you get the right trap and bait, you might be surprised how many you can harvest. You may also want to consider a trapping program for mudcats.
- Best practices for managing a 5-acre fishery in NE Iowa?What type of fishery? What are your goals? Habitat considerations would include water samples to determine if lime/fertilizer are needed. We recommend 15-20% habitat complexity. Electrofishing assessments are important, as is harvesting Largemouth Bass and providing feed for forage fish. We would be happy to discuss your fishery in more detail. Send us some information about your waterbody and goals using our Contact Us form.
- Are crayfish a good forage food for Largemouth Bass and Redear sunfish?Largemouth Bass will readily consume crayfish. They are a good forage source. I’m not aware of the same being said for Redear sunfish.
- Does an aeration system cause water to evaporate quicker?It is not likely with bottom diffused aeration systems, but with a fountain it is possible due to the water shooting up in the air.
- What is the proper technique for stocking sport fish?There are a lot of considerations when stocking sport fish, including knowledge of the fish species that are already present in the lake. For instance, if you need to add bluegill, but you have a stunted Largemouth Bass population of about 12 to 15 inches, you will need to stock larger bluegill so they all don’t get eaten. It’s also important to consider stocking rates, sizes and lake fertility. If you own or manage a new pond, you might want to take a patient approach and stock 2″ largemouth bass at 100 fish per acre. However, if stakeholders want to fish sooner, you will need to reduce the rate at which you stock (15 to 20 fish per acre) and stock catchable fish. It’s also critical to consider stocking rate and species size. As a rule of thumb, as size goes down, the stocking rate goes up due to the higher mortality of the fish you introduce. If you want trophy Largemouth Bass, then you’ll want to stock at a lower rate, while stocking forage fish at a higher rate to ensure a predator to prey balance that’s conducive to trophy fish. Time of year is another consideration. Forage is best stocked in the fall and Largemouth Bass in the spring. Time of year also affects temperature. Survival rates of stocked fish are going to be lower in warmer waters, which means there are windows in the year that you can stock fish appropriately. For example, in Virginia, you may need to stock in March, April, May, October or November. Stocking considerations should all be made with help from a fisheries biologist.
- We have a 27-acre lake that gets 28 ft deep. When sinking Christmas trees for cover what would be a good depth?We suggest both a bathymetric study to show the waterbody’s contours and a temperature and dissolved oxygen profile to assure that the habitat is placed where fish will be. It ultimately depends on what season you want to fish those Christmas trees. If during the warmer spring or summer months, then I would recommend <10 feet. If you want to create some cold-weather habitat to fish, then 10-20 feet might be best.
- I always hear about structure for bass, but are you aware of a topographic map showing the best places for it? Should it be put on points? I like the way you are thinking. I always consider lake bathymetry when designing a structure plan. Ideal places include points, coves, shallow with quick access to deep water, bottlenecks, and humps. Other considerations include angler access, prevailing wind / water currents, and fetch.
- Is it possible to manage a larger body of water for both trophy bass and trophy bream?Absolutely. Of course, there are other factors involved but the two go hand in hand. If you manage your sunfish properly for trophy bass, you will undoubtedly grow trophy bass along with your sunfish. Providing a quality fish food is a key component to both goals.
- What differences are to be considered when stocking smallmouth bass verse Largemouth Bass?Smallmouth bass generally require a larger, deeper body of water than Largemouth Bass. The habitat requirements of smallmouth and Largemouth Bass overlap to some degree, but smallmouth are typically more selective of rocky and gravelly substrates. In a small impoundment, limiting your stocking to only one or the other is preferred. Both species like crayfish, though smallmouth seem more dependent on them.
- What is the content of a lake management plan? Can you offer any advice on how best to come up with a lake management plan? Once the plan is in place, how data driven is managing to the plan?Content should include goals, a stocking plan, a harvest plan, vegetation management, water quality data and management, fishery survey data, angling data, and habitat data and plans. A fisheries biologist can help you design and implement a customized plan that is driven by goals, fishery surveys and angling data.
- What type of vegetation would be good for a barren sandpit with little to no structure or vegetation?A few good plant species that come to mind: Arrowhead (Sagiteria sp.) for marginal plantings, White Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata), coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), and American pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus). Regardless of the plants you use, it is important to verify that each species is native to your area. Regardless, a “barren sandpit” doesn’t sound very plant friendly. You may need to consider establishing plants in pots with good soil, burying the pot in the sand at the appropriate depth, fertilizing the plant with a fertilizer tablet made for plant use (available at water gardens), and protecting the plants from herbivores with coated welded wire cages.
- Regarding electrofishing, how often and how large of an area based on the overall size of the lake?Ideally, we like to complete an electrofishing assessment in both the spring and fall. Area isn’t as important as variety when it comes to habitat types. On a small impoundment (less than 10-acres) we will shock most of the lake. Our focus on larger impoundments is targeting every habitat type present.
- Specific challenges of managing a body of water for fish, but also waterfowl?The biggest challenge is often that separate groups of stakeholders have divergent goals. In reality, both management objectives can be met. Ideally, at the design stage, areas of the lake should be left shallow for vegetation growth where duck hunting is allowed, while other areas include depth and habitat more suitable to anglers. Vegetation control measures should not typically include whole lake treatments to protect waterfowl habitat. Vegetation should be selected and managed for high seed production with low invasiveness. If drawdowns are an option, some areas of the lake may be planted to attract waterfowl.