The first step to managing a pond or lake is to inventory the body of water. To give the biologist a snapshot of what is happening underwater, they will perform an electrofishing survey.
Spring and fall are the most productive times of year to conduct electrofishing surveys. Fish are more concentrated in the shallows compared to other times of the year.
Electrofishing surveys are performed from a specialized boat with precise instruments to control volts and amps being sent through the water. Fish that come within the electrical field generated by the electrofishing boat are temporarily stunned, netted and placed in a livewell to recover. When they are inventoried, fish are measured for length and weight. All fish are returned to the lake unless they are underperforming or are considered undesirable fish.
When bass are inventoried, the biologist uses length and weight to calculate the relative weight. Relative weight tells the biologist how healthy the bass are. A healthy bass that is at the proper weight for its length will have a relative weight of 100 percent. Bass that are 90% relative weight are doing OK but could be better. Often, lakes that have not been managed in years will be full of stunted bass with relative weights between 70 and 85 percent. If you’ve fished a pond where you catch a bass with every cast and they are between 8 and 12 inches, then you’ve fished a bass-crowded fishery full of stunted bass.
Analyzing the fishery provides data necessary to determine the health of a fishery. With this data, informed decisions are made on management inputs to improve the fishery toward a goal. Management inputs could include harvest rates for anglers to follow, supplemental stocking and habitat and water-quality improvements.
For fisheries that have never been surveyed, this baseline data can be referenced for many years to come to track the health and improvements of the fishery.
By Grant Bòbo, Aquatic Environmental Services, Inc.
Aquatic Environmental Services provides cutting-edge fishery management services that exceed customer expectations. Give them a chance to enhance the fishing in your lake and help you grow big fish. They offer lake management services across Georgia and the Southeast. See www.lakework.com.