By Lochow Ranch
Episode 9 of our video series with Bassmaster to turn Lake Y into a bass fishing paradise entered some choppy waters, indeed flood waters, and includes how they and other natural catastrophic occurrences can affect your pond or lake.
Bassmaster editor James Hall in this episode talked about what appeared to be a 10-year flood that affected the lake. The dock he stands on had been about a foot underwater, he said, and the spillway had 3-4 feet of water going over it.
John Jones, president of Lochow Ranch, said the flooding was bad enough that it created currents that could have swept forage fish downstream. Lake Y is on a large watershed, John has said previously, and he could see a change in its water quality.
Flooding can have a lot of impacts, John said. “The first is you’re flushing the lake with new water, maybe water you want, maybe water you don’t want.”
Flooding can bring undesirable quantities of nutrients, and cause things like harmful algae blooms. “A small flood generally speaking is not going to cause too many problems for fish,” he said. “Most game fish species swim upstream. The smaller fish, the blue gill and bass, when they’re tiny, generally will go with the current, but most of the fish go upstream.
“When you get big currents in the flood like you’re talking about, you can lose a lot of your bigger sport fish. It can be heartbreaking. Maybe good for your neighbor, but not good for you.”
Managing Mother Nature isn’t easy, he said. “I would say if you’re going to grow big fish, you want to have no catastrophes, no accidents, you want to do boring things for 10 years, but Mother Nature pretty much without fail will make sure that doesn’t happen.”
James noted that Lake Y has also suffered the opposite of flooding: 45-50 days of no water, no rain whatsoever. The water dropped to the lowest point he’s seen, “probably three feet lower than we’re seeing there right now,” he said.
John explained that in some ways drought can be beneficial. “A seasonal drought can concentrate the bait fish, pull them away from the structure, and expose them to predation. You can get some really fat bass,” he said.
But probably the biggest problem with a minor drought is it will cause weed growth and lead to a devastating fish kill, he added, especially in the summer.
James also mentioned natural predators, such as cormorants, pelicans and otters – all of which can have a big impact on fish numbers.
John said cormorants can mainly hit your bait fish and on average eat about two pounds of bait per bird per day, so put a retail value of 25 bucks a pound on your bait and that’s $50 a bird a day.
Pelicans, he said, also eat bait and medium-sized bass but are generally a problem in bigger lakes. “We don’t see them as often in smaller lakes. Of course, you know both birds are protected so there’s not a whole lot you can do about them,” he said. But lake owners can do non-lethal things to deter them from the area.
As for otters, John said they’re a sign of a healthy ecosystem, but they can also put a big hurt on your fish population. An otter will eat about 7 pounds of fish per day and can kill up to 28 pounds of fish per day, he said, which he’s seen destroy bass fisheries. Though otters are nocturnal, he said there are several signs that out them as culprits
“It’s important to understand what can happen so you can kind of prepare and take action and do things that might prevent some of these catastrophes from happening,” James said.
John answered, “Absolutely. You can stave off most of those. You can stave off a turnover by having an aeration system. You could stave off a blue-green algae kill by doing proper treatments. You can work on the predators. You’re never going to eliminate Mother Nature, but you can mitigate the impacts of those type of things.
“Floods, not so much. If you try to keep your fish in with fences and things, you could end up hurting your dam and you certainly don’t want to do that. A drought, you know you can pump supplemental water. So there are ways to mitigate every one of these, but generally you want to identify it as it’s happening and not wait till your point of no return and then try to fix it. That rarely works.”
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