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Fishery tips: Prepping your fishing lake for a great season

By Lochow Ranch

Fishery management experts know that year-round pond and lake maintenance is key to keeping your favorite fishing pond healthy and productive.

The leading reasons the equilibrium in your lake could be off include over- and under-harvesting of predator fish, introduction of undesirable fish species, and summer kills, as well as excessive weeds, poor water quality and lack of fertilization.

Qualified experts like those at Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management can help turn around a failing fishery or enhance a stable one by addressing these various issues in an annual plan that tracks progress and addresses needs.

Otherwise, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service warns that Texas farm ponds aren’t managed at their highest potential for fish production.

Lochow Ranch can assess fishery populations using nets or shocking equipment and use state-of-the-art equipment to collect data and determine the precise program for getting your body of water back on track.

Surveying Your Pond’s Population

Electrofishing Arkansas Louisiana Texas Oklahoma

An excellent way to begin is with an electrofishing survey, which is a primary tool for correcting an out-of-balance pond.

These surveys accurately assess current forage and sport fish populations and quantify wintertime Cormorant or otter damage. Fish populations also are sampled to determine species, size, relative abundance and growth rates. Click here to learn more.

Planning Pond Stocking

pond stocking services

Pond stocking is another important consideration when you want to maximize the potential for your fishery.

What kinds of fish will work best in your pond involves many variables, including your own goals for your pond or lake. For example, you need to carefully assess the impact of introducing non-native species into your pond. It’s important to be aware of the fish types that can live together in harmony so your pond can sustain a healthy ecosystem. Learn more by clicking here.

Getting a grip on pond weeds

Aquatic vegetation is the cause of 80 percent of low dissolved oxygen fish kills in Texas. And the issues are complex enough that expert advice is recommended.

As we detailed in a series of recent postings about pond vegetation control, there are a range of vegetation control techniques. Mechanical controls include pruning and cutting back pond weeds. Biological controls include introducing grass carp and tilapia, two types of vegetation-eating fish. Chemical means of vegetation control include herbicides and algaecides.

Click here to learn more about how the experts at Lochow Ranch can plan appropriate vegetation control for your lake or pond.

Fertilizing your fishery

Just as you would fertilize fields to increase crop yields, you should fertilize a pond or lake to provide phytoplankton with adequate nutrients for fish growth.

Proper fertilization increases food availability throughout the food chain and indirectly increases the total amount of fish a pond can support. Ponds should be limed before fertilizer is applied, which is important because it increases pH and alkalinity.

Even without fertilization, this may improve available nutrients which can support a phytoplankton bloom. Click here to learn more.

Adding aeration

In order to avoid problems, pond and lake owners also should be inspecting aeration and fountain maintenance or considering their implementation.

Repairs could address obvious signs of wear or just the cleaning of filters and   screens. Lochow offers a range of aeration systems and fountain systems for   ensuring your pond’s oxygen levels are optimal.

 

Plan for a great year

Our team of fishery management experts are standing by to help you make the most of your fishing pond. Whether you are looking for pond water testing, pond stocking, fishery management, pond renovation or new pond construction, we can help. A great lake can be a legacy that will be enjoyed by friends and family for generations to come. Fill out the form to get started today!

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Forage for your fishery: key spring lake management tips

By Lochow Ranch

As our ponds pull out of the winter cold and begin to heat up, our gamefish metabolisms rise, and the spring glut is on.

Forage populations generally take a pretty big hit over the winter. Depending on the lake, the spring glut can have a lasting impact on forage and the predators that consume them.

Forage fish are generally smaller fish or crawfish that are the food source for your larger gamefish, such as bass.

Between diving cormorants and pelicans and continual predation by largemouth bass, peak forage populations of the fall season are heavily depressed and must rebound in order for lakes to maintain peak production.

This week, we’ll take a look at some common forage management issues and how to resolve them as part of your fishery management plan.

Goal-Oriented Management

As with most aspects of fishery management, establishing your fishery’s goals is paramount to determining your overarching pond and lake management strategies.

Is your primary target feed-trained bass? Do you mostly care about hybrid stripers? If so, forage fish may not matter a whole lot for your fish. Sure, healthy forage always benefits gamefish, but fish that consume pelleted feed can pretty easily shift their diet away from forage whenever populations are depressed.

If your target species are trophy Florida Largemouth Bass, native non-feed trained bass, or crappie, forage populations are essential.

Let’s take a look at the main forage species for each target gamefish and see how their populations can be managed for the greatest possible impact.

Target Fisheries

Trophy Florida Largemouth Bass

Trophy bass require good forage availability throughout their lives to achieve the outsized proportions for which they are so prized.

Good trophy management requires regular monitoring and rapid intervention if forage populations crash. Generally, these fisheries will rely primarily on bluegill, shad, and crawfish in that order of importance, with additional forage support from redear sunfish, golden shiners, silversides, and in some cases tilapia.

Having some diversity in your forage species helps to provide food for bass as certain populations experience natural fluctuations.

It is important to have good forage diversity in both species and especially size. To ensure all of your bass have plenty of food, careful and regular analysis of small, medium, large, and jumbo-sized forage should be made to determine if your forage is adequately supporting your lake’s bass.

Early in life, bass consume all sorts of fry (recently hatched fish). As they grow their diets shift to small sunfish and fry. In the next stage of life, threadfin shad can really make a huge difference in pushing bass growth. These fish combine with medium sunfish and medium shiners to supply bass to a couple of pounds in weight.

Next your bass will shift to eating large sunfish, threadfin shad, shiners, goldfish, and crawfish. Finally, if all goes well, bass begin to push into the trophy stage where they will continue to consume the latter forage but also begin to take larger meals, which could include jumbo sunfish, gizzard shad, jumbo golden shiners, larger goldfish, trout, and any other large fish they can swallow.

These various forage populations should be supported through supplemental feeding, habitat management, and pond stocking as appropriate.

Non-Feed-Trained Largemouth Bass

Even if you aren’t trying to grow the next world record, home-grown bass fisheries still need adequate forage to develop good populations of healthy fish.

Keep an eye on your forage and develop good populations of fish fry, and small, medium, and large forage.

Most forage is principally helpful in the 1-4” range, with some benefit being had from forage up to 6” in length. In general, forage above 6” in length are too large to serve as much benefit to your average native bass, which generally tops out around 7 pounds in weight.

Threadfin shad are excellent supplemental forage for spring stockings with golden shiners a close second. Golden shiners and goldfish are excellent supplements in the fall.

Once established, bluegill and redear should generally be maintained in perpetuity in well managed fisheries (assuming you don’t have a bunch of hungry cormorants or pelicans land on your lake) and generally won’t need to be restocked.

Crappie

Crappie are notorious for boom and bust reproductive cycles and slow growth.

Care must be taken to help these fish have plenty of food at the right times. Generally, fish fry, silversides, small threadfin shad, small shiners, and small sunfish are paramount to a healthy forage supply.

Large forage will actually remove the food base for these smaller fish, which would depress their numbers and easily result in stunted crappie.

Forage Specific Management

Regardless of your desired outcome, a few key factors must be considered in order for forage to thrive. Let’s take a look at three primary factors, habitat, food, and predation.

Good Habitat

First, habitat must be maintained to provide shelter for some of your forage.

This helps a given lake maintain a breeding population of various forms of forage. Habitat like cover is particularly important for bluegill and redear sunfish. Generally good habitat will involve some beneficial vegetation and some non-living habitat like felled trees or artificial structures. Habitat for open water schooling fish is just going to be that, expanses of open water where they can shelter by schooling together.

Food For Forage

Second, forage food must be plentiful for strong populations.

Sunfish diets can be supplemented with fish food as can that of golden shiners and tilapia. Otherwise, healthy populations of aquatic insects and fish fry are necessary to maintain those populations. Threadfin shad are planktivores and a healthy plankton bloom is essential for these fish to thrive and achieve their potential.

Moderate Predation

While we certainly grow forage to be eaten, we want predation to be commensurate with forage populations.

If the right number of gamefish is maintained, forage numbers will stay high and gamefish will thrive. If predator populations exceed what the forage base can support, forage populations will crash.

Be sure to conduct the necessary annual harvest of predatory fish to ensure that forage populations thrive. It goes without saying that no fishery can sustainably support predation from huge flocks of avian predators without some supplemental stocking from time to time.

Plan Forage For Your Dream Fishery

Forage matters. Know what forage your preferred gamefish need and make sure you have stocked the right species. Make it a regular part of your fishery management and pond stocking plans.

Assess your lake forage on a regular basis and adjust management strategies to promote healthy forage populations.

Adjust the habitat as needed, keep your forage fed, and limit predation as appropriate.

Your lake will thank you with smiles and your fish will thrive.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Bang for the Buck: Building a premier fishery with pelleted food

By Matt Ward

Fisheries at their most fundamental are a combination of habitat, fish, and people.

The perfect blend of these three ingredients should create a healthy system with plenty and bigger fish for fishermen to target.

Many factors go into creating a successful fishery, but likely the single most efficient step toward improving an angler experience is a fish feeding program.

High Points

After 15 years of doing this job, I already know that some of your eyes are glazing over as the image of little brown pellets of feed flying out over your pond fails to inspire.

But try a few of these facts on for size:

Did you know that when you feed fish with a quality feed their conversion factor can be upward of two pounds of fish food to grow a pound of fish?

Compare that to forage fish, for which bass must consume 10 pounds to generate one pound of body weight.

As for cost, quality fish food can be fairly expensive compared to some other animal feeds. But considering our conversion rates, we can usually grow forage like bluegill for around $2 per pound, which is much less expensive than purchasing bluegill from a hatchery.

In the end quality fish food is about 20 times more efficient than fish stocking when it comes to feeding fish in an established fishery.

Why Does the Type of Feed I Use Matter?

Different fish have different nutrition requirements.

Catfish can often be efficiently grown on relatively inexpensive low protein feed. Higher order predators or insectivores generally thrive on higher protein feed.

At Lochow Ranch, most of our pond management and lake management services and products focus on feeding largemouth, hybrid striped bass, bluegill, and trout, all great choices when pond stocking.

We manufacture a custom feed specially formulated for accelerated fish growth in intensively managed lakes. This feed blend approximates natural foods for target fish.

Testing indicates that quality feed, though more costly than the cheap stuff, will generally grow more fish per dollar spent. In the end, this means that if your goal is growth, you are better off feeding a lesser amount of quality feed than to settle for a bottom shelf bargain.

How Do I Feed?

The key to a successful fish feeding program is consistency.

If you can visit your pond multiple times per day, every day, hand feeding will easily accomplish your purposes of feeding the fish.

For the rest of us, this means using an automatic fish feeder. A quality fish feeder should hold an appropriate amount of feed to allow you to avoid having to constantly fill it. The feeder also should keep the feed dry and work consistently for years with limited repairs.

That being said, even the best feeders will occasionally have issues and require maintenance. Be sure to check your feeder’s operation each time you fill it. Filling and maintaining feeders is standard fare for all of our regular maintenance accounts.

How Much and How Often to Feed

This is a highly subjective decision.

A good biologist will weigh fish density, time of year, type of fish, daylight hours, and a budget to determine how much and how often to feed.  A conversation with a good biologist should help you determine the amount that is appropriate for your pond or lake.

A few general principles apply: First, feed during daylight hours. Feeding during the day avoids allowing predators to grab a quick meal under the cover of darkness.

Fishermen generally visit ponds and lakes during the day so daylight feeding also will encourage the fish to be active when fishermen can most easily target them.

Second, spread feedings out over the day. Fish are similar to us in that they can only digest so much at a time. Feeding multiple times per day is better than all at once.

Third, you should expect your fish to eat more during the warmer months of the year than the cold. Feeding can be turned down during the winter. The one exception to this rule is trout. Trout can feed steadily all winter long.

What About Waste?

If you have fed fish for long, you are no doubt familiar with the occasional sight of a little leftover feed sitting at the edge of the lake.

Most lake owners are immediately concerned about this wasted feed.

But let’s dive into a few other things to consider.

First, know that fish have moods. Being cold blooded, they won’t feed evenly every day of the year. Occasional bits of leftover food are to be expected.

Sometimes fish experience delayed feedings, waiting 15 minutes or more before hitting the feed. Other times leftover feed might indicate that predators are terrorizing your fish. Keep a close eye on the feeders at feeding time and look for birds or otters that might learn to hang around the feeder.

In the vast majority of cases of leftover feed, marginal vegetation and algae is trapping the feed and fish just can’t get to that feed.

Effective management of pond weeds will reduce the growth and most of the time the fish will start cleaning up the remnants. If these reasons are explored and you are getting consistent waste, it’s time to turn down the feedings.

Turn the feeders down slightly and monitor excess feed to find the proper levels.  Make sure to give your fish a couple of weeks to adjust to new feeding levels.  Of course, on the flipside, if your fish are eating all the applied feed you can likely increase feeding levels to boost your fish production.

Fish Follow Food

In the end, fishing requires fish.

The more fish your lake contains, the more fish you will be able to catch when you fish.

If you remember nothing else, remember that fish food is the most cost-effective method we have at boosting the productivity of a given pond or lake. Establish a good feeding program as part of your fishery management and pond stocking plans and your fishing will improve.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

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