Some exceptionally fun and ecologically productive things are happening. As many of you know, this is my 31st year as a professional fisheries biologist. I have the honor to travel the nation helping people be better stewards of their land and water. Designing and managing fanstastic private lakes for fun and fishing is a passion and it's wonderful to be able to help people and be paid for it at the same time. Doing it for so long, for so many seasons, seeing each year come and go and then being able to compare those years with the benefit of hindsight, lends to foresight.
It seems the longer someone does something, the more confidence you get, but also it becomes clear that there's still so much to learn.
For example, over that 30 year career, I've seen several winters that affected our fisheries management to the point that we've had to tweak or even re-think what we did. The week after Christmas of 1983, into 1984, changed the way we looked at Florida bass. Huge bass, in many different reservoirs, died. Biologists attributed it to rapidly falling water temperatures. I believe that to this day. That's a big reason I pay attention to the genetic strategy of stocking ponds. We want big fish, but we also want fish to live.
Take threadfin shad as another example. I've seen at least three winters where threadfin shad were devastated in small waters. This winter should be one of them. Threadfins begin to die at the mid-40's and can't make it at all in the upper 30's.
Last Thursday, we electrofished a 3 acre lake on a Jack County, Texas, ranch. That's about an hour northwest of Fort Worth. That 3 acre pond has been stocked with threadfins we didn't see a one there. I expected it to be that way.
But, here's what we did see in that well managed puddle. Our staff biologist, Chad Fikes, has been working with landowner Brad Humphries for a couple of years.
Here are a few photos from Thursday at the 3 acre pond.
Young Rhett, Brad's son, holds up a 10 pound 4 oz bass. Last year that fish was captured and weighed 9 pounds and change.
Here's a picture of Chad Fikes, holding the same fish. Chad's done a good job managing this lake.
Then, we headed to another lake on the property. This lake is larger, maybe 15 acres, and was muddy from recent rains. The lake has risen about 4 feet in the last few weeks. Water temperature was in the mid-50's when we shocked.
Speaking of shocked, I was taken completely by surprise when we collected several and observed many threadfin shad. They made it! Read my post on Questions and Observations to hear what I think happened. This event, after I see it in other lakes, will change the way I think about this forage fish.
Adult threadfin shad. We found them in small schools in open water in several places.
As we moved around the lake, sampling, I saw something else that was intriguing to me. There were two size classes of newly hatched baby bluegill...along the shoreline all over the lake. Keep in mind that bluegill spawn in water much warmer than this lake. So far, the water temperature has hovered in the mid-40's for much of the winter, not counting the days the lake was ice covered back in January. Even right now, there were only three days when tempertures hopped into the mid to upper 50's. Biologically, we would conclude the water temperature is still too cool for bluegill to spawn. But, common sense precludes biology sense because we are dealing with facts. The fact is, there have been two spawns of bluegill in this north Texas lake already this spring. Here' proof.
This is a sunken duck blind in new water about 5 feet deep. What you see here is what we saw over the ENTIRE periphery of this lake, along with the normal numbers of overcrowded bass and nice-sized black crappie.
Landowner Brad Humphries, standing beside a "Road Boss". He recently acquired the company that makes these implements. That's an amazing tool for maintaining ranch roads. Every ranch owner needs one or two of these. I've seen what it does to repair a rutted road. Great tool.
Backing up a step...since I last blogged, my life has continued to be a whirlwind. I like it that way. Besides, I don't have a job. I have a hobby where I get paid. So, the hours and travel are actually fun. I've finished editing and writing most of May-June issue of Pond Boss. If you aren't a subscriber, now is the time to do it. This next issue is a special edition on sunfish. For those people who love sunfish or want to learn more about them, the next issue is for you. Click on "subscribe now" and join us. You won't be disappointed.
I also electrofished a lake near Linden, Texas, last week. It sits almost in the city limits of the town and looks like it's been the community lake before. I saw lots of signs of human activity around the lake, although it's been recently purchased by a landowner whose wish is to make it the family homeplace.
After finishing the work on the Jack County ranch, I headed home, cleaned up and head toward the airport to go to North Carolina. http://www.kingfishersociety.com
is a monthly destination where I work with landowner Jim Morgan and property manager Dave Buhler. This 175 year old, 125 acre lake continues to grow huge fish. Bruce Condello and his dad, Frank, came to King Fisher to fish and help stock some feed trained largemouth bass yesterday. Below are some photos of these adventures. The guys probably spent four hours helping stock the lake, another hour shooting an in-house video and about probably 20 hours fishing over the last few days.
Bruce just came in and told me he caught a 21.5" bass, over 8 pounds weighed on a boga grip. He also caught a 2 lb 10 oz. bluegill yesterday. He has set several personal records on this lake. It makes me a bit proud to be able to grow these fish and watch people enjoy their catches. Smiles everywhere. I'll post the photos of the biggest fish after they are published.
Fish truck backed up, fish being tempered and readied to stock.
Live hauler Roger Coffmann, (l) shows a nice bass to landowner Jim Morgan of King Fisher Society.
Preparing to distribute fish all over the lake.
Property manager Dave Buhler (l), and helper Jim McRae release bass into Richmond Mill lake.
Dr. Bruce Condello with a two pound plus coppernose bluegill as I look over his shoulder.
Bruce and Dr. Morgan admire another huge bluegill.
Bruce's dad, Frank, with a nice bass, at least six pounds.
More later, as it happens.