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On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
#528085 11/26/20 10:25 PM
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Hello,
I am starting to manage an 80 acre, neighborhood lake that I live on and several biologists have suggested we need 16 automatic fish feeders, among several other recommendations.

While it seems apparent that the Texas Hunter feeders are the best money can buy, from a cost perspective, we simply cannot afford 16 Texas Hunter feeders and I'm wondering if the On Time feeders are worth buying?

We could mount/set several of the feeders on docks on the south side of the lake, but the north side of the lake is inaccessible from land and was looking at the Texas Hunter hanging versions versus the On Time hanging feeders. The cost seems to be about half and they seem to have a decent reviews, but I just worry about reliability. Any experience with On Time feeders is much appreciated.

On a side note, I could also use some tips on the best ways of mounting these feeders out in the water(Posts, Poles, Platforms, Etc)

Thanks!

Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528089 11/27/20 05:14 AM
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I have to wonder if maybe your goals for the lake are different than the neighborhood's. Split between a neighborhood, it should be affordable enough. Who's going to pay for feed? That's going cost a fair amount ... year after year after year. And then who's going to pay for dealing with all the excess nutrients? I mean who will pay for herbicides and dyes and grass carp and controlling toxic algae blooms? If the feeders aren't something the neighborhood can afford, then I question whether the neighborhood would be agreement with where this may lead.

It would be helpful to understand what the goals are more background into the history of the water and neighborhood community. What's changed to cause a different approach to management?

What's wrong with the lake's fishing as it is?

How many neighbors are using the lake for fishing?

Are there regulations in place?

Last edited by jpsdad; 11/27/20 07:57 AM.
Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528116 11/27/20 02:23 PM
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My problem with the mounted fish feeders, and this includes the smaller/cheaper TH feeder you were referring to (which I have one of), is that they don't have true directional slingers. They have deer feeder slingers with plates that just drop the fish food straight down on the 1,2, or 3 sides that are blocked. This can drop a lot of food straight down at the bank, and it probably won't get eaten. If you set a post out in the pond to mount one of these feeders, then it's gonna be a PITA to keep those 16 smaller hoppers filled.

Also, squirrel's love to chew on plastic hoppers.


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Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
jpsdad #528134 11/27/20 11:23 PM
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The neighborhood consists of only about 8 of us and the recommendations are about $30k worth of things we need to do to get the lake back in order, per a 40yr fisheries biologist who’s extremely knowledgeable and well respected in the area. The 16 feeders are only one piece of the pie and given our budget we just need to keep the feeders a reasonable portion of this budget. My primary question is whether or not anyone has any experience with the On Time feeders such as the Solar Elite Combo unit that you mount to a post out in the water. By mounting this way there will be no food waste nor vermin problems. Just really need to know whether of not the On Time feeders are worth a crap or not.

Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528135 11/28/20 02:31 AM
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Just a thought: Perhaps you could approach Texas Hunter to see if you could work a deal on 16 feeders. Maybe you could even offer to keep track of relative weights, etc, in your lake and let them advertise on that basis. If not, you may be better off with somewhat fewer TH feeders than more ones you aren't sure about.

Lots of things can go wrong with anything mechanical-electrical left outdoors in the rain, heat, cold, humidity, ants, snow, sleet, wind, etc. I have doubts about a cheap system.

Last edited by anthropic; 11/28/20 02:37 AM.

8ac, full 3/16. CNBG, RES, FHM 10/15; TP 5/16; FLMB 6/16. 100 12" NLMB & 1k GSH 10/17,L, 150# TP & 70 HSB 5/18. 1k PK 11/18. 100# TP 4/19, 200# RBT 12/19, 10k TFS 3/20, 100#TP 5/20, 25 HSB & 250 F1 9/20,L,180# RBT 12/20, 206, 5




Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528141 11/28/20 08:08 AM
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10 acres for each participant is a lot of water FishNut87. It will be equivalent to more water once you start feeding. If the problem has been the neglect of population management this particular problem should be resolved before initiating actions that will increase the numbers of fish. For example, if LMB are numerous, they will become more numerous after commencement of feeding making getting the numbers controlled more difficult.

Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
jpsdad #528211 11/29/20 08:54 PM
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Hey jpsdad thanks for your input. I'll attempt to answer your questions. 2 months ago, we had a biologist perform a fish survey. Our lake was built in the 1970's and the dam has failed 3 times with the last time being in 2005. The lake is 80 acres and is fed by a creek that runs all year. There is 5500 acres of watershed that flows through the lake so it resembles that of a creek system(somewhat tannic) and the watershed:pool ratio is 63:1. Pretty much every species of fish exists in the lake that you'd normally see in middle GA(LMB, Crappie, Bluegill, shiners, threadfin and gizzard shad, catfish, chain pickerel, creekchub suckers, etc. Up until about 7 years ago, the fishing was really quite unbelievable, with normal catches of very large crappie(3 lbs+), bream(1.5lbs+) and LArgemouth(over 10lbs). Numerous fish were caught by any angles on just about every outing. 5 years ago the weeds were getting bad and a couple of the folks wanted to get grass carp, which we did, and they did away with the weeds. Since then, the fishing has just gone downhill each year. A few months ago, the neighboring landowners around the lake(there are 10 of us total, with 8 houses) "nominated" me to head up a revitalization project to get the fishing back up to par. There were multiple recommendations made by the biologist, all of which we are going to attempt to follow, except the siphon system(The primary lake owner will not agree to this). These include installing 16 feeders around the lake to feed the bluegill to help them grow more quickly and reach spawning size(within the next month), removal of as many bass under 14" as possible via electrofishing this winter, stocking 21,000 3-4" bluegills in spring 2021, 6 loads of shad spring of 21, attempt to fertilize(although, I'm not sure it will be feasible due to the high flow through). We have implemented catch and keep on small bass. Everyone is on board. There is very little fishing pressure, so we'll have to do all we can to manage/maintain the population. I'll be paying for the food and fertilizer(if we decide to fertilize). The water quality is decent, at 21 ppm hardness.

Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528233 11/30/20 07:12 AM
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Thank you for this background. Two things really popped to me that seemed to be connected. First, the lake once had abundant large fish and bass in excess of 10 lbs. Second, this period of great fishing was subsequent to a dam failure in 2005. Please let me know if this is wrong, but the 2005 event gives me the impression that the lake was drawn down over an extended period ... perhaps as long as a year or more ... or perhaps almost all of the water spilled taking many fish with it. It is not uncommon that after an extended period of draw down and subsequent to refilling a body of water is produces many large fish. Not sure if you were a member in 2005 or if you were participating before then but if the fishing was vastly improved upon refilling you have the evidence that drawdown and refilling was at least one of the factors that contributed to the great fishing that ensued. If any corrective action was done in preparation of refilling, other than repairing the dam of course, these may have also influenced the outcome.

Adding BG will require that you feed and/or fertilize and so if you do this then you must also feed. Though this will likely add many new YOY next year for your bass, it will not necessarily produce more YOY than other actions. We must keep in mind that these new fish will occupy space the YOY need to grow. They must be fed because there is only enough food being produced in the lake to feed the fish that are already there. It is entirely possible that just feeding the BG that are already there will produce more YOY. Also it is possible that fertilization may be more beneficial for producing YOY than feed will be. Given the amount of water flowing, I agree that inorganics are probably not the best approach to fertilization. But to fertilize the base of your food chain with an organic fertilizer like cottonseed meal or alfalfa meal might be far better at stimulating YOY growth and survival.

All it takes to grow large fish is a small number of them growing into a lot of fresh space. So when a lake is new, this situation exists. The same is true when a body of water has been drawn down over an extended period. Keeping, a body of water near the condition that prevails 5 year after filling is a challenge in and of itself. It can be done though following a cull regimen that you mention above. Many lakes in GA have been producing 10 lbs bass for many years but to do this members relentlessly cull LMB less than 3 lbs. 80 acres is a lot of water to cover even for 8 avid fishermen but you could probably do it. If you expand the fertility twice by feeding, you will have to twice as much of it to do ... so this is most definitely something you need to consider.

IMHO there is plenty of food and fertility for your BG to support a vibrant LMB population. I base this strictly on the evidence that you were once delighted with the fishing. So I think there is nothing wrong with the lakes capability to grow large fish it is just that too many smaller LMB are competing too heavily for the BG that the lake can naturally produce. One of the more interesting recommendations you received was that of a syphon system and its unfortunate that the primary owner will not agree to it. A siphon, with sufficient design, can be a very effective means to control pool. Especially on a large lake yours, having a means to draw down for dam repair or as management tool is very valuable asset. It can be used to concentrate fish annually to facilitate culling, enhance the growth of LMB by making prey more accessible, and as a weed control method. It could be justified simply for reducing the risks associated with dam failure which might be something the primary owner would give consideration to.

Before closing I would like to add these comments. It would seem some of your neighbors are unwilling or unable to pay for feed or fertilization. Since this cost will be carried solely by you, you must have confidence that they will not squander your investment. By this I mean, they are obliged to help with culling and if they fail in this regard your investment in feed and fertilization will fall short of the desired result. It is not uncommon that commitment to a cause is diminished by the lack of something to lose. Some call this moral hazard. You need to trust these men before covering their costs. Up front, you really should get the culling effort underway for a year or two before feeding/fertilizing anyway. Each bass you take leaves 700 or more BG for other bass to eat. When the structure begins to become concentrated in larger fish, this job will become easier and that would be a better time to commence the cost of feeding, when you have confidence your partners are dedicated to the goals you are.

Last edited by jpsdad; 11/30/20 07:31 AM.
Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528242 11/30/20 08:40 AM
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Fishnut, I'm just curious, but with 16 feeders, how many pallets of fish food are you expecting to feed a year? At 80 cents to a dollar per pound of quality fish food, that could get a tad pricey.

Your lake description sounds a lot like Richmond Mills NC, and the water issues it deals with. With a flow through creek, PH, hardness, and fertility could be very hard to manage. With the water shed you have, a big rain could flush a huge amount of water, and negate all the treatments you do. You said that the dam has failed 3 times, and I wonder if was during heavy rains. Having said that, Richmond Mills, which has the biggest BG I've ever seen (easily 2-3#'s), is so acidic that successful BG spawns are almost a rarity. IIRC, Bob Lusk was going to, or has, built 3 onsite hatchery ponds just to keep the BG populations up.

Good luck with your feeding plans, but focus on the water, and test it often to get both a good baseline, and to see if the water numbers change after heavy rains. I would also test the creek water coming into your lake. That more than anything else will determine if there are potential water issues that can't be easily corrected.


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Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528249 11/30/20 09:48 AM
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Lusk says "Take care of the water and the fish will be fine.".


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
jpsdad #528283 11/30/20 10:48 PM
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Thanks again Jpsdad for your detailed response.

Yes, the lake was drained to nothing but a creek when the dam broke in 2005. It stayed that way for about 4 months during reconstruction. There was no restocking nor any other management efforts after this.

This same situation also occurred two other times in prior years, 10-20 years apart from one another. Same results each time, no management, but the fishing got better and better as each year passed with exploding populations of huge bream, crappie, bass, shad and shiners.

One observation perhaps worth noting is the north side of the lake is bordered by a 300 acre field that runs the span of the entire lake. This field was used for row crops for 40 years until about 5-6 years ago when the land was purchased and planted with pecans. No clue if this would have had any impact from fertilizer/runoff?

I would imagine that the water quality has not changed from years past, but there is no way to know this.

Another note, the biologist is coming to shock/remove as many small bass as possible starting January. He says 4-5 trips at 5-6 hours each should get it done.

I am very interested in the organic fertilization you described, but I know nothing about this so I’m all ears. Is this typically more or less cost effective?

As far as the neighbors contributions, they have already committed over the past year to keeping any small fish, however not many of them fish regularly. Only a few other folks ever come out to fish regularly besides us land owners. We’ve loosely tallied what’s been taken out and we estimate that somewhere around 600 small bass over the past year total.

I do also agree with your humble opinion about the capability of the lakes water quality to produce healthy populations as we’ve seen it for decades. My fear too with fertilizing is that this would almost over stimulate things, if it’s even doable, given the flow through rate. I also wish the siphon was an option but we’ll just have to keep working on the majority owner to change his mind. He’s 92 years old and very set in his ways.

We are willing to have the biologist come out yearly and shock to cull if need be, which will most likely be necessary.

Per your closing thoughts I shouldn’t have made it sound like the others wouldn’t be willing to chip in monetarily, as they will be and already have been. We’ve put together a budget of about $30k for the fist year and probably around $15k per year thereafter.

Keep the thoughts coming. Thanks!

Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FireIsHot #528284 11/30/20 10:58 PM
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Fireishot, thanks for your input as well. We are planning on using Purina Game fish chow at a rate of about one 50lb bag per month per feeder so yes this will be quite a bit of food.

Yes the dam has busted each time after heavy flooding. The last time the dam was built back in such a way that it will hopefully never fail again. There were multiple run around/secondary spillways dug out to avoid severe rising pool issues.

As far as the water quality I just have to think that the quality is ok, given that there are several lakes(4)upstream, all of which seem to produce healthy populations and there is even a state run DNR WMA only about 2 miles downstream that consistently produces quality fish as well. With that being said I will be sure to test the water frequently to see.

Thanks again.

Re: On Time Feeders VS all others. Mounting over water
FishNut87 #528349 12/02/20 05:22 AM
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Quote
Yes, the lake was drained to nothing but a creek when the dam broke in 2005. It stayed that way for about 4 months during reconstruction. There was no restocking nor any other management efforts after this.

This same situation also occurred two other times in prior years, 10-20 years apart from one another. Same results each time, no management, but the fishing got better and better as each year passed with exploding populations of huge bream, crappie, bass, shad and shiners.

So this is good and it clearly demonstrates the fertility is there and what conditions must exist to replicate the BOW in its heyday. Successful management will prevent the overabundance of bass, crappie, and bream.

Quote
One observation perhaps worth noting is the north side of the lake is bordered by a 300 acre field that runs the span of the entire lake. This field was used for row crops for 40 years until about 5-6 years ago when the land was purchased and planted with pecans. No clue if this would have had any impact from fertilizer/runoff?

I would imagine that the water quality has not changed from years past, but there is no way to know this.

I think the field change of use probably reduces some of the nutrients but I also think it is small given the size of your water shed.
Quote
Another note, the biologist is coming to shock/remove as many small bass as possible starting January. He says 4-5 trips at 5-6 hours each should get it done.

OK. But I am going to give you some advice. He needs to remove enough to make it worth your investment. He can't just go out and spend 5-6 hours and then tell you they were to deep to dredge up. I would put some thought into this. Think about the value of pounds of fish removed. You probably need at least another 1000 lbs removed. That should get it done. If the 4 or 5 trips cost $600 each, then offer him 2 to 4 dollars a pound to remove them. You would be surprised how resourceful people can get with incentives/disincentives. If its a waste of his time ... its probably a waste of your money too. The cost/pound removed needs to be acceptable to you or you should seek alternatives to electroshocking to help you with culling.

Quote
I am very interested in the organic fertilization you described, but I know nothing about this so I’m all ears. Is this typically more or less cost effective?

Organic fertilization is more expensive than inorganic but is more cost effective. Its food for micro-organisms and then when they poop it, its manure for the pond just like the feed for the big bluegill would be manure. It is much cheaper source of nutrients and energy than fish food is. You wouldn't need a feeder to administer it. What makes it different that it targets the lower trophic levels which means it targets survival and growth of YOY bluegill (as a opposed to feed which targets adult bluegill). Don't get me wrong, adult bluegill benefit from organic fertilization but they are not first at the trough. Fish hatcheries, particularly state DOWs favor them for growing fry and fingerlings. Another good organic fertilizer is rice bran. That said I urge you to hold off on both feeders and/or fertilization until you have an LMB population structure concentrated in fish larger than 3 lbs. I would only do it then if the culling effort is manageable and any additional culling costs are acceptable. There is really no point of doing it if you are catching lots of fish.

Quote
As far as the neighbors contributions, they have already committed over the past year to keeping any small fish, however not many of them fish regularly. Only a few other folks ever come out to fish regularly besides us land owners. We’ve loosely tallied what’s been taken out and we estimate that somewhere around 600 small bass over the past year total.

Metrics are great. Having numbers on things gives you leverage in understanding effects of things you have done and next step appropriate actions. The metric missing however is the weight of those 600 small bass. But this number is good to have ... if they averaged 1 lbs then you removed 7.5 lbs per acre. Now I can tell you that unless your lake supports a small weight of LMB (say 20 lbs or less) this just isn't enough to get the results you need.

Going forward also weigh the culls. You don't necessarily need to weigh each separately but at least keep a creel weight.

Quote
I do also agree with your humble opinion about the capability of the lakes water quality to produce healthy populations as we’ve seen it for decades. My fear too with fertilizing is that this would almost over stimulate things, if it’s even doable, given the flow through rate.

I recommend delaying both. The critical piece is culling and the action of fertilizing will undermine that effort by recruiting more small bass than would otherwise be recruited.

The management of populations by culling creates vacuum ... similar to but not exactly like the condition when you were refilling. Creating vacuum pulls the system allowing favorable conditions for existing fish. Feeding and fertilization creates pressure. It forces a body of water to produce more fish than it otherwise would. It is not equivalent to creating vacuum. It reduces water quality and restricts the space individual fish have. It should only be used when one needs more production of fish (all fish ... predator and prey alike). So 1 acre isn't a lot of water, someone wanting 2 acres worth of fish needs to use fertilization and/or feeding. It just isn't "a given". Nutrients are necessary but they are a two edged sword that many scientists view as a form of pollution in natural waters. So whether one should feed? It is not always yes but rather it depends. In your case, with only 8 participating on 80 acres that has a history of being great water ... I think it isn't necessary and that it carries risks that may increase culling cost and/or lower ultimate weights relative to the water's historic potential.

Last edited by jpsdad; 12/02/20 02:17 PM.

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