Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fish Population Analysis consists of Electrofishing, Trapnetting, and Angler Surveys

In order to create the perfect fish management plan for your body of water, it is best to take an inventory of what fish you already have. Fish Population Analysis is made up of three main ingredients- Electrofishing, Trapnetting, and Angler Surveys. There are many other factors like water clarity, fertility, and invasive aquatic vegetation present that need to be considered when creating fish management plans, but I can usually pick up on those just by looking at the pond while we are determining what fish are present.

Electrofishing or Electro fish shocking is a specialized boat we use to temporarily stun fish in an electric field fairly close to the boat. The stunned fish float up to the surface and we collect them with fiberglass dipping nets. At the end of our electro shocking session, all fish collected are counted, weighed, measured, analyzed and then safely returned back to the pond. At the owners request, we also tag a handful of the collected fish!

Although not a fool proof method that does have some limitations, we have learned how to accurately assess entire fish populations based off of our electrofishing surveys. Important factors to consider when electrofishing are the time of year, the time of day, the conductivity of the water, the barometric pressure, the weather, the shoreline, and the depths.

Trapnetting is setting up commercial fishing nets from the edge of the pond. The fish swimming around the pond eventually end up trapped in the net. We leave the nets out overnight, and collect and analyze the fish the very next day. At the owners request, we also tag a handful of the collected fish! Time of the year is critical for effective trapnetting surveys.

Trapping fish with nets is a great way to analyze 1000's of fish, especially in lakes that we cannot get our electrofishing boat into, or the water is not very conductive to electricity. We sometimes use trapnetting surveys along with electrofishing. Trapnetting is the most productive in the spring.

Angler Surveys are extremely important when evaluating a private fishery. I will always quiz the owners about their angling experiences on their lake for as far back as they can remember. I have a series of questions to ask the owner, and I have actual written surveys for lakes with multiple owners.

Just like the above mentioned methods of fish population analysis, there are some flaws with angler surveys like bad memories, inexperienced anglers, fish stories, etc. I have however learned how to correctly interpret the necessary data from most Angler Surveys.

Oftentimes I can accurately evaluate a fishery just by looking at the lake and talking with the owner, but by combining the key elements of electrofishing, trapnetting, and angler surveys, I can tell you exactly what is in your lake!

Just gathering and interpreting the necessary data is only the beginning of creating a fish management plan. The most important and often most overlooked aspect to successful fishery management is the goal of the lake or pond owner. I don't just give out a management plan based on the results I see. Not only is every pond unique, but every owner is unique as well. Everybody wants something different from their body of water. Here are just a few of the most popular types of ponds and lakes that we manage for clients:

Trophy Bass Lakes- Growing the biggest bass possible is the goal!

Trophy Bluegill Lakes- Growing the biggest bluegill possible is the goal!

Natural Balanced Population- Create a fishery that keeps itself relatively balanced with little or no maintenance.

Diverse Fishery- Have as many species thriving as possible.

Specialized Fishery- Have the fishery focus on a certain specialty species of fish like Walleye, Catfish, Perch, Muskie, or Smallmouth.

Kid Fishing Pond- Create a fishery that does not focus on trophy fishing, but kid friendly fishing with lots of action.

These are just a few of the most popular types of lakes and ponds we are helping clients create. Each one of these scenarios takes completely different management plans from the next. Contrary to popular belief, there is way more than one way to manage a body of water for fish!

Summary- What you have+What you want+How long you want to wait to get there+How much time you want to devote+How much money you want to spend to make it happen= Your custom fisheries management plan.

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