Sunday, June 28, 2009

Riding Horses in the Water

Saturday we had 300 or so High School Girls, Counselors, and Helpers out to the lake for some swimming activities and horseback riding. My aunts and uncles have lots of horses and love teaching people how to ride. They even teach youngsters how to do gymnastics on moving horses! Anyhow before camp they decided to take a new trail for the campers- through the water - and they needed some volunteers to help get the horses familiar with the new trail.

After some minor resistance I was nominated as a volunteer and jumped on a horse. I am much to big to be riding a horse in the first place, but they assured me that the horse was capable of carrying a 400 lb rider! When I hopped on that beast I quickly realized it was not quite as easy as it looks on TV, especially without a saddle. Both of my hands were glued to that horse at all times, and my feet were locked around it, and I still came waaaay too close to falling several times. Despite what appears to be a smile on my face in the video, I was actually pretty petrified the entire time and I am still a bit sore from the ride, but actually I might be getting back on a horse again in the future. Definitely will be with a saddle next time though.

Friday, June 26, 2009

High School Boys Camp Video and Pics

June 18-21 we had high school boys camp at the my uncles place in Farmington and my lake in Norris.

Will post more pics soon, check out the video for now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Electrofishing – Creating the Perfect Management Plan

Electrofishing – Creating the Perfect Management Plan
By Nate Herman

I have not been able to get out my fishing rods nearly as often as I envisioned when I first started stocking fish and managing lakes back in 2003, but during the last couple years I have definitely caught more and bigger fish than I ever dreamed possible! Although I don’t get to use my rod and reel much, I am still able to get my fishing fix by utilizing a variety of sampling and angling methods. By far my favorite fishing technique would have to be correctly utilizing 1200 to 1800 watts of DC electrical current.
After practicing and experimenting for a few years, I have learned how to fine-tune the pulse rate, duty cycle, voltage and amps along with the unique conductivity of the water in a lake to safely draw certain species of fish right up to the anodes of my electrofishing boat!
Not only has electrofishing become one of the most fun parts of my job, but if often is the most important. This method of fish population analysis is a crucial step to creating the perfect fish management plan for a body of water. It is important to take a complete inventory of what you have before making any decisions of what fish to stock or harvest. Some other commonly used forms of fish population analysis are traditional angling, angler surveys, seining and trapnetting. I always try to utilize as many of these methods as possible to obtain the most accurate and complete fish population analysis, but I would say that the electrofishing results are the most unbiased and accurate.
Just about every day I get asked several questions about the electrofishing process. The answer to the most often asked question is NO! When I turn on the electrical current, all of the fish in the lake DO NOT float up to the surface. Only the fish within our approximately 20 foot wide by 40 foot long electrical field are stunned for a very short time. The two guys in the front of the boat need to have good eyes and quick reflexes to capture them before they swim away. For those wondering about the process of electrofishing I am going to describe the equipment, process, capabilities and limitations of electro pond shocking. But before I get into the meat and potatoes of electrofishing, I would like to briefly mention the process of creating the perfect fish management plan.
When I create a fish management plan for a client, it is geared 100 percent completely for that individual client. There are no absolutes in regards to managing fish! Ponds and lakes are definitely unique from each other, but what I have found is the most important and often most overlooked aspect to successful pond management is the fact that every owner is unique from the next! If I give out fish management recommendations before having a client answer some important questions, I am essentially managing that body of water to suit my goals, not his. For that reason, I will not give out any fisheries recommendations without first having a client answer the following questions: What do you want to use your lake for? Who will be primary fisherman? What kind of fish would you like to catch? How often do you plan on fishing? How many and what kind of fish would you like to harvest? Do you plan on supplementally feeding? What is your budget and timeframe? Clearly defining your goals by answering these questions is the most important step to managing your fish!
Once the goals have been defined, we talk about the history of the lake. When was it built? When were the fish stocked? What types of fish were stocked? How is the current status of the fishery? And etc. Once we have gathered as much information as possible, we then get out on the water to assess the current conditions. We analyze the water clarity, quality, chemistry, depths, watershed, vegetation and the fish currently present! All of this information needs to be defined, calculated, and considered when formulating your perfect fish plan. The bass/bluegill/catfish pond is quickly being replaced by specialized fisheries geared towards certain species or goals!
Now that I got all of that out of the way, I will attempt to explain the equipment and process of electrofishing. The boat we use is a custom welded all aluminum, extra wide, 14-foot plate boat with a 25 HP Mercury. We have mounted a special DC generator that powers the DC control box, anodes, and foot-pad. The anodes are mounted to 12-foot long poles and extended out in front of the boat. The electrical current is converted in the control box and sent into the water through the anodes. Our control box regulates how much and how fast the electricity is put into the water. One of the guys on the front of the deck has to be standing on the foot-pad in order for electricity to be put into the water. If he steps (or falls) off the boat, the electricity immediately shuts off. Also in the boat we have a couple 10-foot long dip nets for scooping up the fish, and a 150 gallon fish tank for holding the captured fish.
That’s the basic equipment and although it sounds complicated, it is fairly basic to run. The tricky part is figuring out how conductive the water is and where the fish are? Every body of water carries electricity different from the next. It usually takes a few minutes to get all the settings adjusted to create the best electrical field possible. Once I got the field just right, we have to actually find the fish! This is where the major limitations of electrofishing come into play. Any avid fisherman will learn what general vicinity his target species will be at during the different seasons and even throughout the course of the day. Just like traditional fishing methods, some days of electrofishing are better than others. If the fish are deep, they are not very easy to electrofish!
Several factors that need to be considered when electrofishing would be the time of year, current weather, barometer, air temperature, water temperature, water clarity, depths, and fish structure. In the spring and fall, I prefer to electrofish in the late afternoons when the water temps rise a few degrees throughout the day, and in the summer I prefer to electrofish at night when the fish move up to the shallows to feed. Also I don’t even bother electrofishing after a massive cold front or storm. Even though we can bring up just about any fish we find, we still have to find the fish! Have you ever heard the phrase 90 % of the fish live in 10% of the water? I would probably argue that it is closer to 95% and 5%.
I typically will just start out electrofishing around the shoreline and keep my eye out for any fishy looking area, activity, or developing pattern. We simply have the generator and control box turned on and drive around until we start finding and dialing up the fish. The two netters in the front will scoop up every fish they possibly can and we will spend as much time electrofishing as necessary to gather up a tank full of fish for analyzing.
Typically a 10-acre lake or less, we can collect hundreds of fish in less than 30 minutes of electrofishing. Once the fish are collected, they are weighed, measured, tagged, filmed, and then gently released back to their homes.
Hopefully this information helps clarify the process of electrofishing a bit, as well as help you realize that you don’t have to manage your lake or pond how farmer Joe or some book tells you to. The absolute best thing you can do is define what you want to manage your body of water for, and determine what inventory you already have to create and implement your perfect management plan! Just keep in mind there are no absolutes, but there are certain limitations throughout the entire process. Raising fish is not about the destination, but the journey!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hottest Bite of the Year Fishing Pics!

It was 95 degrees, calm and sunny Tuesday afternoon but the Schroeders wanted to brave the elements and catch some fish.

Duane brought his sons Jordan and Jesse along with his son-in-laws Luke and Jason out for an evening trip on the pontoon boat. Luke and Jason were hitting the bluegill pretty hard, Jesse caught a mixed bag of Perch, Walleye, Bluegill, and a nice 3.5 lb rainbow trout from 25 feet down!

Duane caught this nice catfish at the same time Jesse was reeling in his trout. 6 Big Guys on a pontoon boat with tons of gear and two big fish fighting on ultralight gear makes for a pretty hectic, yet fun time! Shoulda had the video camera for all that dancing around!

Duane got the catfish, a handful of bass, lost a big striper, broke off another big striper, and got his spider wire bitten off clean by a muskie!

Jordan picked up his rod on this nice striper as it was sliding in the water, good catch!

I ran out of batteries on my camera or I would have some more pics of their trip! I also had to dive off the pontoon boat to grab a rod that a 14 oz bluegill had pulled in! Again we got the rod and the fish!

Smallmouth Bass Spawning Video

We took quite a bit of video footage of Smallmouth Bass Spawning and Hatching from June 4 to June 11 at our lake. We had TONS of footage of this Smallmouth Bass guarding the nest and eggs, the eggs hatching, and the male guarding the fry. Due to a couple camera malfunctions and random acts of dumbness on our parts we lost 90% of the footage, but were still able to put together this video of what we salvaged. Its pretty cool!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fun Fishing and Fish Structure Pics

Been putting together lots of porcupine fish attractors the last couple of weeks and placing them in strategic locations in anticipation of filming a couple fishing shows next week with Larry Harper, the inventor of the porcupine fish attractor.

My nephew and niece Tyden and Shaeya Kellenberger helped me put together 12 Porcupine Fish Attractors Friday evening.

We cut the 1/2 inch pvc pipe in 4 foot lengths and they glued the ends while I put them together.
Once we got all of them put together we loaded them up on the pontoon boat and headed out to place them in a couple good spots. Of course we brought our fishing poles along for a little trolling on the way to the structure drop zones and Ty hooked into a walleye and several bluegill en route!

Then as we were leaving the drop zone I casted out a number 3 mepps black fury and started trolling backwards when a huge Hybrid Striped Bass grabbed the bait and headed out in the opposite direction. She was rapidly stripping line off of my spool and had me down to nothing before I could get the motor flipped in reverse. I only needed about 10 more yards of line and I think I would have been able to land that fish, but unfortunately it just didnt work out and the trophy fish SPOOLED ME! 100 yards of line gone on the initial run!!! She never slowed down.

Here are some more pics from other fish structure projects.
Under the dock structure:

My son and daughter at Norris Lake:

High School Boys Camp

I spent Friday at our Church's High School Boys Camp at the Old School Center in Farmington.
We played Football, Basketball, Soccer, Bombardment, Ultimate Frisbee, Long Jump and had a 2x4 chucking competition. Let me just say that it is late monday night and I can still barely walk! Bruised some ribs, tweaked an ankle, bumped a shoulder, and pulled a muscle in my lower back that has me doubled over and moving in ultra slow motion while in constant fear of that sharp needle like feeling piercing through my spine with every move I make.

Anyhow, we followed up fridays grueling schedule with a trip up to our lake for some water activities: Water slide, Rope Swing, High Dive, Volleyball, Golf Driving Range, Jet Skiing, Canoeing, Pontoon Boating, King of the Mountain Tires, and just plain swimming. 100 MPH nonstop with over 200 high school boys and counselors will take me over a week to recover from!

There were several photographers at the events, and I will post pictures here as they come in: Video and Pictures from Camp

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trapnetting Video and Pictures From The Hooked on Fishing Park

This video and pictures were taken at the Hooked On Fishing Park last week.

We are getting set to open up and were just making sure the fish were doing fine! They Are!!! Nice channel catfish, flathead catfish, carp, bass, crappie, and bluegill are ready to be caught!

Junior High Girls Camp Video from Our Lake

This video was taken at our Lake last weekend during the Junior High Girls Camp and edited by my aunt Judy Sceggel. It kind of focusses on the horses seeing as my aunts and uncles are just as much into horses as I am into fish, but you can get a glimpse of some of the fun activities we have set up for the campers!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recap of This Week: Rain, Fishing, Girls Camp

Its been raining about every 2 days since February, and that has pretty much everything all messed up this spring. Anyhow this week was no exception as the cool temps and rain just kept on coming. We still are plugging away, just getting wet in the process!

I had a consultation in Brimfield on Wednesday evening, and took Noah along seeing as I was babysitting that night. He sat on every tractor on Ted's property, but his favorite was this one:

We had the first of many camps out to the lake this weekend! 150 Junior High girls came out Friday afternoon for some swimming, horseback riding, water sliding, high dive jumping, jet skiing and tubing. We spent every evening just getting the place tuned up and ready.

Girls all had fun and we are now gearing up for 250 high school boys next weekend and 300 high school girls the following weekend.

Then on Sunday we headed out to the lake after church for dinner with my grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters. Had a good time just relaxing on the water, eatin', and catching some fish:

Gpa, Dad, Chad, Julie went out and caught some muskie and trout, but didnt bring a camera!

Amy and Jareds Family minus the youngest:

Brook and I went out trolling for a few minutes and caught some nice fish too!

Finishing up a long week at the lake is just what the doctor ordered! Next week at this time, I wont be able to move! Boys camp is much more intense and physically challenging for an out of shape big guy like me who still thinks he can hang with the young 'uns.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weekend at the Lake with Fish Pictures

I met up with my family who already spent Friday afternoon swimming and playing at the lake, at about 7:30 pm. I quickly enhaled a bit of food and then we all headed across the lake to our new dock for some friday evening catfishing!!! Our preferred bait for this sort of fishing was chicken livers, but uncharacteristically we could not catch a catfish for the life of us!

Instead, 6 rainbow trout and several huge bluegills kept on eating our chicken liver????

We also caught a handful of walleye and smaller bluegill!

Dont get me wrong, we had a great time catfish fishing, but we never did catch a catfish?
Saturday I was up with the sun and met up with Chef Todd to do a little fishing before we got started working for the day. We caught a couple nice smallmouth bass and found a pretty good school of large bluegills up in the shallow water!

Todd was chomping at the bit to catch a trout, but couldn't find a lure or bait that they were interested in this morning. I told him he needed to sit on the dock with some chicken livers!!!

Anyhow we fished until 8 am, and then got to work. We poured concrete footings for a massive rope swing, fixed up the waterslide, added sand to the beach, started building a stair case up the hill to the waterslide, quite a few other smaller projects. Had some friends and family out to help us get ready for all the camps coming out starting next weekend. The first church camp scheduled to come out will be hundreds of Junior High girls next Saturday, followed by hundreds of High School boys the following Saturday, and finish up with hundreds of High School girls the Saturday after that. That fills up my Saturdays for the month of June which isnt too big of a deal, but causes my busy schedule to be even that much more busier since June is already the busiest month of my season!

Today is Sunday and a much needed day of rest! Went to church this morning and actually took a nap on the couch when I got home. Yep, took a nap this afternoon! Next week is completely overbooked already and before I know it it will be another welcomed lazy summer afternoon!!!

Time Flies When Your Having Fun!

Days and weeks are flying by at such a fast pace, that I should probably start sharpening up my ice augers and organizing my ice fishing gear! I cant believe how fast this spring flew by, and now summer is knocking on the door just 2 weeks away! Typically summer seems like its only about 3 weeks long every year anyway and then its back to school, etc.

Monday we were in Secor treating a pond for watermeal and applied a few gallons of aquashade and also did a pretty extensive nutrient reduction treatment with some live bacteria and then met up with Phil Stalter down the road about designing his dock. It is going to be a sweet floating dock wrapped with a nice bench seat.

Then from Secor I headed to Chenoa to do an electrofishing survey for Jacobs Lake Fishing Club.
Tuesday we treated a waterskiing lake on Cottonwood Road for watermilfoil and coontail and american pondweed and cury-leafed pond weed and sago pondweed and some algae, kind of a mixed bag of vegetation, but with new boats coming in and out every week, there is bound to be all types of lake weeds brought in on the boat trailers and props. Then we headed out to investigate a fish kill on a 16 acre lake in Elmwood- only male bluegill between 5-8 inches were killed???? several hundred of them. I figured that they were guarding there nests up near shore when the algae blooming in the water either released some toxins or caused a dissolved oxygen crash for a few minutes in the shallow water and those male bluegill would not leave their nests and ended up dying.

Wednesday I was stuck in the office all day long catching up on management plans, emails, voice mails, and other stuff. I have found that on the day in the week that I stay put and actually have a chance to answer my phone and emails promptly that I sell tons of lake products to people across the nation that are looking to purchase stuff and just need a bit of direction. I am talking thousands of dollars worth of aeration systems, fish structures, algaecides, and herbicides! I can make more money by staying put and talking on the phone all day long than I can actually being out in the field working on lakes, but than I would end up hating my job and gaining 100's of lbs! I will just stick with one day per week in the office and enjoy the diversity of my job, and let the other lake management companies sell some stuff too! Then in the evening I enlisted the help of my wife and kids to empty the trapnets and just make sure the electro fishing boat was up and running smoothly.

Thursday was perhaps the best weather of the year! Warm, sunny, and just a light breeze! I had a truckload of Hybrid Bluegills, Hybrid Striped Bass, Catfish, and Rainbow Trout come in from up north for the new Hooked On Fishing Park. Also had 100's of lbs of fatheads, shiners, and some other fish come in for a handful of local clients as well. My brother Justin and Allen delivered the rest of the fish, Justin Steffan and Josh Thames worked on a dock project, and I just kind of floated around for a few hours working on some fish cages and stuff while enjoying the weather! Yep, I dont think I have written about our employees yet, but we have 3 aquatic technicians working full time (if you consider 60 hours per week full time?) My brother Justin (I havent thought of a good job title for him yet? maybe Project Manager?) We also have a full time office manager- Marcy Cox. She takes care of everything from A to Z. She is also our only employee with a bona fide college degree and a big key to our success! And then I would round out our 5 person company. We are all young- ages 20-26, but we work harder and longer and smarter than most big companies! Wow, that was kind of off the subject- now back to whatever it was we were writing about????

Friday we all fixed a dock in kickapoo for Doug Oberhelman, than I headed out for a loong day with Justin Steffan.

We treated a small pond with some white cap in kickapoo, checked on our fish at the fishing park, delivered Hybrid Striped Bass to Hidden Lakes and also treated some of their lakes, then treated a small pond in Victoria, then headed to Cabin Fever to check on their main lake, then off to Laura, Il for an electrofishing survey for Larry Hines.

We finished at Larry's lake about 6:30 pm and I headed straight to the lake for the weekend.........

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Electro Shocking Jacobs Lake

Went out electrofishing Jacobs Lake on Monday evening and was helped out by my good friend Mike Steffa. We were working on a budget of limited time, because we were tipped off by a storm chasing friend that a some pretty good storms were headed directly for us over near Chenoa.

We collected enough fish, took all of our measurements and data and pics, and got poured on while we were finishing up. We got 'er done just in the nick of time. The kids helped out by carrying each fish back to the lake and had a great time.

I had the privilege of driving home at 8 pm through some pretty good thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.

Fish Kill

I got lots of calls about fish kills this winter which is pretty typical, but uncharacteristically have been getting calls about fish kills this spring. I went out to investigate a fish kill on a 16 acre lake near Elmwood today, and what was strange was that only bluegill between 5-9 inches were killed??? Made me do some thinking, and although we havent nailed down exactly what happened I have somewhat determined that those bluegills were so focused on making babies, that they ended up getting killed while the rest of the fish must of been aware of danger and simply headed out!

This lake is 65 feet deep and typically is crystal clear with visibility about 20 feet, but with all the rain we have been having this late in the season, I think tons of fertilizer from all the corn fields has been washing straight into the lake causing a massive algae bloom. There were various types of algae blooming within the water column as well as blue-green algae blooming on the top as well. Here are some pics of the brown algae in the water.

When the algae bloom reduces visibilty to less than 12 inches, oxygen related fish kills can occur very easily for various reasons. I am waiting for some lab results to determine the exact types of algae and help determine a cause of death and formulate a game plan.