The COVID-19 virus wreaking havoc on the world has thrown quite a monkey wrench into our daily lives. Entire industries have been forced to halt daily operations, cities are on lockdown, and all schools and public parks have closed. Obedience to public safety guidelines are crucial at slowing, and ultimately stopping, the spread of this highly contagious virus. Fortunately, not all has changed and we have a lot to look forward to once things return to normal. When you have re-watched your favorite fly-fishing film for the hundredth time and the kids are running circles, it becomes the best time to think about ensuring your pond, lake, or river is set up for a summer of exceptional recreation.
Springtime in Colorado is an exciting time, especially after a snowy winter. With ponds, lakes, and rivers losing the last of their ice, it is time to consider what you envision using the resource for. Common goals include trophy fish development, clean water bodies without nuisance vegetation, reduced odors, and safe swimming waters. Each of these goals often require different approaches to achieve the desired result. For this post, I will be focusing on trophy fish development. I suspect people will want to be out catching big fish after being cooped up from the virus!
Trophy fish is a term that is often thrown around with little context. A trophy fish can be a ten-inch brook trout in a high mountain stream or an eight-pound bass in a farm pond. One similarity, regardless of species or location, is these trophy fish have a sustainable supply of forage. For predatory fish such as trout and bass, forage includes macroinvertebrates and minnows. It’s important to remember each predatory species will have different preferences depending on stage in life development. Aqua Sierra recommends adequate stocking of these forage fish to help ensure the growth of your trophy fish. However, our biologists understand that stocking prey for your large fish is not a solve all solution. In resources that have lacked active management or stocking for years, an imbalance in predator to prey ratio can occur. Common signs of imbalance include stunted fish and/or one species of fish to become dominant. The imbalance can make trophy fish development incredibly difficult without proper diagnosis.
If trophy fish development is your goal, Aqua Sierra recommends a comprehensive fish population survey to analyze the species present, populations of each species, and relative biomass. Armed with this information we will produce a management report that provides catch, keep, release, and stocking guidelines to rebalance the fishery. There are several methods our biologists will utilize to analyze the health of a fishery. The most common and efficient method is electroshocking. This survey technique temporarily stuns the fish, providing us time to collect data while avoiding harming the fish. For best results, Aqua Sierra recommends conducting a survey at your first available opportunity dependent on the species’ ideal temperature range and windows of increased activity in easy to survey areas. This window of opportunity is different for warm and cold water fish.
The information collected from the survey will vary from resource to resource which creates unique recommendations to your resource. Stocking fish may not be the best solution to reach trophy fishery status. Sometimes Aqua Sierra determines fish removal necessary in order to remove nuisance species that are limiting other species abundance. Other times, we will recommend stocking only prey species, such as fathead minnows or bluegill. Aqua Sierra utilizes the best available scientific information to recommend a management plan to fit your budget, timeline, and goals.
We understand the disturbance to our clients’ lives during this time, and hope our services can ease the disruption so normal life can return as fast as possible. Here at Aqua Sierra, Inc. the safety of our clients and employees is of utmost importance. While following the COVID-19 protocols, we will continue business at this time. With spring in the air there is no better time to start planning the 2020 season! Please feel free to reach out to our team of professional biologists to help fulfill your goals. Stay safe and stay healthy!
-Written by Greg Sayles, Fisheries Biologist and Consultant at Aqua Sierra Inc.