Record Cold and Ice May Require Supplementing Food Chains
Water temperature is the on / off switch that plays a critical role in windows of opportunity fish have to feed and grow. During record, stressful conditions this winter, we recorded temps as low as 39-degrees. Surfaces froze solid for extended periods. Tilapia were the first casualties. Threadfin shad followed. Many lakes will require food chain supplementation to restore abundant forage.
Fish are cold-blooded critters. During winter, their metabolism is like molasses. Energy levels drop. Appetites diminish. Digestion slows. Fast-forward to spring and summer. Lake temperatures are like a warm bathtub. Fish body functions hum like a fine-tuned NASCAR engine. Food MUST be available during this period when fish are in peak feeding mode. We schedule stockings to capitalize on every growing day.
Crawfish emerge from winter hibernation around February to March with offspring attached to their tails. Within 90-days, young are excellent forage size. After spawning, bass go on a feeding frenzy. If present, they binge on crawfish. Threadfin shad spawn with each new moon when temps reach 65-degrees. They should be stocked late April through May when temps begin producing shad’s primary food—plankton. As we enter this time, conditions are compatible for tilapia. They not only contribute valuable bass forage, tilapia efficiently manage annoying algae. Texas Parks and Wildlife regulates tilapia. Certain tilapia species don’t survive below 52-degrees. From April through December, however, they’re a baitfish factory and reproduce every 21 to 25-days. By early summer, bluegill are in full-production and spawn every 4 to 6-weeks. Sound like an all-you-can-eat buffet? FORAGE SPECIES WILL BE IN HIGH DEMAND THIS SPRING. ORDER TODAY BEFORE SUPPLIES DROP!
Stocking ratios are contingent on management goals. Stocking dates are determined by seasonal water temps. Under normal conditions, we recommend:
Bluegill Year-round 250+ adults/acre
Threadfin Shad April to May 1,000 / acre
Crawfish May 100-pounds / acre
Tilapia April to May 15 to 20-pounds / acre
What do BIG BASS eat? Short answer—anything that fits in their mouth. The greatest challenge is producing forage in sufficient volume, efficient sizes, and nutritional value.
A 6-pound bass prefers to eat a 5 to 6-inch bluegill, big crawfish, 8-inch bass, or comparable meal. Cruising the lake all day only finding small meals is not productive. Energy exerted chasing small meals is burned-up in the pursuit instead of converted to healthy growth.
Bass would much rather savor a large, single portion, then suspend under a shady log the rest of the day getting fat and sassy. Utilizing multiple forage species takes pressure off one group such as bluegill. It allows greater survival among all baitfish to provide a stronger, diverse food chain.
To assess potential food chain damage, consider an electrofishing survey. Join us in the boat, conduct a forage census, test water quality, evaluate vegetation, and general habitat. We’ll weigh and measure bass to determine relative weight. Relative weight tells what a bass of a given length should weigh if developing normally. Data provides a valuable baseline for monitoring future growth. After analyzing stats, biologists provide a comprehensive report of findings. The summary includes recommended steps to achieve management goals.
You built that dream lake to embark on a memorable angling journey. Don’t let poor forage planning spoil the experience. Failing to harvest small bass can derail success. We would appreciate the privilege to partner with you in creating a largemouth legacy for family and friends.