The Conservation Branch acquired an electro-fishing boat that will be instrumental in advancing the quality of management of our ponds on Fort Benning.
Up until now, we have been dependent upon other state and federal natural resource management agencies to sample fish in ponds on post.
The generous contributions those agencies made were pivotal in allowing us to determine stocking densities, fish health and a way forward in our management strategy.
However, dependency upon other agencies has not allowed us to maximize management efforts.
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For example, in 2011 we were unable to do any sampling of the ponds because other agencies did not have time to provide support. Having an electro-fishing boat available for us to accomplish management in-house will ultimately increase the quality of your recreational fishing experience in our ponds.
Currently, all of the fishing ponds on post, with the exception of Weems, are in a bass-crowded condition. This means there are more bass in the ponds than available forage.
This results in stunted growth of largemouth bass and an abundance of small bass. Many of those bass may be 3 to 4 years old, but only measure 8 to 10 inches and weigh a half to three-quarters of a pound. In a balanced pond we can expect to see those same fish measure 14 to 16 inches and weigh 1.5 to 2 pounds.
Since 2009, our primary focus has been restoring the quality of four ponds on post — Kings, Weems, Twilight and Hedley’s. Management efforts have included liming, fertilizing and stocking those ponds.
Prior to those efforts, bluegill reproduction in the ponds was nearly nonexistent as the overpopulation of bass ate the majority of bluegill hatched each year. We have restored the bluegill populations and their overall heath and demographics improved dramatically.
We attempted to allow anglers to reduce bass populations through increased creel limits and exceptions to policy, which allowed individuals to keep all the bass they caught. Neither of those methods have proven successful.
One of the first major management efforts using the new electro-fishing boat will remove a significant number of stunted bass from the ponds mentioned above.
We will also use the new boat to sample each pond twice a year, which will provide solid data on the impacts our management strategies are having and guide future management for each fishery. With the enhanced management this boat will generate, you should be able to see results and reap the benefits of our pond management in the coming years.