How’s the Fishing? Tips for Managing Your Lake’s Fishery

The fishery of a lake is an intrinsic, incredibly dynamic element of a lake system, and managing a lake’s fishery can be a very complex endeavor. There is actually a lot more to it than simply stocking game fish. Although there is no “one way” in fisheries management, there are key guidelines that can be followed to maximize the recreational potential of your lake’s fishery and increase the success of your fishery management and stocking efforts. Over the past two decades, Princeton Hydro has been working with lake, pond, and reservoir managers to help them to align water quality, fishery, and ecological goals.

Princeton Hydro’s Founder, Dr. Steve Souza, recently gave a presentation on fisheries management at the Spring Meeting of the New Jersey Coalition of Lake Associations (NJCOLA). We’ve compiled a few essential elements from his presentation and have made the complete presentation available for free download.

Let’s dive in!

Benefits of a Healthy Fishery

Recreational fishing is an outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. When children are introduced to fishing, it helps cultivate a connection to the environment, thereby promoting outdoor activity and environmental stewardship among today’s youth.

Anglers have always served as important advocates for the conservation of natural resources. The sale of fishing licenses financially supports wildlife habitat conservation and enhancement as well as the protection and improvement of water quality. This increases the ecological services and functions of lakes and adds to their societal and recreational benefits.

A healthy fishery can have significant positive impacts on water quality. In a balanced, healthy fishery the ratio of forage and game fish affects the entire food web, helping to maintain the proper balance of zooplankton and phytoplankton. The “top down” ecological control associated with a balanced fishery minimizes algae blooms, sustains good water clarity and stable water quality. However, when the fishery is out of balance, the water quality and overall ecological health of the lake often suffers.

Before You Stock, Know Your Lake and Start with a Baseline

Before you do any fish stocking, it’s best to conduct a fishery survey. A fishery survey provides the vital data needed to design a stocking and management plan.

A balanced lake fishery is dependent on good water quality, ample habitat, and the correct ratio of predator and prey fish species. A properly designed and implemented fishery survey generates the data needed to quantify the overall composition of the existing fish community (predator vs. prey), the make-up of the forage (food) base, and the density and robustness of the lake’s top piscivores (prized game fish).

The resulting data helps identify if your fishery is balanced, which fish to stock, and how many of each species to introduce. It will also provide the benchmarks needed to solidify your management goals and, later on, help determine if the goals are being met. To stay on track, we recommend that a comprehensive fishery survey be conducted once every three years. Be sure to use the correct types and combination of “active” and “passive” sampling gear and thoroughly sample both the open water and nearshore areas of the lake.

The survey should include the collection and analysis of water quality data, and the mapping of available habitat. Water column water quality “profiles” provide vital information pertaining to the lake’s thermal and dissolved oxygen properties; key factors for a healthy, vibrant fishery. Here are some basic water quality guidelines:

  • Dissolved oxygen: ≥ 4 mg/L with 6-7 mg/L being ideal
  • For warm water fishery: Uniform temperatures at all depth (minimal or no thermal stratification)
  • For cold water fishery: Deep water temperature of 15 C, and dissolved oxygen ≥ 5 mg/L
  • pH: 6 to 8
  • Clarity: ≥ 3 feet (1 meter) Secchi disc transparency
  • Total Phosphorus: < 0.05 mg/L
  • Chlorophyll a: < 20 µg/L

Water quality sampling should also include an assessment of the lake’s zooplankton and phytoplankton communities, the base of your lake’s food web.

Floating Wetland Island

During the survey, take the time to quantify and map the distribution of existing forage, spawning, and refuge habitat. Lack of adequate habitat can significantly impede the fishery’s sustainability. This begins with the bathymetric mapping of the lake, which is basically an underwater survey of the bottom of the lake. This mapping shows where and how much shallow water versus open water habitat exists.  It can also help identify the location and distribution of important habitat types, such as shoals, rock piles, sandy open areas and natural structures (tree falls and snags). The data also helps determine where to create and introduce habitat, which can be in the form of brush piles, floating wetland islands, and other types of features that increase the spawning, recruitment, and foraging success of the fishery.

Stocking Your Lake

Once the fishery survey is completed, habitat is mapped and water quality analyzed, stocking can begin. In order to determine the specific stocking levels and rates that are right for your waterbody, here are some factors to consider:

  • Ensure your stocking efforts create or augment the correct ratio of predator (game) and prey (forage) fish.

  • Stock cautiously, focusing on a simple composition of predator and prey species. For most warm water lakes, largemouth bass should serve as the top predator and fathead minnow should be the primary prey.

  • Avoid problem fish, such as golden shiner, alewife and brown/black bullhead. Although these fish are often promoted as suitable forage species, they can be easily get overstocked and cause major disruptions of the fishery and to the degradation of water quality.

Go here for a more in-depth look at how to properly stock your fishery.

In Summary

A healthy sustainable fishery isn’t only a function of the types and amounts of fish stocked in a lake; it is directly a function of water quality, the availability and quality of spawning, foraging and refuge habitat, the ratio of forage to predator fish, and the overall composition and balance of the food web.

Begin with a fishery survey; the resulting data enables a correctly planned and implemented stocking program. Conduct routine surveys to assess the status of the fishery and the success of the program. Also, annual water quality testing provides the information needed to make wise pro-active fishery management decisions. It will also provide insights into the lake’s environmental conditions to ensure they are supportive of a healthy, productive and sustainable recreational fishery.

Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about Princeton Hydro’s fisheries management or lake management services, please contact us.

Click here to download a full copy of Dr. Souza’s presentation, titled “How’s the Fishing? Maximizing the Recreational Potential of Your Lake’s Fishery,” which he recently presented at the NJCOLA Spring Meeting. The presentation provides an in-depth set of guidelines for fishery management, covering topics like data collection methods, habitat creation and enhancement, maximizing habitat quality, and details on various stocking species to consider for your lake.

NJCOLA unites lake communities throughout New Jersey through education and by formulating legislation favorable to the protection and enhancement of the State’s lake resources. NJCOLA meetings, held on a regular basis in the spring and fall, educate members on various topics and issues affecting lake communities ranging from legal to environmental.

The Spring NJCOLA meeting was well attended with over 60 participants representing lakes throughout New Jersey, including a number of lakes that are managed by Princeton Hydro – Lake Mohawk, Lake Hopatcong, White Meadow Lake, Lake Swanannona, Kehmah Lake, Culver Lake and Swartswood Lake.

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s Pond and Lake services, including water quality sampling, bathymetric surveying, floating wetland islands, and fisheries, visit: http://bit.ly/pondlake 

 

Lake Mohawk Country Club Publication Features Princeton Hydro

The Lake Mohawk Country Club (LMCC) recently published an article in The Papoose, the organization’s newsletter, that featured Princeton Hydro Founder Dr. Steve Souza and announced that he received the North American Lake Management Society’s “2017 Lake Management Success Stories Award” for his work with Lake Mohawk.

The award specifically recognizes the exceptional service provided to Lake Mohawk, the New Jersey Coalition of Lake Associations (NJCOLA) and the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation (LMPF). The nomination for the award was submitted by Barbara Wortmann, Interim GM of the LMCC, Ernest Hofer PE, Science Advisor to LMPF and Board President of NJCOLA, and the full Board of Trustees of NJCOLA.

As the article states, Steve and the Princeton Hydro team have worked to develop and implement successful lake management strategies to restore and protect the health of the lake and its surrounding watershed. Lake Mohawk is now a role model for all of New Jersey’s lakes.

While accepting his award Dr. Souza stated, “this would not have been possible had it not been for the foresight of the Lake Mohawk Country Club and the support we have received over the years from the Lake Board, the current General Manager Barbara Wortmann, Steve Waehler and the Lake Committee, Ernie Hofer and Gene DePerz of the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation, and of course the late Fran Smith.” Steve went on to thank his staff at Princeton Hydro, especially Chris Mikolajczyk, CLM and Dr. Fred Lubnow, for their efforts over the years.

More About Lake Mohawk Lake Restoration:

Nutrient pollution is one of the main problems affecting lakes throughout the United States. In small amounts, nitrates and phosphates can be beneficial to many ecosystems. However, in excessive amounts, nutrients cause eutrophication. Eutrophication stimulates an explosive growth of algae (algal blooms) that depletes the water of oxygen and cause serious water quality issues. Lake Mohawk was suffering from eutrophication issues.

In the early 1990’s, Princeton Hydro was contracted by the LMCC to conduct a detailed water quality and trophic state assessment of the lake. The data was used to prepare a comprehensive lake management master plan.

A unique element of the plan was the design and installation of a “one-of-a-kind” continual, dosing alum pumping system, which reduced and controlled the lake’s sizable internal total phosphorus load and the phosphorus originating from stormwater and other external sources. This innovative nutrient control program was the first of its kind in New Jersey, and, to this day, remains in operation and is the foundation of the lake’s restoration. Following suit from Lake Mohawk’s success, a similar system was also designed and installed in White Meadow Lake and that system is also largely responsible for its restoration.

The success of this program was recognized by the USEPA through an Environmental Excellence Award, by the NJDEP through an Environmental Initiative Award, by the NALMS through a Technical Merit Award, and now by NALMS with the 2017 Lake Management Success Stories Award.

Read more about the accomplishments at Lake Mohawk in the LMCC’s recent Papoose newsletter.

 

Princeton Hydro Founder Receives Lake Management Achievement Award

We’re thrilled to announce that Princeton Hydro Founder Dr. Stephen J Souza received the North American Lake Management Society’s “2017 Lake Management Success Stories Award” for his work with Lake Mohawk.

While accepting his award Dr. Souza stated, “this would not have been possible had it not been for the foresight of the Lake Mohawk Country Club and the support we have received over the years from the Lake Board, the current General Manager Barbara Wortman, Steve Waehler and the Lake Committee, Ernie Hofer and Gene DePerz of the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation, and of course the late Fran Smith.”

Steve went on to thank his staff at Princeton Hydro, especially Chris Mikolajczyk and Dr. Fred Lubnow, for their efforts over the years “collecting and analyzing a variety of lake data and implementing the innovative restoration practices responsible for the lake’s water quality improvements.”

Since 1990, Dr. Souza has worked with the Lake Mohawk Country Club and the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation to develop and implement successful lake management strategies to restore and protect the health of the lake and its surrounding watershed.

The NALMS award recognizes an individual or team with notable accomplishment of lake and reservoir management efforts that demonstrate improvements in lake/reservoir condition or watershed management in a cost-effective manner.

Many thanks to Lake Mohawk for the continued partnership and steadfast commitment to water quality. And, thanks to NALMS for bestowing Dr. Souza with this great honor.

Click here to see the complete 2017 awards recap from NALMS.

Stormwater Management for Lake Communities

A Presentation by Princeton Hydro President Dr. Steve Souza

Available for Free Download

Princeton Hydro President, Dr. Steve Souza, spent Saturday morning with over 50 members of the New Jersey Coalition of Lakes, an organization that promotes the management of healthy lake ecosystems. Together they discussed many different stormwater management options for lake communities.

Dr. Souza’s presentation covered the principles of stormwater management and the importance of incorporating stormwater management into lake restoration plans. He also provided examples of simple, homeowner-scale runoff control techniques, as well as a sampling of Princeton Hydro designed and constructed large-scale, community-based stormwater management systems. Download a copy of the full presentation here or below!

The meeting hosts, Lake Mohawk Country Club and Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation, have implemented a number of local stormwater enhancement projects. To check out some examples, go here.

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s stormwater management and lake restoration services, visit our website or contact us!

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