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A TRUE Fish Story!

A TRUE Fish Story!

Posted by Tim on 28th Nov 2023

("David, here’s a narrative of my personal experience along with some photos and a “Relative Weight” narrative, as well. If you haven’t introduced your clients to relative weight, my opinion is that you will be doing them a great service by sharing. I personally don’t see how anyone can manage a fishery without one!")

I’m blessed to manage the hunting, fishing and farming on a few thousand acres in Kentucky. There are 10-12 lakes that are offered to folks for a nominal annual fee. One lake in particular is 30 acres and is actually the result of coal stripped from the property in 2012.

A normal process in strip mining is that after the coal is removed the land must be reclaimed, during the reclamation process, we don’t allow anyone on the property. But in 2018, folks began asking me for permission to fish the lake. To my knowledge the lake was never stocked and my reply was always that there were no fish in the lake.    Big fish habitat build

One fellow, however, told me that he had personally caught lots of fish with some weighing as large as five pounds. So in March of 2018 I fished the lake and caught over 30 fish in a two hour trip!

  Loose material for DIY fish habitat projects

Our biologist made two recommendations: manage the bass based on their relative weight and introduce 300 grass carp to reduce the massive amounts of coon-tail and other weeds from the fishery. We created a computer program that would provide us with annual totals of the average length, average weight, total pounds caught, number of fish caught, total pounds kept (based on relative weight) and total pounds released (also based on relative weight). 

  Good cover grows more fish

Our management began in earnest with the stocking of grass carp in June and the removal of bass starting July 30, 2018. Here are the results of the first partial year of management. (July 30-December 31, 2018)

Total Bass Caught 307

Total Pounds Caught 405.24

Average Length 14.2”

Average Weight 1.32 lbs.

Total Pounds Kept (per Relative Weight Chart) 362.13

Total Pounds Released 41.63

Largest Bass Caught 7 lbs./22.25” (Released)

 Crappie habitat that works    

So, the numbers don’t lie! In 2018 we kept almost every bass that we caught and actually released only 42 pounds of bass. Past experience told us to stay committed to the relative weight management plan, but by fall 2019, a huge problem emerged: we very obviously introduced way too many grass carp, as every aquatic weed in the fishery had been consumed! We were left with a virtual fish bowl void of structure. There was literally no place in the water column that a minnow could hide! 

Our trophy bass program was certainly in danger and our first natural response was to introduce trees. But $3,000 and 10 trees later it became obvious that this route was not financially feasible. So I turned to the good old internet. That’s when I stumbled across David Ewald and his website.

 Dense and intricate cover for small fish

“Interesting concept” was my first thought, and my second thought was “if this stuff works it could get our trophy bass plan back on track.” Several conversations later with David and I was convinced his habitat was worth a try. I can’t remember the cost, but I do remember that with the package I purchased, we created approximately 225 four foot tall structures.

I built the structures in March and April of 2020, and in May we set them in strategic locations around the lake. We put most in travel corridors in 6’-8’ of water, but also set some in 4’-5’ depths. 

To say that these structures aided our management plan would be an understatement!

Fishiding ready to sink for the fish.

The truth is the structures are absolutely the savior of our management!!! We set an average of 20 structures in each location. Minnows around the lake have places of relative safety and our members know where they can catch fish at any time. 

We continue to observe strict relative weight management and our catch-and-release trophy bass program is doing great! Here are the results of the 2023 season to date:

Total Bass Caught 628

Total Pounds Caught 1,482

Average Length 16.05

Average Weight 2.36

Total Pounds Kept (per Relative Weight Chart) 75.56

Total Pounds Released 1,399

Largest Bass Caught 5 lbs. 11 oz. /21”

Bass Caught Over 4 lbs.  52

Look closely and you’ll notice the largest fish in 2018 was 7 pounds (we actually caught five bass over 6 pounds in 2018) and the largest bass in 2023 is 5 pounds 11 ounces. This is an anomaly to us and should not be. But there was another big water event in 2021 and we can only surmise that the big fish left the lake. Another option is that the fish are being poached at night? This remains an unknown. 

What IS known is that products WORK and in our opinion, worth every penny spent! Hats off to David and his crew for these fantastic fish structures!!!