by: Alaina Davis
Fishing – what a wonderful way to spend my instructional break/mental health/we’re-so-sorry-covid-messed-up-spring-break-so-have-today-off day. But not just any kind of fishing – electroshock fishing. BUT not just any kind of electroshock fishing – electroshock fishing off of a boat!!!! Thursday, April 8th, was going to be an amazing day.
While I had a great time fishing, getting there was not smooth sailing. I have terrible eyesight and wear contacts. As I was driving to the ABEL lab in Whitehall forest at 7am, one of my contacts ripped, rendering me blind in one eye. There was no way I could drive down there, or even fish, safely. I ended up going home and changing my contacts before hitting the road, putting my arrival time at the property 30 minutes behind everyone else. When I finally got there, I was ready to just chill and catch some fish.
And catch some fish we did! Our whole goal of going to this property was to take a general survey of the fish population in this pond and suggest further management options. The property owner contacted the UGA fisheries club, a student chapter of the American Fisheries Society (AFS), asking us to come do some sampling. We caught a lot of big fish, from largemouth bass to crappie to a few bowfins and pickerels. The biggest fish we caught was a 6lb largemouth bass that actually jumped into the boat! It grazed my leg and fell into the bottom of the boat, flopping around. One of the other guys on the boat had to wrestle the fish, trying to get a good enough grip so he could throw it into the holding tank on the boat. He was finally able to get it in there, but it was quite a spectacle to watch.
Throughout the whole day we recorded data on what species of fish we caught, took their weights and lengths, and then released them back into the pond. This data was then taken after the trip and analyzed to come up with some management strategies for the property owner. There was a lot of natural vegetation around the pond, which is an important habitat quality for lots of native sunfish, but this vegetation was just too thick. The property manager wanted to focus on encouraging the natural reproduction and recruitment of native species, so it was suggested to thin out some of the vegetation through stocking herbivorous fish in the pond.
All in all, fishing on my day off was a great choice. While I may have hit some bumps along the way to get there, I still had a great day. I learned a lot about electroshocking on a boat, learned some more about fish (my favorite topic), and gain valuable knowledge on possible management strategies and how to go about suggesting them to property managers. It’s pretty cool to think that opportunities like this exist for students in Warnell at UGA.