Fishery Opinion Survey

Discussion, evaluation, and action proposal

By the Fishery Management Committee

January 19, 2012

Trout

Trout fishing is clearly the most popular although there has been a reported decline in productivity within the past decade. Still, two thirds of the survey respondents rate their recent outings as either good or excellent. The decline in productivity, and large trout, can be attributed (perhaps among other things) to the increase in fishing activity (fishing pressure) and to the skill of trout fishermen and their use of the popular and effective “PowerBait”. Trout are being harvested annually with few surviving the catch and growing to larger size in future years as was more likely in the past. Continued emphasis on “put and take” trout stocking is a strong preference. Stocking 18” – 20” trout; fewer but larger fish slightly outweighed stocking smaller 12” – 16” trout; smaller but more fish.

Action Plan (2012): We will continue spending the majority of stocking money on trout, buying as many of the larger size as available from the fish farm, and stocking all four lakes in the usual percentage based on surface area.

Action plan (2013+) Additional stocking money will be requested from the POA for stocking forage fish to foster growing trout to larger sizes.

 

Bass

Bass fishing is second in popularity and here too there has been a reported decline in productivity, especially for larger ones, within the past decade. The increase in fishing activity (fishing pressure) for bass, as with other species is a factor. However, 44% of the survey respondents rate their recent outings as either good or excellent. All four lakes have an overabundance of small bass and very few fish larger than 12”. It is well understood, and in fact been the recommendation of professional fishery biologists over the years, that many of these small bass should be harvested so that the food chain is more in balance and the remaining fish can grow larger. There are lunker bass in each lake, as reported by catches and by visual observations; but to catch one requires knowledge (where, when, how), skill, persistence (time spent fishing),and as with all fishing, a little luck. Our lakes do not have the ideal habitat for bass – lacking in fertility, and structure (cover). Enhancing the food chain and genetics would help grow larger, healthier bass.

Action Plan (2012): Aggressively harvest the small (under 12”) bass from all lakes. The current NC State regulations limit only two bass under 14” per day per fisherman. We are investigating the possibility of getting a permit from the State (NCWRC) to increase that quantity, so as to be more effective in harvesting. Also, we will recruit Connestee fisherman who are willing to assist with this aggressive harvest, and correspondingly identify where these fish would be welcome as table food ( e.g., local residents, Bread of Life).

Action Plan (2012 – 2014): Begin a three year project to develop one of our lakes as an “enhanced bass lake”. Wanteska is considered to be the best because of its size, elevation (making it slightly warmer), favorable habitat, and a history of producing large bass. In the near term (2012), in addition to harvesting the small bass, we plan to improve the habitat by adding structure (Christmas trees, and fabricated fish hides). We will solicit voluntary contributions to help fund these fish hides. We will also evaluate the bluegill population and consider stocking bluegill as forage for bass; and starting with the 2013 budget, we will consider requesting additional POA funding for stocking forage fish. Brood stock bass will be added to improve genetics. For this three year period, we will post “catch and release all bass over 12”. Trout stocking will continue as usual. After three years, we will evaluate the effectiveness of these actions and react accordingly.

 

Sunfish

Sunfish ( bluegill, brim) rank third in fishing popularity and most respondants rate fishing for them as good or excellent. All four lakes have an abundance of sunfish and some of them are lunker size (11”+). Sunfish reproduce multiple times per year and usually do not need stocking except when it is desirable to enhance the forage for a predator fish (e.g., bass).

Action Plan (2013+): Given adequate funding, stock 3” – 5” bluegill in the “enhanced bass lake” as forage for bass.

 

Catfish

Catfish rank a distant fourth in popularity and only about one third of those fishing for them rate productivity as good or excellent. Our lakes do not have ideal habitat for catfish reproduction and without stocking their numbers will most likely decrease. We view catfish as a forage competitor to our trout and bass gamefish and therefore have no plans to encourage their presence in our lakes.

Action plan (2012+): Encourge harvesting catfish from the “enhansed bass lake”.

 

Other Species

Although small numbers of perch and crappie are present in our lakes, these species were not part of this survey and we have no plans to encourage their presence. Stocking crappie, smallmouth bass, or walleye was suggested by a few respondents. Doing so would diversify the fishery at the expense of our primary gamefish, trout and bass (too many mouths to feed in a less than ideal habitat). We will focus on improving our trout and bass fishery.

CFPOA Maintenance will continue to manage the grass carp population for aquatic weed control.