Sometimes, a fishery can have too much of a good thing--- including bass and other predators
That's the case for Greers Ferry Lake, prompting the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) to provide a supplemental feeding for all those hungry mouths.
“It was evident in the crappie, largemouth bass, walleye and hybrid striped bass we sampled that there was not enough forage to support the predator population,” said Tom Bly, fisheries supervisor at the AGFC’s Mayflower office.
“There are many minnows and bream species in Greers Ferry, but gizzard shad and threadfin shad are the dominant forage species. Just about everything eats them.”
And there were not enough of them.
As a consequence, AGFC stocked 37,000 threadfin shad this past spring, both as an immediate food source and as brood stock for rebuilding the population of the baitfish. Cold winters during 2014 and 2015 caused high mortalities of these smaller shad, which die when water temperatures drop to the low 40s.
"Threadfin shad are a subtropical and southern temperate fish that prefer warm water," Bly added.
Often, threadfin can find refuge in deeper water, that but that wasn't the case this time. Biologists failed to find a single fish while sampling during 2015.
The biologist added that management strategy for Greers Ferry has shifted to bolstering the forage base, with threadfin stocking continuing from a commercial hatchery until the population shows signs of recovery. Additionally, nursery ponds will be used to grow minnows and bluegill, as well as threadfin.
"We also will not stock any predators until the forage population recovers," he said. "This includes largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass, walleye and hybrid striped bass. Once forage recovers, we will stock these species in a manner that lends itself to a more sustainable fishery."