If you were to visit the University of Florida in Gainesville today, chances are you’d drive past Lake Alice. The small, 4.5 acre lake is located almost directly in the center of campus. As you drive by, you’d also notice the huge signs posted everywhere that say “No Fishing”. Breaking that rule will land you in jail.
Unless you’re with the Fisheries department…
The day I’d been looking forward to for weeks had finally come. My Introduction to Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences class took boats out to Lake Alice to electrofish and collect data on the fish present in the lake. We backed the boats down into the water and set off to shock them. Each boat had three people on them; one to drive and two to net the fish that came to the surface.
Shocking the fish merely stuns them. They come up to the surface and are then netted and put into a live well. Shocking runs last 15 minutes and the boat motors around the lake, up into the reeds, and under branches during the sample period to collect fish. Once the sample is over, the boat returns to shore, collects data, and releases the fish.
Every time I go fishing I tell myself, “I -know- that there are more/big fish down there. I just wish I could see them”. Today, I got to see every one of them. The very first fish that I netted was the biggest crappie I’d ever seen. It measured out to 13.5 inches (I’ll have to go back to the data to get the weight since I can’t remember it off the top of my head).
Immediately after that we netted an almost identical one. We then went on to net several 2+lb largemouth bass, and tons of monster bluegill and redears. After my sample was done, I took my turn at collecting data on the fish. Game species (Bass, bluegill, redear, etc.) over a certain size were measured and weighed. Each fish then received a fin clip on their left pelvic fin. We do this so that when we return next week and the week after, we can pick out the recaptures. Finally, bass over a specific length were tagged and then released.
I luckily got the chance to take the shock boat out one last time before the day ended. Once again we pulled in quite a few bass and lots of big bluegill. Nearly all of the bluegill measured (over 200) measured greater than 9 inches and many weighed over 1 lb.
I also got a chance to catch one of those monster redears that taunted me in Merritt’s Mill Pond years ago.
We also hit a huge school of shiners, a catfish, 1 alligator (he was pissed), a bullfrog, and my first ever: Bowfin.
I’d always seen pictures of Bowfin, but had never seen one in real life. Not only was it my first Bowfin, but it was HUGE. The biologists working with us said that it was on the upper end of the Bowfin size spectrum. He almost didn’t fit in my net, barely fit in the live well, and was too long for our measuring board. He went an easy 10 lbs.
The greatest part about all of this is that it’s school. I get a grade for doing something I’d just do for fun. To make things even better, I get to go back and repeat the electrofishing process two more times in the upcoming weeks. I’ll be sure to bring the camera for more pictures. Anything to get ya through the winter fishing slump.