Fish Stocking Spring 2021
Our Thanks to Fred Harding for Handling Fish Stocking for the YLPA!
There were two rounds of fish stocking this Spring. It was about a 6 hour round trip for Fred and Mike Medley to pick up this year’s initial load of 200 perch, 300 crappie, and 100 hybrid blue gill from the Fish Haven hatchery in Candor, New York. Perch have been hard to come by at any of the more-local hatcheries this year, as have been crappie. On April 1st, when Fred heard that the hatchery in Candor had received some crappie, he hopped in his truck and took off!
Fish Haven is one of our secondary suppliers. They bring their fish in from down South, where warmer temperatures are an advantage, then raise and feed them in aerated tanks until ready for release into regional lakes.
In preparation for the three hour ride back to the lake, the hatchery packs the fish, such as these perch, for transport in a strong cardboard box with a water-filled plastic bag inside.
50 fish are loaded into each bag. They then top off the bag with pure oxygen and seal the bag and the box for the journey to the fish’s new home at Yankee Lake.
Here, Fred is preparing to release some of the hybrid blue gill into the lake. The hybrid blue gills are a cross between a male bluegill and a female green sunfish – both of which are native species to our lake. The hybrid has a low reproductive rate, but it grows to 1 pound in 1 year and can get to 2 pounds. It feeds aggressively and should provide exciting moments for children of all ages, especially those who prefer the worm and bobber method.
Pictured here is an example of the size of the perch being added to the lake.
Here, Mike Medley is preparing to release bags of crappie into the lake. Crappie (also called croppie) are sometimes referred to as a type of “pan fish” because they are thin, small (9-10 inches at most), and don’t grow so large that they won’t fit in a frying pan. A member of the sunfish family, crappie are considered some of the best-tasting of all freshwater fish. Once lakeside, the plastic bags holding the fish are opened and gently emptied into the lake. Crappies spawn in May and June when the water temperature reaches 56°F. Males construct nests where the females lay 5,000 to 30,000 eggs. The males guard these nests until the fry swim away. Crappie grow 3–5 inches in the first year, and grow an additional 3-4 inches in the second year, reaching maturity around their second or third year. Fred and Mike added 300 of these fish to the lake. By day, crappie tend to be less active and concentrate around weed beds or submerged objects, such as logs and boulders. They feed around dawn and dusk, by moving into open water or approaching the shore. Crappie can be tricky to catch because of the very thin membrane around their mouth, which makes it hard to set the hook. This is why they are nicknamed “papermouth.” According to the International Game Fish Association, the largest crappie on record was a 5.4 pound fish caught on 1 May 2020 by Zachariah Williams on Happy Valley Pond in West Columbia, South Carolina.
Our more-local primary hatchery raise their fish in outdoor ponds. They wait to deliver fish to us until the water temperature of their ponds, and the water temperature of our lake, are compatible. On June 3rd, their truck delivered 140 large mouth bass, 250 channel catfish, and 10,000 fathead minnows directly to our lake shore.
The 10,000 fathead minnows are “feeder-fish” (forage fish) for bass and catfish and the other native species in our lake, allowing the young of our preferred species not to be all gobbled up before they mature. The fathead minnows are essentially a long-term nutrition program for our preferred species. Fathead minnows are a fresh water fish native to most states, so they are not an invasive species to our waters. They generally reach 2 – 3 inches in length and live two to three years. The fathead minnow is very prolific. Spawning begins when the water temperature reaches 60 degrees and repeats monthly until the water cools down in the fall. They lay up to 500 eggs per spawn. The female deposits eggs into nesting spots and, after fertilization, the male takes over and guards it. The eggs hatch in about five days.
The 140 bass that were stocked are two years old, about a foot long, and appeared plump and well-fed. Bass of this age have reached sexual maturity. They should spawn this year, plus grow quickly. They should reach about 15 inches and 2 pounds in a couple of years. On New York’s larger bodies of water, the official opener for bass season is the third Saturday of June, which usually falls between the end of the spawn and beginning of the post-spawn period. The smaller males may still be guarding fry, but the larger females back off into deeper water to recuperate from the spawn.
In addition, 250 six-to-eight-inch channel catfish were delivered. Channel catfish are cavity nesters, which means they lay their eggs in crevices, hollows, or debris. Catfish have no scales, and they actually have an abundance of taste buds all over their skin surface! They are particularly sensitive to certain amino acids, which come from the proteins of living organisms in the water. Hence the use of “stinky bait” for catfish. The catfish are bottom feeders, and therefore important in keeping the lake bed clean.
Our lake community should realize that stocking a lake with fish is a balancing act across diverse fish species, the numbers of fish, and the ability of the lake to support the feeding and breeding of the various populations. Fish stocking has to be controlled in order to maintain a healthy number and diversity of species.
Fred Harding has been over-seeing the stocking of Yankee Lake for many years. He is the only person at the lake with a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) to stock Yankee Lake. Fred routinely gathers information from the DEC, the regional hatcheries, his 13 years of fish-stocking records for Yankee Lake, and members of the lake community on apparent fish populations. With these inputs, Fred creates a stocking plan based on the availability of species in the hatcheries. His general plan is to keep the indigenous species at healthy levels.
Feel free to check in with Fred to see if he could use your assistance. We don’t encourage or condone “free-lance” introduction of fish to the lake. It is especially of paramount importance that no one introduce non-native species, like koi or pike, into the lake.