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Alabama Freshwater Fishing Report Podcast - Part 2 of 3

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Alabama Freshwater Fishing Report - April 4-10, 2022 - Fish Habitat Part 2 of 3

Listen to the Full Podcast.

If you missed Part 1,  read it here.

Brian Senn: Let’s move on to the lily pads. And this is one that’s really gotten my interest here, because, I mean, we all like fishing top water, right? And in some of our ponds, it’s a challenge. Norman, you know, it’s a challenge. We’ve talked about it a lot, but it’s like everybody, we want the best of both worlds, but it’s hard to have that.

So in a pond situation, we want that grass or we want those lily pads, and we want that cover, but it’s like all or none. It’s like you either treat your pond with herbicides or put carp in it, or you don’t, and then it gets overtaken. And so, it’s kind of never been that… it’s very difficult to have that happy medium where you have a pond that doesn’t get taken over and too much weeds or grass, or lily pads, or there’s none. So, this solves the problem, Chris.

Chris Blood: It really does. The Lily Pads and Fishing Lilies are made out of a PVC foam material, they’re that bright green, like a natural lily pad color. They come in a six-pack and you can drop them in. We recommend anchoring them with just a half cinderblock, and you could drop them in anywhere you want to have that topwater fishing attractant. They’re sold in six packs, and they actually come with a BOOYAH® Pad Crasher Jr. fishing lure. So when you open them up and drop them in the water, you can start fishing right away.

Brian Senn: Nice. Norman, what do you love about this product? I know you’ve talked about it and were in on the design on all these products, so what excites you about this?

Norman Latona: Yeah, well, like what you’re saying, it’s hard to have natural vegetation, that surface vegetation in lakes without… it’s hard to have a little bit of it. And you know, so we have to help customers who just let their lakes get taken over by stuff because they love to fish on the surface. They love to fish, the vegetation, the shade and the ambush points that the vegetation and surface vegetation, particularly provides fish is useful.

And so, this does allow you in those lakes, we preach to people all the time, like you’ve got to keep super shallow water is a no-no because it encourages vegetation. You can’t have a little bit of it, typically. And so, this solves that problem. I mean, for years and years, we have played around with – try to create surface cover. And we’ve had customers that use pieces of plywood with foam insulation glued to the underside of it to keep it suspended.

You know, obviously, that’s kind of unsightly, and also eventually, even gets waterlogged and sinks to the bottom. But this is really a great solution for topwater action. And we’ve actually got a couple of these things in a lake that I fish fairly frequently and it didn’t take but just a few days, literally to have fish using it, you know, where we can catch fish. And frankly, it’s the destination point most days when, most afternoons or mornings when we go out, you know, it’s… let’s head to the lily pads. They really, really work.

And they’re also just snag-proof, you’d have to try hard to get tangled up in one of these things, which is even nicer than natural vegetation. So, I think it’s a great product. We tend to put ours in relatively shallow water, but theoretically, you could put them in as deep as you want. And, you know, I think fish will use them in any water depth, they just get tucked right up underneath them.

They love the shade, particularly when the water warms up. There can be a lot of difference in temperature from shade to sunlight. And so they’re looking for that cool, shady spot, and they’ll just lay under there and wait for that frog to come hopping across the top of them. And so, I love them. These are great products.

Brian Senn: Now, did you put these in the pond… I know about?

Norman Latona: I did. There’s four or five of them in there, of the lily pads.

Brian Senn: Chris, you know what’s a shame about that?

Chris Blood: What’s that?

Brian Senn: It’s that I don’t know they’re in there because I had… Norman hadn’t let me come out there and go fishing lately. So that’s why I haven’t had the opportunity to fish around these things. Norman’s being selfish.

Norman: Well, now, you know.

Brian Senn: He’s being selfish with his pond.

Chris Blood: Well, now you know the secret.

Brian Senn: That’s right. He don’t want me in there. He’s scared I’m going to fish in lily pads.

Chris Blood: That’s right. One of the other things that Norman pointed out which is great is that they are snag-free. The way you attach them to that anchor point, which is half cinderblock or something else, is that we source this marine bungee cord, so it expands and contracts. So as the water level rises, when you get a big rain and your lake goes up a little bit, those lily pads just maintain the level, so they’re floating on the surface. If you get a little drop in your water level, they’re going to always stay there on the surface.

And then we came up with this buoyant tubing that we provide also with the six-pack. So when you tie them off and get them ready to anchor out there, you slide this snag-free tubing down the line, tie it off. And when you put them in the water, that tubing floats up to the top, right underneath the lily pad and helps prevent hooking the line with your lure, and they kind of pivot and turn. If you overcast, they’ll turn and let you, get your line through. So they’re very, very fishing friendly.

Brian Senn: Yeah, absolutely. I can see that. That’s very cool. And we transition you know from the single lilies, lily pads to – you also have a product called fishing lilies, which appears to be multiple pads all linked together. And to me, that, well, that’s a good-looking product.

Chris Blood: Thank you. Yes, same material, same concept, topwater, but it is a cluster. It really is more of a natural design that you’d see out there in the natural environment. And so it simulates an entire cluster of lily pads. And it provides some extra edge to it, which what I’ve been told, and Norman could speak to this, but the fish seem to like, you know, more edge and bass, in particular. I’m not sure about crappie, but that’s a big benefit, and people love that fishing lily because of the extra edge that it provides.

Brian Senn: Yeah, I can see that. That is a cool looking product there, all the products that we’ve discussed so far. But you know, we think about ponds and private ponds, and private smaller lakes and stuff, and it is kind of Norman’s bread and butter, and how ideal these products are for that scenario.

But, you know, I was down at Lake Martin last weekend, and you know, of course, every house has a dock. And the dock creates a little bit of structure, but you’re standing on top of the dock most of the time. You’re walking around on it, which is not advantageous for the fish to be under it. But these would be amazingly good products to put out around your dock, whether it’s Lady Lake or Logan, Martin, or any of our giant lakes we have around the state. These would be really good products for dock fishing.

Chris Blood: For sure. Yeah, and they offer a target, you know. They create targets for casting and it just makes fishing a lot of fun.

Brian Senn: Yeah, absolutely. All right, so Fish Grass. This is another really cool looking product. So let’s dive into that one, Chris.

Chris Blood: Again, working with Norman and talking about vegetation, invasive vegetation in ponds and lakes, we came up with a way to create this artificial grass. It’s made out of a polymer material. It’s buoyant, it floats. They’re grass strands or strips of them that are 16 inches wide. They mount to a 16-inch square platform with what we call automotive fasteners. They’re just a plug and play, push them in, and they’re attached.

So there’s, again, no tools required, quick, easy assembly. You attach them with a Velcro strap to a Pavestone® paver and drop them in. And so, they’re 16-inch square vegetation and you can create, there’s a six-pack of ‘em, so you can create this large area of aquatic vegetation. We have them available in 2-foot links, and then also for deeper water 4-foot links. And you drop them in and they’re just instant vegetation. You can put them in shallow water, snag-free material, so you can drag your lure right through them, and it just makes a great fish hang out.

Brian Senn: Yeah. And Norman, have you had the chance to fish around any of these yet?

Norman Latona: Yeah, I have. Years ago, when I fell in love with topwater fishing, frog fishing, we’d go out to the lakes and fish vegetation that much closer resembled the fish grass really, then, over the lily pads. I mean, lily pads are sort of scarce in the areas where we would fish when I was a kid, but there was a lot of shoreline vegetation, willow weed and things that emerge at type grass.

And so, you know, I was obviously familiar with how attractive that was to fish, and bass in particular. And so, yeah, another way to kind of have your cake and eat it, too. You know, shoreline vegetation is– can be very challenging to control in a pond. And more often than not, you get, that stuff starts out in the margins and it begins to creep and become more and more prevalent to the point where it begins to choke off areas, particularly if there’s open expanses of shallow water.

And you get to a point where you’re forced to either use chemicals to control it, or grass carp to control it, or both. And you get to a point where you almost have to decide, do I want to kill this stuff and get rid of it, or do I want to live with it choking my lake off? So, obviously, these things you don’t have any of that dilemma. So, you put it where you want it and it’s there forever, and it’ll attract fish and you can fish it just like you do the stance of natural vegetation. It’s a wonderful product.

Brian Senn: Norman, when you put a product like this out, let’s just say the 24-inch one right here, you know, this grass floats up 24 inches high from the bottom. Do you want to put this out to where it comes all the way to the top? Do you kind of want it where it’s a couple inches, maybe a foot from the top? How do you like it?

Norman Latona: Yeah, I think either/or. You know, I like fish exposed vegetations, you know. And I’m amazed at how shallow, particularly if there’s some cover. These bass, even big bass will get in, in the heat of the summer even. Just never ceases to amaze me. You go out and electrofish these lakes and you’re shocking around in 2 and 3-foot water depths. And of course, in open water you don’t see much, but then you hit a stump or some structure item, a mat of vegetation, and it’s just full of fish.

So you know, I don’t think it really matters, the depth, you want to take full advantage of the length of the blades. You don’t have it matted, necessarily matted laying on the surface in a foot of water, but putting it, having it suspended or having it 2 or 3 feet under the surface, it doesn’t bother the fish at all. They’ll certainly use it either way.

Brian Senn: Yeah. You know, I would think that and just depending on the clarity of the water and things like that, it’d be nice to have it come in with at least a couple inches from the surface. That way you can see it, right? And nobody…

Norman Latona: Just so you can see it. Sure.

Brian Senn: Yeah. And then you can fish around it.

Chris Blood: That’s right. And you can also cut that material real easy with scissors. So if you wanted, we’ve had a couple of guys mention that they wanted it to just lay up a couple inches on the surface, and it was in about 3 feet of water. And they just took a 4-foot piece and trimmed it down a little bit. So it was, you know, they can see where that structure was, but laying on top of the water just a little bit. So you can cut it, to length, depending on your particular application.

Brian Senn: Great idea. And both of these come, it comes in 24-inch or 48-inch links, and both of them come in packs of six, right?

Norman Latona: That’s correct. Yes, sir. They come in six packs. So, you’ve got quite a bit of surface area there that you can cover with just one package, one six-pack.

Brian Senn: Heck Yeah. I like it. I like it. All right, let’s… now, this next product is, definitely one that’s got my curiosity - because I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never even heard, I didn’t even know this existed. And this is the Spawning Colony. So Chris, introduce us to the spawning colony.

Chris Blood: Sure. This is about a 3-foot round device that you place on the bottom of the lake. And bluegill and bass, and other fish, they tend to want to have some gravel area, you know where they can attach their eggs. And if you look at these spawning beds that are– that bass or bluegill create in the natural environment, they’re just a round circular bed of gravel, essentially.

But a lot of lakes don’t have that. They’re silted up and they don’t have the gravel. And if you dump the gravel, it gets spread out over time and silted it on top. And so, what we did was we designed the spawning colony. It’s a 3-foot round device that’s elevated up off the surface by about 6 inches. And so you can put your gravel in there, have them on the bottom, and the fish will utilize those to attach their eggs and spawn on these devices.

And in addition to the spawning feature in the raised area, what we did was we designed fish slots, so that when the fry, when they hatch, they can escape into the base of the spawning colony. Because what happens in a lot of cases is that fish predators will be there ready to poach those fry as they hatch. And so this gives them a chance to grow a little bit bigger and escape from predators. And that’s, that’s all built into this one product.

Brian Senn: I would think that would be huge, Norman, and because, you know, we’ve talked about it so many times on here before, me and you have about, especially with lakes that may be a little overpopulated, right, and have too many predator fish in it. It’s like the fish starve to death, all year, they’re not eating and not enough to eat. And then all of a sudden, what is in their spawns and they eat them like popcorn, and then they’re gone. And so they’re eating all that fry, and this gives them a legit place to go, as soon as they hatch, they can go right under there, into the slots, and be protected for a little while at least.

Norman Latona: Yeah. I mean, that’s the lifecycle of a bluegill fry, right? They’re born into a world full of everything-eats-me. And so, they’re immediately looking for a way to escape predation, even from other bluegill, pretty much everything eats them. So, a lot of times you’ll get into a heavily vegetated or dense covered area, and you’ll – and that’s where those fry gravitate to, you know. And the reason they’re there, there’s food there to some extent, but they’re really looking for an area, a safe haven - a way to get away from predators, particularly when they’re very, very young, very small and pretty much defenseless.

Brian Senn: Yeah, so this, at least this gives them a chance to grow a little bit, and hopefully, have a little higher survival rate.

Norman Latona: And like Chris said, fish are, particularly, bass and bluegill are extremely adaptive in terms of their ability to spawn in a wide range of conditions. So majority of the lakes we deal with as Chris eluded to – after a few years in particular, they get silted in, particularly in the shallow areas, which are more conducive to spawning areas where they get a little more direct sunlight, the water gets a little warmer.

And so these fish will find these areas and they’ll do their best to expose some sand or gravel. But over time, these lakes do, they get silted-in, and so they’re kind of forced to spawn on to sort of a muddy bottom. And it’s really not detrimental to them, but it’s also not preferred. And so when you add a gravel, pea gravel, or even just crushed rock to an area, and we’ve done this, you know, just dumped it in along the edges, in some cases, and fish will come find it.

And they’ll use their fins, they fan off the tiny silt particles and expose that gravel, that solid bottom, and they love to lay their eggs right there in that clean gravel. And so this is a way to– they’ll come back and use these things year after year after year. And they’ll come clean them back off the next year and use them all over again. And that’s why you get areas in lakes that are just the typical bluegill spawning, bedding areas. And it’s because they found something in terms of water depth and bottom substrate that they like, and there’s no doubt they’ll find these things and utilize them.

Brian Senn: What’s the best way to put this product out? Do you put the artificial beds down and then put the gravel on top of it, or do you put the gravel on top of it? And then, is there a way to lower it?

Chris Blood: Yes. So that’s a great question. And like Norman said, the prefered depth is 2 to 3 feet, or so. You don’t want to put these very deep, they like to have that sunlight. And so once you find a level area, these can also be connected together, and they’re also sold in a six-pack. So, fish tend to… you’ll see, a colony, they call them spawning colonies and they spawn together in an area, and so they can be connected together.

But two ways, one is three, really three ways. There’s one that we’ve seen where you just wade out there in that shallow depth and you can pour the gravel, set these up on the bank and pour your pea gravel in there in the top. Each one holds about a half a bag or so of pea gravel, and just wade them out there and lower them, slowly just lower them into place. They weighted real well, they’re not going to go anywhere and just drop them in around each other.

And then the other way I’ve seen is lower the device, the product into the water, and then pour the gravel into it, just right there in the shallow depths. And then a third way is, we thought, what if you can’t do that or wade out there, or want to wade out there… What other ways can we come up with? And so, we designed a way to, we added some holes in the top.

Right around where that gravel is, there’s four holes that go through and you can pass a rope, two ropes through and keep it level, and run those ropes through and lower it into the water, and then just release the rope on one end and pull it through. And so, you can actually keep it level and lowered into the water. If you wanted to deploy them off of a boat or off of a dock, for example, you could do it that way as well.

Brian Senn: Norman, obviously, this is something that’s very good for the bluegill and bream, shellcracker, whatever it may be, but is this something that bass would also utilize?

Norman Latona: Yeah, probably so. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t use them to spawn on them. But more than that, you can bet that bass would be hanging around them. And just like bass hang around, bluegill beds, so. But yeah, there’s no reason to think that bass would not spawn on them as well, of course bass typically spawn ahead of the bluegill anyway.

So it wouldn’t be out of the realm to have bass spawning and then have bluegill come and spawn on top of them. They certainly utilize beds year after year, after year. You know, fish will come, they’ll come silted little bit, or get covered up a little bit, and you’ll see those fish in the springtime, they work hard to clean out their beds. It looked like you can see sometimes when the sun hits it just right in shallow, clear enough water, you see like a honeycomb structure.

Particularly with bluegill, they’ll have 30, 40, 50 of them in a small area, you know, almost attached to one another. Like Chris is saying, you could, we could put six packs of these things and link together. And that’s just a defense mechanism, you know, they make themselves look bigger and have a bigger presence, and hopefully, help to discourage predators from coming around them.

Brian Senn: Yeah. Well, just looking through your whole bag of items that you have here, you know, I love the fishability of them, the fish attractiveness, the ability to attract fish to them, whether it’s the grass or the lily pads, or the fish pyramid. But I think it’s really cool that you guys have thought ahead on this thing. Not just to create products that we can fish around, that’ll hold fish, but just like, and I’m looking at this picture of that submerged pyramid right now with the slits in it, gives the smaller fish a place to hide, so that they can get a little bit larger and be even better-quality food for our bass.

Chris Blood: That’s exactly right. And everything we do that’s designed for underwater, the spawning colony, the pyramid, the grass, the platform that the grass is attached to, it all has texture. And the reason we did that was to help foster the growth of algae and phytoplankton and so it also ends up being and serves as a food source for the fish. So you’re not only creating a conservation aspect to it where fish can get in and take refuge from the predators, but it’s also a shade source so it provides that attraction aspect of it, and then also serves as a food source for the fish, for the little guys.

And all of these are really designed to be used together. So you could have your spawning colony with your escape habitat for the fry and nearby have some grass in the pyramid so that they could move around and take refuge it gives them a chance to grow into a bigger fish and provides them with some protection from these predators.

Brian Senn: Yeah, I love it, man. You all put a lot of thought into all these products. It’s very clear and, of course, Norman and Auburn University probably had a lot to do with that as well. I’m not taking away from you, Chris. You probably did yourself, but…

Chris Blood: No, they did. No. Absolutely. It’s a group effort and we really put a lot of great minds together to create this product line.

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If you missed Part 1, read it here. Please join us again for Part 3 coming soon.

For information on purchasing Texas Angler Fish Habitat products, Texas Hunter Feeders and Lake Management Services in general, contact Southeastern Pond Management at www.SEPond.com or call 888.830.POND (7663).

For general information on Texas Hunter Products’ new Texas Angler Fish Habitat products and to watch the video or find a Lake Management dealer near you, visit www.TexasAnglerProducts.com.