Monday, January 8, 2018

Ocean Lakes starts long-range plan to improve fishing in campground ponds

Don’t be alarmed if you see bubbles coming to the surface of Sandlapper Lake.

The bubbles, which you have to look closely to see in the massive lake, represent the first step in a long-term process that Ocean Lakes is taking to help improve the fishing opportunities in the campground.

But how will bubbles help fishing? The bubbles are coming from an air system that has been installed at the bottom of the lake to increase oxygen levels in the water, which should help create a better environment for fish to live and reproduce – and end up on your hook.

“Any increase in dissolved oxygen will help the fish survive better,” said Jeff Wilson, Ocean Lakes Horticulturist/Grounds Manager.

First of several steps

The air system is the first of several steps Ocean Lakes will be taking over the next year to improve the fishing offerings in our lakes.

Look closely at Magnolia Lake and you can see a stream of bubbles coming from a recently installed air-based linear mixing system that adds oxygen to the water to make for a better environment for fish.

Our team plans to remove sediments in the lakes, install spawning areas near the bulkheads to provide places for successful reproduction and add “structure” and “cover” to the bottom of the lakes, which provide hiding places for the fish.

Some enhancements will have an immediate effect, but it will take a year or longer before guests will notice significant improvement in their catches, experts estimate.

“By implementing enhancements to lake water quality and improving habitat, the fishery will improve,” said Miles “Bud” Smart with The Smart Group consultants. “Improvements to the fishery will be noticeable within a year or two and then continue into the future.”

Ocean Lakes turned to the experts after years of disappointing results from our stocking of the lakes with fish such as carp and bass. Guests are still reeling in impressive catches, just not as frequently as in years past.

Instead of just continuing to stock the lakes and have the same disappointing results, Ocean Lakes hired the environmental experts at The Smart Group in nearby Pawleys Island, who last year presented the first in-depth assessment of our eight lakes in the campground’s 46-year history.

Experts with The Smart Group gathered data about the campground's eight ponds, including conducting a fish inventory in April as seen above. The study is the first in-depth assessment of our lakes in the campground's 46 years.

The leadership team at Ocean Lakes knows how important the fishing culture is to our guests and homeowners and is investing in a long-range plan to improve the offerings.

Patience required

In 2016, the consultants dove in and gathered lots of data, including the depths of the ponds, inventory of fish in each one and water quality.  With that baseline data, the experts are working with Ocean Lakes on several steps to improve the fishing culture in our ponds.

Experts from The Smart Group gathered data from the Ocean Lakes pond across from the Meet n' Eat in April.

We started with Sandlapper Lake because it’s the one that guests can most easily access for fishing.

But don’t expect to start immediately reeling in results. It will take time for the fishery to improve and for our stocking with carp, bream, bass and other fish to pay off.

“The fishery-related enhancements would take longer because they are biologically based (i.e., the fish have to grow, reproduce, etc.),” Smart said.

Our team will work with our expert consultants to closely monitor the results and adjust our efforts as needed.  These first steps will help set the stage for long-term results and a thriving fishing culture.