Attacking The Problem With Gizzard Shad Infestation
by James Goughnour – AZ Rim Country
Great news for Roosevelt Lake, thanks to the Aquatics Branch of the AZGFD and local Roundtable groups. Most anglers across the State and even reaching to the western US know about the plan devised several years ago to improve the fishing conditions on Roosevelt Lake. Fishing conditions had been declining to due the high number of gizzard shad in the lake. This concern was first voiced by local anglers and later confirmed by fish counting surveys conducted by AZGFD.
Over the years, the gizzard shad attacked eggs of the sport-fish and other bait fish resulting in declining fishing conditions. The Aquatics Branch solution was twofold:
Phase I was stocking Florida Strain bass, which are far more aggressive feeders than the Northern Strain which exists in the lake. Roundtable groups, angling groups and the AZGFD teamed together to stock over a million fry and fingerling Florida Strain bass into the lake over the past five years.
Phase II, which came a few years into the plan, was to place habitat into the lake to provide a safe place for smaller fish to hide and a place for predator fish to find easy prey. Many were skeptical of the need for habitat since several areas of the lake have submerged brush and trees. However, when the lake level drops as it has been over the past several months, the natural habitat is out of the water and of no value to the fishery. Aquatics Branch Chief Chris Cantrell told anglers “You may not see the value when the lake level is high and there is a lot of cover to fish, however, the artificial habitat will be extremely important when the lake level is low.”
To date, over 500 artificial habitat structures have been deployed in the lake. Recently, the AZGFD posted the GPS locations of habitat that have been deployed and it took anglers only a couple of days to begin discovering them. The great news is that anglers are reporting that fish of all sizes can be seen relating to the habitat structures. One angler said, “There are so many shad at one of the Mossback Safe Haven structures that the entire structure was covered.” The Aquatics Branch is continuing with their multi-year plan to deploy thousands of habitat structures in the lake. In addition, this month AZGFD is planning to scuba dive to each deployed location to ensure they are working as designed and to determine if one style of structure is working better than others. “Now all we need is for mother nature to keep doing her part of bringing moisture onto the watershed,” said Curtis Gill, Aquatics Branch Program Manager.