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This shock hopefully will fatten the fish

State biologists shock the lake at Gadsden Park twice a year to keep tabs on the fish population. And by shock, think electrify.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 20, 2002


Life in Gadsden Park must be quite interesting for a fish these days.

One minute you're about to pounce on a smaller fish. The next -- zap -- you're electrified, and floating on the surface.

All so humans can figure out how to make you fatter.

Using a special boat that spits out 500 volts at the touch of a foot pedal, state fisheries biologists shock the waters at Gadsden Park twice a year to keep tabs on the fish population.

What they stunned up last week to measure and throw back alive didn't dazzle: Gobs of small bream, a smattering of skinny bass.

But the biologists are making changes they say will yield bigger fish in no time.

"It's not the greatest yet," said Joel Stiras, with the urban fisheries program at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "But it's going to be improving."

The 46-acre lake at Gadsden Park, one of three the state manages in Tampa, is next in line for improvements. On the table: Better management of hydrilla and installation of fish feeders.

Hydrilla, a non-native plant, has run amok in the lake. The result: Too many places for small fish to hide.

"The bass in particular can't find food," Stiras said.

In October, city officials used a mechanical harvester to mow down some of the hydrilla. State officials followed with a dose of herbicide.

The plan now is to fence off some areas, now hydrilla free, and to plant native eelgrass. Additional herbicide sprayings will come once or twice a year.

By spring, two trunk-sized fish feeders will release pellets three times a day.

"It's kind of like fertilizing a crop," Stiras said.

The changes should give the bass plenty of smaller fish to snack on. Stiras expects decent-sized fish by the end of next year.

Also coming: More catfish. The state routinely stocks area lakes with channel catfish, which don't reproduce well but are a fisherman's favorite.

Some 2,500 are scheduled for release at Gadsden Park next fall.

And, boy, are they in for a shock.

-- Staff writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com .

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