If you were traveling by Lizard Creek Thursday morning, you probably wondered what the large tractor-trailer with “Live Fish” written on the side was doing parked on the causeway on the wrong side of the road.
The mystery is solved. Banks Breashears, who works for Malone Fish Hatchery in Lonoke, Ark., delivered 7,554 triploid (or sterile) grass carp to be stocked in two locations in Lake Gaston.
Last September and October, Lake Gaston Association volunteers completed a complete survey of the vegetation in Lake Gaston, documenting the location of native and invasive (like Hydrilla) aquatic plants. This data is sent to North Carolina State University. Along with their sonar scan, they compile all the data and document the density of and where each plant is located in Lake Gaston.
In January, the Technical Advisory Group uses this data to evaluate the condition of the lake and makes recommendations to the Lake Gaston Stakeholders to improve the ecosystem. The Stakeholders then ask the Lake Gaston Weed Control Commission to fund the chemical (herbicide) or biological (grass carp) areas of the lake which require attention.
Dominion has for many years applied for the permit and supplied the funding for the grass carp stocking. The grass carp are about 12 inches in length to better ensure they will survive from other predators in the lake.
This year, based on the above, a total of 7,554 grass carp were authorized to be stocked in Lizard Creek on the lower end of the lake, and in Hawtree Creek at the upper end of the lake. Kirk Rundle from N.C. Wildlife and Fisheries (who issues the stocking permit) inspects the paperwork to insure that the grass carp are triploid. The trailer consists of 10 fish tanks, and in the center are three oxygen flasks which run constantly while the fish are in the tanks. This system is extremely efficient, and the 800-mile plus ride up from Arkansas had only two “floaters” (carp which may not be dead, but are floating at the top of the tanks and are on their “last legs”) of the 7,544 grass carp.
Before the carp can be released into the lake, they have to have the water in the tanks at least within 5 degrees of the lake so they aren’t “shocked” (you know what it is like to jump in cold water, right). This is accomplished by draining about half of the water out of each tank, and then refilling them with lake water. If there is a big temp difference, then they might have to drain and fill a couple of times.
Lucky this year, the lake temp was 69 degrees, and the tank temperatures were about 62 degrees, so all that was required was to drain and refill the tanks one time, which was done at the Henrico boat ramp.
Once the temperatures are within specification, it was off to Lizard Creek causeway where the oxygen rigs where removed and the releasing of grass carp into the “chute” controlled by Banks began. Rundle was at the discharge end to ensure the grass carp ended up in the lake and not on the shore.
After five tanks of fish were offloaded in Lizard Creek, it was off to Hawtree Creek to complete the stocking of grass carp for this year.