Fishing the base lakes

Bryan Lowrey eyes his big catch at Luna Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)

Bryan Lowrey eyes his big catch at Luna Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Go ahead and assume it's always a great day for fishing and lakeside sightseeing.  

With the summer season already here, grab a fishing pole, lawn chair, snacks, cool drinks, sunscreen, your patience and set out in pursuit of a few bites from finned creatures in one of three alluring lakes here at Robins - Duck Lake, Luna Lake and Scout Lake. 

Robins' natural resources manager and wildlife biologist, Bob Sargent, routinely checks on the fishing lakes, greeting local and visiting anglers, answering questions and surveying the lay of the land and water. 

Duck Lake is perhaps Robins' best kept secret, with the healthiest fishery on base due to incoming nutrients from two streams, as well as from the surrounding forest. While over half of it is inaccessible to visitors who wish to walk around its nearly nine acres, it still has a lot going for it.

"It's always receiving nutrients and fish pushed downstream into the lake," he said. "When you see a Middle Georgia lake, you want to see some color. You want to stick your arm in and barely be able to see your hand. Because nitrogen and phosphorous in these lakes are essential for plankton growth, which is sustenance for fish and other creatures at the bottom of the food chain, I like to see a little bit of green. This lake's water has color, while the others do not." 

These days, on average, the lakes on base support between 10 and 20 fish species, with about five that dominate the lake population. Common fish found here include bluegill, red-ear sunfish, white crappie, largemouth bass, channel catfish and smaller species. 

Anglers might also see grass carp, some of which are huge. These sterile fish were stocked in all of the lakes to help control noxious aquatic weeds. 

When funding is available, each of the lakes is restocked with fish based on guidelines from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Sargent follows recommended ratios, for instance, up to 50 catfish or 50 bass per acre in established ponds.

"You want to keep the fishery in balance. If you don't have sufficient numbers of bass - the top predator in the lake - then the bluegill, the red-ear sunfish, etc., reproduce to the point where they're damaging the habitat, eliminating food sources for young bass, and stunting their own growth and reproductive success." 

Lakes are routinely sampled each year, usually late summer or early fall, to check the health of the fish population. Using a pair of hip waders, Sargent uses seine nets to sample and study species composition. Duck Lake has been known to cause a public stir. 

Occasionally alligators are spotted. The public should know to not harass, capture, kill or feed them because it's a violation of federal and state law, plus it's just plain foolish.    

For 30 days each fall, Sargent issues permits to those with state alligator hunting licenses, authorizing them to hunt for alligators in Duck Lake or elsewhere, depending on management needs.           

In 2014, a 12-foot alligator was caught by a hunter in Duck Lake. 

"It's attractive to them because there's cover, lack of disturbances at the back end of the lake, and there's a great fishery with plenty of food," said Sargent.

PERMIT TO FISH:
- If you would like to fish at Duck Lake or one of the other lakes, you will need a state fishing license and a base fishing permit. Be sure to pick up the base fishing regulations pamphlet at Outdoor Recreation, Bldg. 984. You'll discover a change in the bass fishing rules, allowing anglers to keep up to two bass per day provided that each is at least 14 inches in length.