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Bruce Jones brings reservoir of 
experience to aquatic management

Click to enlarge
Ricky Wilkes, left, says that Bruce Jones and his Chevrolet Suburban can be frequently seen on the back roads of Coffee County and South Alabama as he services ponds managed by Enterprise Aquatics.
     Bruce Jones has been in the fisheries business for 26 years and has owned and operated Enterprise Aquatics for ten years. He works mainly with sport fish such as largemouth bass and bluegill (bream). His company builds dams, repairs and replaces drain systems, offers fertilization and feed programs, administers electroshock for checking balance and condition of fish, monitors water quality to ensure maximum growth and is certified for aquatic weed control.

Jones, who has his certification with the Florida Department of Agriculture and the Alabama Department of Agriculture for Aquatic Weed Control is also recognized by five other states in the southeast 

for weed control. Jones says aquatic vegetation is becoming a major problem in the Southeast. Every year, Florida State University at Ft. Lauderdale offers courses providing updates on chemicals currently available, as well as providing information on new chemicals. 

Enterprise Aquatics, which has its home office in Enterprise, Alabama, usually has two crews running. These crews are involved in the fertilization and feeding programs under Bruce’s supervision by two-way radio conununication. These crews measure the density of the plankton bloom and apply fertilizer accordingly to maintain the growth of plankton, which is the basis of the food chain. 

In addition to supervising the two crews, Jones does the consulting, aquatic testing, aquatic spraying and electroshock. His wife, Betty, mainly does the secretarial work. 

Jones advised, “One of the most important factors in pond and lake management is water quality. Sometimes it’s hard to stress enough how important this is to the growth and development of a fishery. Across the South most of the ponds and lakes are very acidic. These conditions are derived from the bottom muds and can be corrected with the application of agricultural limestone.” 

He then cautioned, “You do not want to use hydrated 

Click to enlarge
Bruce Jones, left, owner of Enterprise Aquatics, shows Ricky Wilkes, manager of Coffee County Farmers Co-op, how on-site water quality tests are made.

lime or builders lime. To do so will change the pH too quickly and could result in a fish kill. Agricultural lime must be distributed evenly across the bottom of the pond or lake in order to neutralize these acidic conditions. 

“We are able to check the alkalinity values or calcium carbonate of the water. The minimum alkalinity level desired is 20 ppm (parts per million). Once this has been achieved, fish pond fertilizers can be applied to produce planktonic algaes necessary to develop the base of the food chain. This practice in return will allow the fishery to produce and grow up to three to four times the amount of fish than if left alone.” 

Jones reveals that with the advent of man-made ponds and the lack of trapping over the past years, a natural predator problem exists. Among the natural predators in the Southeast are otter, beaver and cormorants. While prevented by law from controlling the cormorant problem, steps can be taken to control the populations of the other predators. 

In regards to otter control Jones relates, “Otters are similar to the beaver, but have a long narrow tail. They normally live in the creeks and rivers during the spring, summer and early fall. Once the water temperatures become cold in early winter their food sources become diminished. Most of their natural forage hibernates during the winter months therefore forcing them to return to the ponds and lakes for food. Their main diet consists of crawfish, fish, frogs and salamanders. 

“Just because you don’t see the otter doesn’t mean that it is not there. Otters adapt to their surroundings and will frequent the ponds or lake at night depending on activity around the pond sight. Otters normally will mark their territory by dropping a stool either on top of the dam or below the dam where they are entering to let other otters know they are there. The otter markings consist of crawfish shell, fish bone and scales. To control the otters one can set traps or have them trapped by a professional.” 

In addition to controlling the otter population, which depletes the catfish and sport fish population in the ponds, otter trapping can also be profitable, Jones states. “The fur trade is beginning to turn around for the better. Otter pelts are now bringing around $100.00 a hide. And that’s not bad since there are an abundance of otters and they must be controlled.” 

Jones, who indicates that the beaver problem has to do with the way it changes the envirorunent, states, “Beavers dam up feeder streams. This, in return, floods timber thereby killing it and costing the property owner lost revenue. They also burrow into man-made dams thus causing them to break. To control them, their dams must be destroyed and the beaver trapped.” 

Another important factor in the growth and development of a fishery is fish balance. This can be an issue because the average life of a largemouth bass is six and one-half years while the average life span of a bluegill (bream) is four years. Jones states, “I see so many times where a pond or lake is bass crowded due to everyone practicing catch and release. This practice was really in full swing back in the 80s, basically by bass tournament fishermen. Catch and release should only be used if a pond is bluegill or forage crowded. Such crowding should be determined by a fishery specialist. Jones says, “Your pond or lake is like a garden. If you don’t harvest the garden the fruit quits producing. If you don’t pull the weeds, the plants in the garden get choked out and quit growing. Your fishery is the same. If you don’t maintain improved water quality and you don’t harvest a certain number of fish per acre each year, then you shouldn’t expect to harvest any fish. 

“It’s not really very difficult nor that expensive to properly maintain a pond or lake thereby creating an asset which can provide entertainment and enjoyment for your family and friends for years to come.” 

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Date Last Updated January, 2006