Here are some thoughts from Bob Lusk about growing big BG. Read and study his words they are insightful.
From the thread: http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=286744&page=1
Bob says: Let me chime in here. I've been watching this thread since it started, interested in where it goes. I think this is a valuable one.
It's also interesting to me to hear the opinions of others, especially those "who have done it."
I've been to Bruce's place quite a few times and have been fascinated with the effort he has offered to grow, cull, examine and study bluegills. His facility (which he sold) was set up for research and study and his patience was certainly evident when it comes to growing fish.
I know he's been passionate about bluegills for a long time. "Management" of bluegills, up until just a few years ago, was primarily making sure that there were enough bass in the lake/pond to control bluegill and keep them from overpopulating. If someone really wanted to grow big bluegills, they would overcrowd their bass or focus on growing big bass which would eat all except the largest bluegills. Oh, yes, people might feed the little critters some grain-based feed back then, but a 1.5 pound bluegill was a giant in those not-so-distant days gone by.
8-10 years ago, I'd stand in front of a crowd during a speech and tell them this, "Over my career, I've probably held 5 or 6 bluegills which weighed two pounds. I've probably seen 25 or 30 which weigh between 1.5 and 2 pounds. But, I've seen hundreds and hundreds of bluegills that weigh 1 to 1.25 pounds. You can grow bluegill larger than a pound!"
"Good" management just a few short years ago centered around bass eating bluegills and feeding a cheap feed.
Then, people started targeting bluegill a little bit more.
Bruce focused on genetics. His fish probably grow considerably faster than any pond run fish from the hatcheries. Selective breeding offers a better product, in my opinion.
My first really good, steady customer was Ray Murski. (Read about Ray in March-April Pond Boss) He challenged me to grow some giant bass, so that was our focus.
My thinking, at that time, (1986) was that we needed great genetics to grow great bass. I had also learned by that time that our native bluegills rarely got much larger than 6-8 inches. I was convinced we needed larger bluegills in order to maintain the backbone of the food chain. If those bluegills only grew to 6-8 inches (and it took 3-4 years for them to grow to that size), we'd run out of food. So, I trucked over some pure strain coppernose bluegills from Florida and stocked them in the lake. Then, we fed them catfish food (that's all we had in 1986 for sportfish).
To further hedge our bets, we stocked some threadfin shad and once the bass began to grow large, I gambled and stocked gizzard shad. As the bass population expanded and some of the individuals grew into double-digits, I couldn't help but notice the bluegills were pushing larger than a pound. It was all coppernose, even though the lake had some native bluegill in it from earlier stockings. Those coppernose were genetically superior, in my opinion. A few bluegills grew to 1.5 pounds, but that seemed to be about as big as they grew.
Then, I stocked other lakes in similar fashion and this situation replicated itself to the point I believed coppernose bluegill were genetically superior to our native strains of bluegills.
Then, Harrell Arms, in the early 1990's, got his hands on some bluegill from the Mississippi River drainage area. Those creatures were beasts! Much thicker, they outweighed coppernose bluegill, which seemed to be more slender, side to side. Coppernose were beautiful, much more colorful than their cousins from the river drainage, but those Mississippi River fish were stockier and more muscle-bound. I saw what I suspected were genetic differences.
Then, around 1995, Purina Mills took an interest in designing fish food for different species of sport fish. Game Fish Chow was born. It was much better than the other over-the-counter feeds you could buy at the feed stores, but it is still a grain-based feed, designed for recreational feeding of fish. There were several clients who faithfully fed that product to their fish, primarily to grow bluegill to reproduce to provide a better food chain for bass. The consequences were a few more aggressive fish grew to larger sizes. As I studied these results, it was easy to see fish of the same age, but there were fish within those age classes that definitely dominated the growth curve. Again, I figured it was something genetic, whether those fish had the propensity to grow large or they were simply more aggressive to the feed. Either way, I thought genetics played a significant role.
Then, fast forward to 2005 and Richmond Mill Lake. By that time, Purina Mills was working diligently to develop the best feeds they can and bluegills became a target species for better feed. Dr. Mark Griffin was enamored with those fish and wanted to build a feed to make them grow to giant sizes. So, together, he and I tested some feeds on different fish populations. We really didn't know what to expect. But, Richmond Mill Lake near Laurinburg, North Carolina, has grown some giant bluegills and I have no idea where it will end. Bruce caught two bluegills topping 3 pounds each and there have been hundreds of two pound-plus fish caught and released.
Today, I have several lakes under management which are growing bluegills well beyond two pounds each. The difference? AquaMax 500 & 600.
That feed has taken fish to the next level. So, nutrition is huge in the production of giant bluegills. Are those 3 pound bluegills genetically superior? They HAVE to be. They are the same age as many of the two pound fish which are the same age as more of the one pound fish. There are definitely different size fish of similar ages.
But, here's where I'm going.
I absolutely think the most important aspect of growing anything is habitat. If you don't have the best habitat, you can prop up a fish population with management and genetics only so far. Without great habitat, don't expect to have the best fishery, even if you try to money-whip the rest...food, genetics, fertilization, culling...whatever you choose.
Richmond Mill Lake has, beyond any lake I've ever seen, the best bluegill habitat. Consequently, the genetically superior fish have an advantage, especially as we feed them to satiation. Oh, and yes, there is an amazing natural food chain there, too. Grass shrimp, a variety of insects, small fish such as roaches, shiners, topminnows...a wide variety of fish that are also excellent prey for bluegills.
Here's the way I see it.
1) Habitat is most important. Not many hobos are great athletes. They're too busy trying to figure out where they can sleep and where the next meal comes from.
2) Food chain is second. If you have great habitat, but don't have an adequate, diverse food chain supplemented with whatever you can, don't expect premier fish.
3) Genetics is third. If #1 and #2 are in place, those genetically superior fish have the opportunity to become champions, suited to their propensity.
4) Harvest as a management strategy. If too many bluegill share too little habitat and overeat the food chain, those genetically superior fish are similar to the others...with a handful of lucky exceptions.
After those four fundamental principles, you can choose whatever management strategy best suits your region. Fertilize, or not. Fluctuate water levels, or not. Feed, or not. Selective harvest, or not. The management strategy you choose has the potential to afford your genetically superior fish (and even those that maybe not quite genetically superior) to excel...if you have the right habitat and food chain in place.
I've seen this over and over...and have done it.