Hello all, my great grandfather built the pond on my farm in North East Alabama about 50 years ago, it's about 2.5 acres in size and the deepest part is only about 12 feet deep. The pond was stocked with largemouth bass, bream, and I assume crappie. The bream and crappie seem to be doing just fine, but the bass are in there are just too small. The biggest they ever get is about a pound and average 1/4-1/2 pounds. There are plenty of them that are very easy to catch (caught 30 in about 3 hours) and I pull them out whenever I go fishing. I'm thinking about starting out fertilizing the pond and if that doesn't do it stocking it with threadfin shad. Just wanted to get some second opinions on how I could get the bass bigger. Thanks!
UPDATE: The pond is extremely clear and has what looks to be milfoil and chara growing in it. I'm afraid killing the weeds will take out habitat, but the weeds take all the nutrients from the water, right? Do I need to kill the weeds before I can fertilize?
See attached pictures for better idea of the problem
Welcome to the club juhds! Balancing populations and size of LMB seems to be a common problem for pond meisters and is worthy of some research and soul searching.
Luckily your pond is bigger and you may have better success than those of us with little ponds. My research here at PB has taught me that a large population of stunted LMB is good for growing larger panfish, but if your goals are for larger LMB then it sounds like your pond is a bit backwards. Removing a lot of the LMB will give more room and food for the remaining LMB which will help their growth. This extra growth means that they will start eating larger prey, your larger bream and crappie populations may swing on you.
It's all very exciting to learn and apply these concepts, but the first thing you will need to establish is "Your Goals for the Pond". You have come to the right place and I am sure some of the more experienced members will have plenty of questions for you to help with their advice.
1. Have fewer of them for the existing food supply (ie remove lots and lots of stunted bass).
2. Increase the food supply. Start a feeding program for the forage fish. Provide cover for the existing forage fish fry to be able to hide from predators to get to a better size to provide more food. In other words, do things to increase the forage base food supply for the bass.
3. Did I mention remove lots and lots of stunted bass? As long as there are too many bass, your forage base (bass food supply) is going to get slaughtered before it can reach any decent size to provide food for any larger bass.
In a 2.5 acre pond, that is going to require a lot of work to remove any significant amount of bass. In fact it may be a hopeless cause because the bass may recruit new bass faster than you can remove them. In which case you kill the pond out, restock, and start over.
A pond only has so much carrying capacity. In an aquarium you could have one big fish or 10 small ones. But you can't just keep adding fish. Your pond is likely at carrying capacity. To get bigger fish will require a lot of smaller fish removed (either eaten by bigger fish or entirely removed) to make room. Maybe adding a large predator to eat a lot of the small bass????
If you have money it is helpful. Then you could use a shock boat and have tons of small bass removed rather quickly.
Those are just ideas in my non expert limited knowledge opinion. Now the experts can really tell you what to do.
Any idea on just how many to remove? Every time I'm out there I pull out every one that I catch. I plan on doing a ton of fishing this summer and could probably remove 1000 small bass this summer. Will fertilizing the pond and or adding some supplemental crawfish make much difference? Or will that just be a waste of my time and money?
Adding crawfish to a pond with high numbers of small bass won't make much difference, unfortunately. The crustaceans will be quickly eaten and won't be able to reproduce enough to feed all the hungry predators.
All I am going by is what I have read here on PBF. I hope some experts come by and make sure I am giving good advice. I have the opposite problem (too many BG and too few LMB). So I have done quite a bit of reading on the problem but any advice I give you is from reading and not experience.
From what I have read and what you are describing I think there is little chance of removing too many. I would remove all you could and if you find an individual that looked particularly good genetics or was fat and sassy put those very few back.
The downside of removing by hook and line is you may be removing your most aggressive (easiest to catch fish) and genetically selecting for hard to catch fish (by leaving in the ones you can't catch). So it would be really good if you could find an additional way to remove fish besides just angling.
Someone with more knowledge than I will be along with some advice. Count on it.
As far as supplementing, in my non expert opinion, dollar for dollar, buying some good quality fish food and feeding it would be the quickest and cheapest way to add additional food to the pond. With LMB as thick as you describe they might even be hungry enough for at least a small percentage to feed train. If just a few percent of the LMB population started hitting some pellets as they were thrown out those fish would quickly jump to the top of their class size wise. And even if no bass feed trained, the fish food would feed your BG or whatever forage fish you have in there and make them spawn larger spawns and provide more food for the bass via increased forage fish production.
Is your water exceptionally clear? Very clear water indicates either low fertility water or lots of weeds taking up what nutrients there are. I only fertilize a new pond but I have runoff that leads me to have water too high in fertility over time. So I try not to add extra fertilizer. But if you have very infertile water it could help. Others will have better information on fertilization. A feed program adds fertility to the water also via the nutrients in the feed cycling through the fish. But it is a slower process than direct fertilization.
Along with removing the stunted bass, you should also remove the crappie if you want a large mouth bass pond. There can only be one top predator competing for the same forage. The new born crappie eat the fry LMB along with competing with the YOY bass for the Bluegill offspring and minnows. Crappie spawn before all other fish and in greater numbers than LMB which puts the bass at a disadvantage right off the bat.
Remove small and underweight LMB till your arms won't move...lol
Once you get an LMB catch rate down to 1-3 an hour, you'll be catching much larger LMB.
I'd want to treat the milfoil and chara before adding fertilizer if it were my pond!!! Just be careful not to kill everything at once, or it could cause an O2 crash as it decays (the decay will fertilize a lot too)