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#502796 - 03/07/19 05:22 PM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Snipe]
Drew Snyder Offline

Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 34
Loc: Southcentral PA
Thanks Snipe, points taken.

#502798 - 03/07/19 07:31 PM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Drew Snyder]
Bill Cody Offline
Field Correspondent


Registered: 04/18/02
Posts: 12796
Loc: Northwest Ohio - Malinta OH
Few here have direct experience with your plan because it is not a normal fishery that you plan. There is definitely some math involved in what you are doing including management of most all fisheries..

Firstly, YP I do not think directly compete with GSH due to several reasons A. YP have larger mouths, B. each lives feeds in a different niche - shiner high in water column, YP low, C. YP eat generally different and larger foods than shiner when both are late juveniles & adults . Examples - Most YP eat larger foods especially when it involves larger invertebrates than shiner; YP adults will eat fish 1.5” to up to 4” fish while GSH rarely eat a 1”minnow; YP will eat pond snails, GSH will not; YP will ‘root or suck out’ of the sediments aquatic worms and mayfly larvae, GSH will not. While on the topic of YP, if you want some perch consider stocking some only female YP thus you will not have uncontrolled YP competition with the SMB, both will benefit and you will have diversity. Select female YP only in Mar-Apr when females have obvious swollen bellies full of eggs and males are easily recognized as slender bodies oozing white milt.

Here is some background information that I found and my opinions about it that may help you.

Penn State Extension says Bass-bluegill ponds in Pennsylvania will contain 50 to 300 pounds of fish per acre, depending on the fertility. Definitely variable and pond dependent. I think a pond with SMB and forage will generally have similar fish biomass as LMB-BG combination when both survive on only natural foods. Soil composition as its amount of natural limestone results in higher pond alkalinity that stimulates phytoplankton that results in those higher 200-300 lbs of fish per acre.
Amount of natural fish production can be estimated by the water clarity in terms of the amount of green hue of the water from phytoplankton production. Expect the higher production toward 250 - 300lb/ac to be in greenish water visibility of 16”-24”. This biomass does not apply to pond turbidity color of tan-brownish or soil colored water due primarily to suspended micro-sediment and organic detritus that directly suppress phytoplankton and natural fish production. Thus brownish, murky color water usually has the low range of natural productivity. With water clarity of 3-5ft expect fish biomass to be in the mid-range of 100-180 total lbs/ac. Very clear water with 6-10ft of clarity the total natural fish biomass will be around 60-95lbs/ac.

Penn says - Suppose a 30 percent quota (harvest) of bass is sought for a pond of ‘average’ fertility water clarity averaging 2ft containing about 250 pounds of fish per acre. The ratio of bass to bluegills is defined by the population structure i.e. size classes and their numbers. A pond containing small bass and large bluegills would contain approximately 1/4 bass and 3/4 bluegills, by weight. I think similar numbers would apply to SMB with sunfish and/or YP and possibly GSH. Not a lot of study has been published for the production of the SMB-GSH combo. This combo could produce similar biomass as LMB-BG however the GSH as forage would not be attractive table fare.

Penn continues - Therefore, the total weight of bass in the pond would be: 250 x 0.25 = 62.5 pounds. (see below that bass only in NY produced about 80lbs/ac). We know fish poundage is highly variable and dependent on natural fertility. The average size of the adult bass in this PA bass-crowded pond would be about 1.5 pounds (14”). Thus, the annual bass (harvest) QUOTA would be: 62.5 pounds of bass ÷ 1.5 pounds each x 30 percent = 13 bass per acre of pond per year as BG-LMB fishery.

Penn says - In a bluegill-crowded pond, the proportion might be 1/9 bass to 8/9 bluegills, or only 28 pounds of bass in our example of 250 pounds of fish. The average adult bass is probably 3 pounds(17”-18”); (likely due to lots of small BG present as forage). I think the average bass size in small ponds similar to yours would be closer to 1.2 to 2.5lbs (13”-16”). The annual harvest quota is then calculated as: 28 pounds of bass ÷ 3 pounds each x 30 percent = 3 fish per acre per year (or a few more if average LMB weight is less than 3 lb). The Illinois study below concluded that when reproducing, fish when cropped (harvested) at a proper rate, the populations are capable of seasonal replacement of fish flesh equal to the poundage that the pond can support. Adjusting the number of predators will influence the size structure of the panfish population.

Calculating these harvest rates reveals the importance of carefully monitoring the number of bass (fish) removed from farm ponds, especially small ponds. Catch-and-release fishing for bass and then fishing bluegills for an occasional meal of fresh fish is appropriate management for small warmwater ponds. It should be remembered that even with catch-and-release fishing, some of the released bass probably die due to improper handling, placed on the ground, or deeply hooked with any bleeding. I always consider a bleeding fish a dead fish – regardless of apparent condition when released. Note fish that die of old age very rarely float and are usually are never seen. Those dead fish that are seen (or bleeding released) must also be counted in any harvest quota for bass as per Penn State.

Penn State Extension says Bass-only ponds do not provide satisfactory fishing for most anglers because of the small size of the fish caught. I know of a 0.25-0.3 ac pond with mosquito fish (Gambusia) and only one LMbass present that I estimated to have been around 3-4 lbs. Thus the fewer bass (predators) per acre in a forage pond the larger the bass tend to be. It is a density, food availability, and competition thing.

New York DEC (Dept Envirn Conserv) in my old 1988 publication says “If the pond owner is only interested in bass or is just an occasional angler, a LMbass & shiner / minnow combination is a better choice” (compared to LMB-BG).” I also think this would apply to SMB-GSH. They go on to say that bass-shiner(BS) combination where plants are present, but not abundant, is an option for cool and warm water ponds where catching only bass is desired. They do not say which type of plants are best and do not to allow them to be abundant. However they do not define the either preferred type or best amount of pond plants.

Normally for good natural cover, habitat, and refuge, plant coverage is generally proven to be 20%-30% of pond shoreline to depths of 4-6ft. I think finely divided dense artificial cover can be a substitute or enhance minimal growths of natural plants. Water clarity has a strong influence on depth of submerged plant growth. They(Penn) suggest LMB because of their ability to grow and reproduce which usually eliminates the shiners in 1 to 5 years. Rational would allow some bass harvest and recruitment. LMB bass are prolific. In good conditions SMB will also recruit ample small bass as also noted in the IL study below. I agree LMB often over produce and eventually over eat the shiners and sometimes even overeat the BG. I’ve seen SMB in good conditions with low plant coverage also eliminate minnow forage and strongly influence YP recruitment. There is a 0.3 acre pond near me that has SMB, RES, YP and GSH. The larger SMB are not real abundant at maybe 5-7 in with the smaller SMB. Chara is present with one grass carp and tilapia as vegetarians. During the past 30 yrs the shiners have been able to proliferate probably due to the diversity of available foods and some submerged plant growth as habitat.

NYDEC says from their research, original stocked LMB (only) resulted in an average 85lbs/ac and then later their natural reproduction with moderate fishing pressure produced close to 80 lbs of bass/ac.

Bass Harvest in BS (NewYork DEC). Do not fish until 2 yr after stocking or after bass reproduce at least once. Thereafter fishing can remove a limited number of LMB. Original bass have to sustain all angling for 4 yrs. They conclude the BS pond when stocked at 100LMB & 400 GSH /ac could support a harvest of 22 bass/ac in the 2nd - 4th summers. They go on to say after 4 yrs BS ponds tend to become crowded with LMB at 8”-10”. We know LMB are prolific! When this happens they say a “good portion” of small bass should be harvested so remaining bass grow. They suggest returning larger bass to help eat smaller bass. However we know with frequent angling this produces hook smart older larger bass. They give an example of a 15” LMbass will eat an 8” bass and removing small bass and returning larger bass improves sport and total catch of bass. NY DEC say BS ponds do not require intensive fertilization, although initial fertilization the 1st year or two will improve the natural food supply; assuming the fertilizer produces plankton and hopefully not primarily filamentous algae nor submerged weeds. IMO for northern ponds the fertilization technique is tricky and it is very important to be done correctly for successful use.

Penn State Extension mentions or suggests, (note - although supposedly illegal), moving fish from one pond to another - “It may be possible, however, to obtain enough adult bass from another pond to establish bass in bluegill-only ponds, especially in very small ponds. “” Later they say: “” If fish are transported from a pond during a closed fishing season, the pond owner must provide a written statement including the date, place, and by whom the fish were taken; the number and species of fish; the name and address of the person transporting the fish; and the date they were transported.””

IMO It would be ‘accidental’ maybe naïve to not correctly recognize all the types of fish or critters that were transferred – LOL. We all are naïve at times. Mistakes and “accidents” do happen. Hint - I contend that other biological items such as crayfish, plankton, grass shrimp etc. could ‘accidently’ be inside a live moved fish or unknown in the transfer water. Waterfowl supposedly move critters from pond to pond which can be explained as accidental or for unknown natural reasons why things show up in ponds. Wading birds carry snakes, frogs, and etc. that could be dropped into new water. Good biologists know that nature has its unique methods of distributing its flora and fauna. IMO State employees do not get concerned about invaded or planted species unless they somehow know the unwanted or illegal is present. One could buy papershell crayfish for human eating, but while holding them 1, 2 or a few could somehow escape and do what crayfish naturally do - find their way into the nearest pond.

Illinois Natural History Survey in 1970 published a 5 year research study they did on using one specie populations in fifteen 1 acre ponds that were cropped and received supplemental stockings of the same specie. They experimented with 6 species - SMB, LMB, YP, BG, BH, and WCP. No forage fish were added. All ponds except one received at least one application of fertilizer (mostly Phos). It is important to remember these ponds were fertilized at least once, however water clarity and plant growth did vary among ponds. Water clarity ranged from 20” to 6 ft among all the ponds with clearest ponds often having the lower fish standing crops. Plant densities ranged from almost completely bare to 90% coverage among the ponds. Ponds with high plant coverage were chemically treated.

SMB Only - Production. For SMB in IL study the lbs of SMB produced per acre as standing stock ranged from 9.3 lbs to the maximum of 170-180 lbs/ac, averages 50-91lbs/ac. Highly variable. They concluded that total weights of bass actually could be larger when a bass specie is alone than when it is in a mixed populations. Plus they concluded that when alone the bass are more readily caught than when better fed via preying on companion species (mixed community). Bond in Oregon also concluded that bass alone produced ‘superior’ catch rates than when they were associated with BG.

Larger bass competed heavily with smaller bass. Largest SMB grown after 4 yrs was 11.9”. Regier (1962) in an unfertilized NY pond reported standing crops of single specie SMB to be 139-146 lbs/ac in the 6th 7th and 8th years. Bennet & Childers reported a medium fertility, unfertilized IL pond produced 100.3lbs of SMB/ac after 8 yrs; as the census inventoried was 5K-6K YOY, 243 4”-8.5” and 49 at 10”+ . All noted authors concluded that SMB is capable of high sustained yields when maintained as a single species in warm water ponds assuming adequate fertility is present. Size structure will depend how many and what sizes of bass are present to utilize the food web as noted in the Gambusia-LMB example above.

Yellow perch I think will produce a similar poundage as SMB when each is stocked alone in a pond. The Ill study for YP reported production of 51 to 183 lbs/ac compared to pounds for SMB of a maximum of 180/lbs/ac . Note that variations occurred among the study ponds. I estimate that in your 0.5 ac pond the SMB will naturally produce around 50-60 total pounds of bass.

I think in my experience and these data to me indicate SMB &YP can or will utilize many of the same foods with similar efficiency and when at similar sizes they will likely compete closely with each other for the same foods. Food items tend to change to some degree for both YP & SMB as they grow larger. Both YP and SMB were found to be cannibalistic. In my pond I’ve caught 11” YP using 4” YP as bait. Thus IMO if you add adult YP to your SMB pond, expect each adult YP to take the place of a similar sized SMB.

Edited by Bill Cody (03/07/19 10:29 PM)
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#502805 - 03/07/19 11:09 PM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Bill Cody]
Drew Snyder Offline

Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 34
Loc: Southcentral PA

Wow... You obviously put a lot of time and effort into your response, so I really appreciate that. I'm spending some quality family time tonight, but I'll try to clear out a couple hours tomorrow to read and reread to make sure I fully grasp this all. Thank you so much for putting that much into your response.

#502816 - 03/08/19 08:21 AM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Drew Snyder]
snrub Offline

Registered: 10/05/13
Posts: 5426
Loc: SE Kansas
Bill C knows his stuff. Would be well worth reading it two or three times.

I subscribe to Pond Boss Magazine

#502819 - 03/08/19 10:31 AM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Drew Snyder]
Nathan&Kelly Offline

Registered: 02/28/19
Posts: 10
Loc: St Louis, MO

Bill that’s an impressive response, packed full of data and sources! You’re knowledgeable of pond management is amazing!

#502823 - 03/08/19 11:26 AM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Drew Snyder]
azteca Offline

Registered: 07/08/16
Posts: 158

At the same time, you have answered many of my questions.

Thank you Mr. Cody.


#502832 - 03/08/19 12:50 PM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Bill Cody]
Drew Snyder Offline

Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 34
Loc: Southcentral PA

Firstly, YP I do not think directly compete with GSH due to several reasons...

This definitely clarified YP's vs. GSH's roles in the food web for me. I was assuming much more overlap in diet than what they really have.

The information on water quality, different mixes of LMB to BG, and appropriate harvest rates is a very helpful analog. Also, I'm impressed by several of the numbers you quoted, for example your guess at the typical size of LMB in LMB-crowded BOWs of my size in my region, because that fits very closely to what we've seen in our LMB-crowded pond as it has evolved. I think/suspect that you're spot on regarding your prediction of total pounds of SMB that our pond can produce; I don't have good soil or water chemistry test results or Secchi numbers, but from what we've been told in the past (IIRC) and have observed, our water has mediocre-okay fertility, low pH and low alkalinity, and is pretty clear (I'd guess about 4-5'), so anytime I read carrying capacity ranges, I've always assumed ours would be in the low-mid part of the range.

I know of a 0.25-0.3 ac pond with mosquito fish (Gambusia) and only one LMbass present that I estimated to have been around 3-4 lbs.

It surprises me that a bass was able to get up to 3-4 lbs with only small forage (Gambusia). I know that her being the only big dog around allowed her limitless forage, but I thought that'd be like us having a bottomless Cheerio buffet, but where we'd have to run a mile first each time we wanted to eat a handful. I think we'd all be pretty slender in that case.

I'm not that hell-bent on having only bass and forage (like GSH), but just for argument's sake, do you think that if we conducted a similar experiment (all else being equal), but instead of only 1 LMB and Gambusia, if we had 1 LMB and hordes of GSH or LCS (i.e., a bigger forage), that that lonely LMB could in theory grow a bit larger, say to 5-6 lbs?

I agree with your and others' sentiment regarding stocking of fish, I just don't want to say too much out loud...

In any event, I greatly appreciate the time and effort you took, and all that fantastic information. I'll definitely be referring back to this post on occasion especially as I iron out our goals for the fishery with my family. Thanks a lot!

#502835 - 03/08/19 01:07 PM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Drew Snyder]
ewest Offline
Hall of Fame 2014


Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 19811
Loc: Miss.
To add a bit to Bill's treatise. YP have been shown to eat many small BG (< 4 in.) especially in winter. GSH will eat a few yoy/fry BG but not > 1 in. so the food overlap is very small on young fish and not at all over 1 in. That would exist for large adult GSH only.

Edited by ewest (03/08/19 01:09 PM)

#502837 - 03/08/19 01:13 PM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: Drew Snyder]
ewest Offline
Hall of Fame 2014


Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 19811
Loc: Miss.
Originally Posted By: Drew Snyder

I'm not that hell-bent on having only bass and forage (like GSH), but just for argument's sake, do you think that if we conducted a similar experiment (all else being equal), but instead of only 1 LMB and Gambusia, if we had 1 LMB and hordes of GSH or LCS (i.e., a bigger forage), that that lonely LMB could in theory grow a bit larger, say to 5-6 lbs?

Yes if that forage was available throughout most of the LMB adult life provided the LMB was a female. Males don't usually get that big.

#502838 - 03/08/19 01:50 PM Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain [Re: ewest]
Drew Snyder Offline

Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 34
Loc: Southcentral PA
Thanks ewest! I've considered a light stocking of adult PS as a fallback plan in case the initial forage base doesn't sustain itself well. Considering your comment, this makes me lean towards thinking that we could successfully manage the PS population in a small BOW, using GSH-YP-SMB to prey on PS from fry up to juvenile size, and then human predators to remove a few adults (given the small-sized BOW and that PS are quite easy to catch).

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