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#503219 - 03/17/19 07:26 PM Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies
Drew Snyder Offline


Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 68
Loc: Southcentral PA
As I try to better understand the population dynamics of/between different species, I have another little thought experiment that I'd appreciate any insight on.

Suppose we wanted to manage a pond with the goal of producing a quite high amount of decent-sized, harvestable YP for eating, without caring if we ever produced a trophy YP. How would the stocking and management strategy differ compared to someone whose principal goal is producing trophy YP?

If helpful to simplify things, you can assume we're talking about a fairly small BOW (< 1 acre), and that the owner is indifferent whether there are other species for more fun/diverse angling; though, if you have some specific thoughts on how the strategy would differ for different pond sizes or if aiming for a balance of good YP harvest and angling fun/diversity, of course that commentary is welcome.

Iíll outline my understanding so far, but please feel free to correct me or add anything as appropriate:

First, Iíll put aside interactions with other species and the YPís feed/forage base, and for now just focus on managing YP numbers and size structure. In a pond managed for trophy YP, the population and size structure is managed to have just a small number of individuals at the largest sizes, so they have less competition so they can hopefully keep growing to even higher top-end sizes. The numbers of most all size classes would be kept light, to maintain higher growth at all ages, though numbers would be slightly higher for each progressively smaller size class to account for mortality (natural, due to predation, whatever cause) in the hopes that a small but stable number of younger/smaller YP would constantly be coming up through the ranks to replace the trophies as they die.

Now, for a pond managed to produce high numbers of nice harvestable/eating-size YP, how would the YP numbers and size structure be managed differently? I believe the main difference would be harvesting increasingly heavily as YP advanced to larger sizes, and allowing slightly higher numbers of YP at the lower size classes to hopefully come up and stably replace the medium-large YP that have been harvested heavily. E.g., harvesting most YP caught in the 8-10Ē range, all above 10Ē, and then trying to manage the smaller size populations to a reasonable number so they can replace all those harvested. I imagine this could be accomplished either through manually managing reproduction (i.e., removing most egg ribbons and leaving just a couple) or through addition of a few medium-sized predators (like SMB or WE, which would be used to control smaller YP, thus would be harvested heavily for any that got above a large enough size to eat any perch beyond 6-7Ē).

The YP's forage is obviously important for either goal. I'm assuming a reasonable strategy would be a strong forage base of FHM at the beginning, and then a longer-term food base of GSH, grass shrimp or crayfish, and pellet feeding. For larger numbers of smaller eating-size YP, I would think removal of most bigger GSH (maybe those above 5"?) would be a good idea as well, to not let large GSH take over a large portion of the pond's biomass/carrying capacity.

Any thoughts, comments, points of disagreement, etc. on managing this type of eating-size-YP-focused pond?

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#503228 - 03/18/19 12:42 AM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
Snipe Offline


Registered: 10/26/18
Posts: 718
Loc: NW Kansas
My 2 cents here..
Stock FHM, PK shrimp, maybe some paper shell craws, chubsuckers and leave it alone for the rest of summer.
Stock YP at 350/acre rate in the 4-6" range early fall.
Following year: keep all perch caught over 8", introduce walleye intermediates (6-8") at 10-20/acre in early fall of year 2.
year 3, harvest walleye above 14" and stock 4-6" walleye matching the number you take out-fall of each year.
Somebody may blow a hole in my theory here, we'll see.

My thoughts are the WAE being a good predator of YP, is also nearly identical table fare and is known to be quite catchable in all columns of depth. Being nearly unlikely that they would ever reproduce, you'd have less to worry about altering the food chain.


Edited by Snipe (03/18/19 01:11 AM)
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#503255 - 03/18/19 02:41 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
teehjaeh57 Online   content
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Agreed - WE/YP fishery is a good strategy...Optimal pellet train YP for 3x growth to reach harvest size. I'd try to focus on harvesting males, leave the females to reach trophy size for angling bonus.
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#503261 - 03/18/19 04:25 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
ewest Offline
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Registered: 03/08/05
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Would suggest if you are trying to produce max table fare that you look into aquaculture methods of raising YP for food. The principals are a bit different. I don't think that is what you intend. If just looking for a pond full of YP and WE then think about minimizing male YP and keep plenty of forage/feed for the other fish.
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#503266 - 03/18/19 07:42 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
Bill Cody Offline
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"......managed to produce high numbers of nice harvestable/eating-size YP, how would the YP numbers and size structure be managed..?"
Few questions."
Do you plan to feed pellets?
Do you plan to keep weeds to a minimum?
How many YP in your 1 ac do you plan or desire to harvest each year?


Edited by Bill Cody (03/18/19 07:43 PM)
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#503276 - 03/19/19 02:08 AM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Bill Cody]
Drew Snyder Offline


Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 68
Loc: Southcentral PA
Thanks Snipe, TJ, Eric! I thought this type of pond would be more laid-back and simpler to manage than the more typical trophy fish pond we talk about on here (as long as the objective isn't pushing it to the absolute max for commercial food fish production, which is what Eric noted in his comment about aquaculture), and just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something substantial. You've all already added good color to my understanding. I wouldn't have thought about harvesting males heavily, though now I see how that makes sense.

Eric, you're right that I'm not thinking of going full-throttle towards aquaculture (my fault, as I shouldn't have put "Max" in the title). I arrived to thinking about this in the context of the family pond, in the event that I'm not around enough to push it appropriately to develop trophies, and if the others are only willing to devote enough time to warrant a slightly more casual pond management plan.

Bill, this is only theoretical for now; I'm mostly just trying to make sure I understand the overall system and get a fuller picture of fisheries biology, e.g., the different directions I could potentially take a pond and what is likely to happen if I pull certain levers (or even what all the available levers/tools are).
Quote:
Do you plan to feed pellets?
Do you plan to keep weeds to a minimum?
How many YP in your 1 ac do you plan or desire to harvest each year?

I'll answer your questions with what I think the "right" answers are: Yes, this would be with moderate-heavy pellet feeding, keeping weeds to a minimum (to allow easier predation on the smaller YP by any WE/SMB to limit numbers and increase the remaining ones' growth; in this case pellets are probably necessary because the minimal weeds would probably also mean the minnow/shiner forage base would also be heavily eaten, so they likely wouldn't sustain a large enough thriving population in the absence of weeds). My unexperienced WAG for a reasonable annual harvest would be about 125-150 perch/acre in the 8"+ range (so not pushing the pond to the extreme as in an aquaculture operation).

Any comments on how those 3 variables (amount of feeding, amount of weeds, and harvest numbers) interact would be welcome. Also, pointing out cases where I have no idea what I'm talking about is always welcome too.

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#503286 - 03/19/19 11:41 AM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
ewest Offline
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Generally the biggest problem with fisheries is a lack of food for the mid to high end fish (BG , LMB , YP , WE , GSH). This is caused by there being too many fish for the productivity of the water. The water (Plankton base food chain) naturally can sustain less forage fish than the predators require to grow. Fertilization (sometimes) and feeding pellets can jump the food chain to add nutrients directly to the mid to high end consumer fish. It is very effective and in some studies from 4 to 8 times more efficient than natural food (fish don't have to chase down pellets and there are no bones , skin and scales to digest). The other main variable to achieving good top end growth is managing the population balance (removing predators so the rest can grow). It often takes a combination of the two (food maximization and harvest) to reach ones goals. You do have to watch your water quality though. Ramping up production is like pushing down on the car accelerator 70 mph may be ok but keeping it at 100 will sooner or later lead to problems.

YP do very well with pellets (except the fry/yoy < 4 mths unless you use specialized products).

Bill can better address harvest of YP in northern waters.


Edited by ewest (03/19/19 11:50 AM)
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#503292 - 03/19/19 02:32 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
Theo Gallus Online   content
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With YP you have the possibility of helping control spawning numbers by putting spawning structure (tree branches) along the shore and removing unwanted egg strings. If shoreline branches were the only spawning structure, this could provide good control of fry numbers.
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#503307 - 03/19/19 09:35 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
Bill Cody Offline
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Drew - Your goals of "in the context of the family pond, in the event that I'm not around enough to push it appropriately to develop trophies, and if the others are only willing to devote enough time to warrant a slightly more casual pond management plan" helps confirm the goals for the management plan to produce around 100 harvestable YP per year with pellet feeding from 1 acre. Managing for minimal submerged weeds allows what predators that are present to effectively crop young perch.

Reproducing YP can easily create 10's of thousands of small perch whose numbers will need to be dramatically reduced so remaining YP get adequate food for growth. As Theo mentioned removing YP egg ribbons in April will held reduce "the herd of fry". Small perch will eat perch fry as will most any fish in the pond. The productivity of the pond (plankton) will also have a strong influence on survival of fry. Surviving fry that grow into fingerlings will need the management of their numbers. Most of this fingerling control will be by your predator populations. This is where a watchful eye, observations, and sampling become important to recognize overabundance of one size class.

I monitor size classes by using angling, fish trapping, and watching what are the most abundant sizes that are eating pellets. Keep in mind that about 50% of the new recruit perch in a 1 ac pond will not learn to eat pellets so angling and trapping round out the monitoring methods for estimating size classes. The trapping will select for sampling smaller perch depending on size of traps. Angling can target smaller perch (3"-6") and larger perch (8"-12"+) depending on the angling method. Smaller baited hooks close to shore and larger hooks and other baits such as minnows (live or dead) in deeper parts of the pond. This fall I removed with trapping 509 3.5"-6" YP from my 0.6ac pond; most were 3.5"-5". These perch were 7 months old. This spring I will trap again to see how many small perch I can catch to evaluate the remaining numbers of last year's perch crop. I have no predators in this pond except adult perch.

Results of your monitoring will tell how well the predators and harvesting are cropping the smaller fish so one age class or size class does not become overabundant and out of balance. For your stated goals and 'proper' growing of YP, expect most 1 yr olds(12 months old) to be 3"-5" some 6"long. Two year olds should be 5"-7" with some 8". The 3 yr olds will be your main harvest group at the 8" to 10" sizes. Three and four year(10"-12") olds should be the group that are the main reproducing body of perch and where your harvest for table use will be focused.


Edited by Bill Cody (03/19/19 09:51 PM)
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#503308 - 03/20/19 12:03 AM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: ewest]
Drew Snyder Offline


Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 68
Loc: Southcentral PA
This all makes sense. Considering how far north I am, I've ruled out fertilization, which makes pellet feeding even more necessary to support a fairly high density of medium to fairly large predators. I imagine I'd have to pay attention and back off pellet feeding at the first sign of increased FA, weed growth or a really nice phytoplankton bloom after Spring, and I think I'd stop feeding completely for a while if I saw plant growth plus high numbers of YP YOY in my sampling (via trapping, angling, and what I see during feeding) in the hopes that the bigger YP and other predators if stocked would get hungry and decide to work for a living (i.e., eat the YOY).

Quote:
in some studies from 4 to 8 times more efficient than natural food (fish don't have to chase down pellets and there are no bones , skin and scales to digest)

This is a great insight that I never thought about before, but that makes a lot of sense intuitively.

Regarding controlling spawning via removing egg ribbons:
My feeling is that this should be a cornerstone of the management strategy for this type of pond. Limiting YP numbers from birth would reduce their pressure on the natural forage base, allow less competition and faster growth from the start, and reduce or possibly eliminate the need for larger predator species. Fewer (or zero) other predator species simplifies things a bit, I'd think. Less pressure on the forage base, fewer mouths sharing pellets (so fewer pellets needed, which means less risk of degrading water quality), less accidental predation on the harvestable size YP, and less BOD.

I'd plan to put out a significant number of shoreline branches to be able to access and thus control as many of the ribbons as possible. Just naively, I'd think 1 fertilized ribbon each year per 1-acre might yield enough YOY to eventually replace those harvested in a pond without another predator species, considering some natural mortality and predation by larger YP (if pellet feeding to distract them a bit from YOY), but removing all except for 1 ribbon seems to run the risk of that particular lucky ribbon not being fertilized and thus missing a year class. This would get especially risky if we harvest males heavily, I'd think. So, I'd probably err on the side of leaving 2-3 ribbons each year per acre, knowing that that means I'd probably have to trap out quite a bit of the YOY most years or stock a few WE or other predator.

Bill, so last year you trapped out 509 YOY in a 0.6 acre pond, or about 850 YOY per acre in your pond without other predators beside larger YP. Did you remove any egg ribbons last year, or was that the result of just letting their reproduction go naturally/untampered with?

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#503339 - 03/20/19 11:40 AM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
Bill Cody Offline
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Registered: 04/18/02
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Removal of the 850 YOY per ac was from removing every egg ribbon that I could find. There will always be a few YP ribbons in deeper water or among weeds that are missed. Expect about 20,000 to 30,000 eggs in a ribbon from a 9" YP. Males, even with an emphasis on harvesting males, will always be abundant enough to fertilize most or all the ribbons. Worst case will be only a partial 60%-80% fertilization of the ribbon as the spawn season progresses. Early egg laying usually has the best fertilization of ribbons.


Edited by Bill Cody (03/20/19 08:16 PM)
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#507176 - 06/10/19 07:37 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
saint_abyssal Online   content


Registered: 06/05/19
Posts: 22
Loc: WV
Originally Posted By: Drew Snyder
Regarding controlling spawning via removing egg ribbons:
My feeling is that this should be a cornerstone of the management strategy for this type of pond. Limiting YP numbers from birth would reduce their pressure on the natural forage base, allow less competition and faster growth from the start, and reduce or possibly eliminate the need for larger predator species.

What about stocking Gambusia? My understanding is that the reason they're so frequently dismissed is because they feed on fry, but that's exactly what we want in this case. The skeeterfish can tear through the eggs and outcompete most of the fry for tiny inverts. Then the few surviving YP can grow big off the bigger inverts and the Gambusia themselves.


Edited by saint_abyssal (06/10/19 07:38 PM)

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#507196 - 06/11/19 06:38 AM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
Theo Gallus Online   content
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Registered: 05/14/04
Posts: 12467
Loc: Central Ohio
If I had a nickle for every time I've read how horrible Gambusia are at eating eggs and preventing the successful recruitment of (fill in the blank species), I'd have plenty of money to found the GADF (Gambusia Anti-Defamation League).

They have never prevented spawning by BG, RES,, BGxRES. LMB, SMB, YP, or CC in either of my ponds. Gams are good, sustainable forage, however, albeit small.
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#507203 - 06/11/19 10:24 AM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Theo Gallus]
Pat Williamson Offline


Registered: 08/08/14
Posts: 2857
Loc: Oakwood,Texas
Theo- correct-+1 as shallow as they operate they couldnít eat eggs if they tried.

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#507210 - 06/11/19 12:21 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Bill Cody]
DonoBBD Offline


Registered: 06/13/12
Posts: 1993
Loc: Ontario, Canada, Eh.
Originally Posted By: Bill Cody
Removal of the 850 YOY per ac was from removing every egg ribbon that I could find. There will always be a few YP ribbons in deeper water or among weeds that are missed. Expect about 20,000 to 30,000 eggs in a ribbon from a 9" YP. Males, even with an emphasis on harvesting males, will always be abundant enough to fertilize most or all the ribbons. Worst case will be only a partial 60%-80% fertilization of the ribbon as the spawn season progresses. Early egg laying usually has the best fertilization of ribbons.


I have seen this first hand. We have placed branches along the shore line for our perch to spawn on every year we have had them since 2012. We then remove all the perch ribbons we find. Last year was the first year that we have had perch minnows in our minnow trap. It has taken that long to catch some. We have always seen some recruitment with line catching 5 and 6" in the spring.

WE have max 5 walleye in the pond and at most 10% cover. We never I mean never have seen or caught any of the walleye. I do know we need to add more but in Ontario these are very hard to come by.

Cheers Don.
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#507235 - 06/11/19 05:21 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
SetterGuy Offline


Registered: 10/30/13
Posts: 1547
Loc: NE Missouri
Iíve not removed any ribbons over the years. And each year I see fewer and fewer ribbons. I have very few if any weeds or plant growth in the pond. Just some leaves from surrounding trees. Iíve tried many different traps, and used to catch a few YP, now all I catch are HBG fry. Iíve read that possibly my Golden Shiners are cleaning up the YP fry. Not sure, but I do not think I have a over population of YP. Seems like we catch fewer and fewer each year. My SMB must be working them over also. Possibly the young YP are easier for the SMB to catch than the Golden Shiners??
_________________________
5 yr old pond, 1 ac, 15' deep.
RES, YP, GS, FHM (no longer), HBG (way too many), SMB, and HSB (rumored..)
I think that's about all I should put in my little pond.

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#508284 - 06/29/19 12:01 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: SetterGuy]
Drew Snyder Offline


Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 68
Loc: Southcentral PA
SG, do you have a good feel for how heavily populated each species is? I'm no expert, but I imagine if you have high numbers of GSH and HBG, they both could be hammering your YP fry. If your SMB are recruiting, their juveniles could also put pressure on the YP fry, and obviously the adult SMB would continue to put pressure on the YP that made it through to fingerling-juvenile sizes. Even the adult YP will likely eat YoY YP.

Just my novice opinion, but if you've had successful egg laying and hatches in previous years, you likely still have good enough conditions for egg laying and hatches now. The only culprits for your poor recruitment that I can imagine are 1) predation or 2) starvation of fry due to way too many fry overeating the zooplankton food source, if you get "too good" of a hatch.

I don't know your situation and goals that well, but I'd guess the poor recruitment is more likely due to predation. If you have high numbers of HBG and larger GSH, and really want to boost your YP recruitment, I'll just note that my feed-trained YP are pretty good at eating cut bait (1/4" strips of BG)... So, I think/suspect that you could help the situation by trapping and angling to remove as many of the HBG as you're willing to part with, and maybe even larger GSH if you think you have high enough numbers of them to sustain a good forage population. I mention my experience with feeding cut bait as an option to convert some of that biomass of HBG and GSH removed into bigger SMB/HSB/YP or whatever other target species that are feed-trained.

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#508288 - 06/29/19 12:32 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
SetterGuy Offline


Registered: 10/30/13
Posts: 1547
Loc: NE Missouri
Originally Posted By: Drew Snyder

I don't know your situation and goals that well, but I'd guess the poor recruitment is more likely due to predation. If you have high numbers of HBG and larger GSH, and really want to boost your YP recruitment, I'll just note that my feed-trained YP are pretty good at eating cut bait (1/4" strips of BG)... So, I think/suspect that you could help the situation by trapping and angling to remove as many of the HBG as you're willing to part with, and maybe even larger GSH if you think you have high enough numbers of them to sustain a good forage population. I mention my experience with feeding cut bait as an option to convert some of that biomass of HBG and GSH removed into bigger SMB/HSB/YP or whatever other target species that are feed-trained.


Just from observing what we catch, and what shows up in the traps. Iím overloaded with HBG and RES crosses. We caught maybe 20 YP a few weekends ago, compared to 75+ HBG. Not as many GS as we usually catch. We put back the pure RES, and larger (probably female) YP. I thought about adding some YP this fall, but I imagine they would get cleaned out right away. Just going to keep going with this approach. My SMB have had at least one hatch. Weíve caught one small SMB, so Iím assuming there are others. I may have HSB, but Iím not sure. Hope to spend some time later this summer trying to see if they are there. Iím regretting adding the HBG. They are painful for swimmers, and reproduce way more than I thought they would.
_________________________
5 yr old pond, 1 ac, 15' deep.
RES, YP, GS, FHM (no longer), HBG (way too many), SMB, and HSB (rumored..)
I think that's about all I should put in my little pond.

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#508290 - 06/29/19 01:53 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: SetterGuy]
Drew Snyder Offline


Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 68
Loc: Southcentral PA
In our family pond that was a predominantly LMB and BG pond, the folks couldn't stomach draining and resetting but really want YP, so while we have a different species mix, I see our situations as somewhat similar. We've knocked the LMB population way back (to I think only 2 left, for now) so that the newly stocked YP could have a chance, and we also harvested all except for maybe 6-10 adult BG to not give them a head start on overpopulating, but we're already seeing large numbers of BG YoY. Even with trapping, I think managing our BG population will be a challenge without many LMB and no other bigger predators.

All that to say that I think our pond with what will probably end up being high numbers of little BG will be a decent test of how much pressure BG (and by extension, HBG) put on YP recruitment. I very much fear that our BG will suppress YP recruitment in our pond.

Are you culling all the HBG you catch/trap? Our 0.5ac BOW is pretty clear with low alkalinity, i.e., probably less productive than yours, but we were able to harvest 129 BG this Spring and severely knock the population back. You, with SMB and HSB as predators, might have a chance at really keeping your HBG population low if you embark on a big HBG harvest this year and just keep pulling any HBG you catch in future years. On that route, the few HBG that slip through may even grow to be real trophies. I'm also thinking that if the HBG are indeed eating lots of YP fry, if you knock them back severely this year and start to get more YP recruiting (or if you just stock another intermediate year class of YP), the tables will start to turn a little bit to where the higher population of YP may start to help you by eating a few HBG.

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#508291 - 06/29/19 02:04 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
Drew Snyder Offline


Registered: 02/17/19
Posts: 68
Loc: Southcentral PA
Actually, it would be great to hear from our resident experts now that I think about this more... There's a chance that if you shift the HBG/YP balance from what is now HBG heavy and YP light to the other way around, having fewer HBG and getting more YP recruitment, those YP YoY would be more of a target for your predators which means they would probably eat fewer HBG YoY.

One way around this issue would be to isolate YoY YP in a cage or behind a blocking net to protect them from predation (also brings advantage of easier pellet training), whether that be via trapping YoY YP after they hatch or moving egg ribbons before they hatch. I think in this case, your SMB and HSB would be forced to eat more HBG YoY than if you left all your YP YoY to fend for themselves out among the sharks.

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#508292 - 06/29/19 02:47 PM Re: Managing YP for Max Eating Size Fish, Not Trophies [Re: Drew Snyder]
SetterGuy Offline


Registered: 10/30/13
Posts: 1547
Loc: NE Missouri
The HSB RES crosses are cool looking fish, but they just reproduce too much. I am aware that I overreact too much. Especially where the pond is concerned. So I try to temper my reactions and decisions. But Iíve been removing every HBG I see.
Iíd just much rather clean and eat YP than HBG. (I didnít say catch ;))


Edited by SetterGuy (06/29/19 02:48 PM)
_________________________
5 yr old pond, 1 ac, 15' deep.
RES, YP, GS, FHM (no longer), HBG (way too many), SMB, and HSB (rumored..)
I think that's about all I should put in my little pond.

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