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4CornersPuddle, anthropic, FishinRod
Total Likes: 9
Original Post (Thread Starter)
by ttdigiacomo
Hi all. Put in a one acre pond in Ohio last spring and stocked 500 bluegill, 200 red ears and 50 6-14’ cats in fall and in spring stocked 85 largemouth 8-13”, 30 lbs of shiners and 15 pounds of fatheads. In June I added 25 lbs of tilapia which were recommended by Fender’s in Ohio as a way to provide additional food for the predators because they spawn every two weeks. I estimate there were around 50 or 60 tilapia put in in late May and my thought was that they could help control the filamentous bloom that I was having and I could harvest them in the Fall for some good fish fries.

We’ll, here’s the mixed bag report on my tilapia experience:

The good:

Tilapia quickly eliminated 90% of the algae. I am assuming they bred and provided food for the predators throughout the summer and early Fall. They grew very fast.

The bad:

Tilapia were nearly impossible to catch. I only managed to catch one by hook and line and one by cast net. A lot of trying all the way until they froze to death. Even tried snagging. Another two were harvested alive cold and floating. 50 died, floated to the shore and went to waste starting on 10/26 @57 degrees surface temp thru 11/8. That’s a lot of wasted fillets!

The mystery:

All 50 dead tilapia were grown adults between 11 and 13 inches. Not one juvenile fish has been seen dead. Where are all of the offspring? We’re there ever any offspring at all? We’re they ALL consumed? There are thousands of shiners left in the pond which might indicate that pressure was taken off of the shiners by the baby tilapia being consumed. Help with this mystery is appreciated.

Will I put tilapia in next year? No. Do I think they were worth the money this year, probably not.

Thanks, Tony
Liked Replies
by Bill Cody
Bill Cody
Sometimes tilapia(TP) for VARIOUS reasons are not a good 50:50 sex mix that you buy from fish farm sellers. Sellers sometimes buy the cheapest and or largest TP for resale. This can often be food market male fish. It is part of the customer's responsibility to ask about fish sex ratio and or be knowledgeable about what they are buying. Buyer Beware.

So in this specific case it is very possible ‘some’ of the TP purchased in Ohio for 2022 were mostly male and few offspring were produced. Those few numbers of offspring produced by mostly male TP were very likely all eaten by bass by the time the water cooled and their swimming ability significantly decreased. Tilapia in near death temperature water are barely able to swim and are very easy meals for anything that can capture them. I have see several fish in the late fall choke to death trying to eat too large of tilapia.
Some TP sold in OH this year, depending on the grower, had a higher percentage of pearl or cream colored TP. I found some of these pearl TP died at a higher temperature than those with a high percentage of pure blue tilapia genetics. IMO the pearl TP are colorful, customer popular, and very easy to see in the pond. IMO most all ‘blue’ tilapia in the US are now some degree of hybrid blue TP.

Today Nov 15 I looked and I still have some TP alive in a cage; one of them is a pearl TP with about 10 blue TP and a few YP. YSI meter water temperature reading was 48.5F.

Catching tilapia. This is my best method to catch them. TP are raised and grown on fish pellets.
1. I think when the goal is to catch your TP at year’s end, one should regularly feed TP a small amount of pellets daily or at least a few times a week. Condition them to your presence and you regularly adding a little welfare food. TP are shy hesitant fish by nature.

2. Feed the TP in the beach or shallow area of the pond or where you see them building spawning nests. TP are spawning throughout the summer. For most of the summer in smaller ponds, this is where most of the TP are most often congregated – at the ‘sex party in the beach'.

3. For best angler success plan the harvest at or before the water temperature drops below 70F. Why? At below 70F TP quit spawning. Below 70F, they scatter throughout the pond and then you have to figure out where you will encounter most of them and for where to fish to catch them quickest and easiest. Below 70F the pellet feeding area ‘could’ still be a good place and time to fish. Also below 70F water is cooler,,,TP are not as hungry, and they feed less. Thus IMO they are not as aggressive and somewhat harder to catch below 70F water temp. NOTE - When the water drops below 70F,,, TP by then should have all the problem of filamentous algae(FA) consumed. In my pond, abundant TP also have eaten most or all Chara and other delicate, soft textured, submerged vegetation by year’s end. If not, you did not initially stock enough TP. For other plant consumption, you can also have one or a few grass carp to help eat submerged vegetation. As you remove TP from water at or near 70F there should still be lots of TP offspring available to eat the short regrowths of FA before the temperature of 50F water.

4. Best baits for catching TP have been found to be pieces of night crawler, small cubes of hot dog and artificial fish pellets (example Stubby Steve’s fish lures) that are fished 12” to 3 ft under a bobber. I and angler guests have very good success using soften rolled fish pellets as TP bait. TP become hook shy quickly after several are caught. 30 TP were caught on Labor day and 20 the next week end. When hooked they probably release a pheromone or similar chemical that other TP detect as a ‘fight or flight’ substance. As angler success significantly decreases it usually takes several days to a week for catching success to improve. As water cools angler success noticeably decreases.

Enough for today. I have to go clean some caged tilapia.
3 members like this
by rjackson
Not knowing anything at all about tilapia, I'd propose that the juveniles were eaten by the predators as they slowed and the adults were too large to be consumed.
2 members like this
by Theo Gallus
Theo Gallus
I cannot speak for Fender's Tilapia, but a commercial fish farm near me stocks (and sells) Tilapia that are something like 99.9% male. Having just males in their RAS systems gives them he best growth rate.

Even with a proven breeding population, in past years, I have seen many more dead adult Tilapia then dead juveniles at the end of the season. YMMV.

If you stock them next year, check out the threads here (there was a good one in the last couple of months) with advice for catching Tilapia. And on the bright side, "a lot of wasted fillets" is only a problem if you LIKE eating Tilapia (personally, I think they have no texture and no taste, but that is a feature rather than a bug for Tilapia lovers).
1 member likes this
by esshup
FWIW, I switched tilapia suppliers to a supplier in Ohio this year. The supplier that I had last year said they were pure blues but when the water temp dropped after stocking them in customer ponds, they majority of them died when the water temp dropped to 63°F. That tells me that they are NOT pure blues. This year I had Tilapia surviving in 54°F water from the new supplier. I also saw a much better FA control with the tilapia from the new supplier - they were supposed to be a 50/50 mix from both suppliers, but with the old supplier, I didn't see the amount of tilapia nests in the pond that I did this year.

Like the OP, I have not seen any small Tilapia that have died due to cold water temp. The smallest Tilapia that I have seen is around 10" long.
1 member likes this
by anthropic
Whether tilapia can ever take cold winters depends on how many adaptations are built in to the organism. Anolis lizards, for example, developed a cecal valve in only 35 years after colonizing the Greek island of Lesbos, IIRC. Not remotely enough time for this to happen by random mutations, must have turned on a preprogrammed response to the island diet. Similarly, there is a seagull that develops an organ to rid itself of excess salt when it feeds in the ocean, but the organ disappears when it feeds in fresh water.
1 member likes this
by Theo Gallus
Theo Gallus
Too late - I've depth charged both ponds.
1 member likes this
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