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FishinRod, teehjaeh57
Total Likes: 3
Original Post (Thread Starter)
by AnthonyT
Started by AnthonyT - Hey all! Been looking around on the site for awhile now and finally made an account. I bought a farm in south central KY about 10 years ago that had a fairy new quarter acre pond on it. Previous owner had just had it built a year or so before we bought the place. Pond is filled from a few spring seeps that flow down the bank into it and it has a simple overflow for an exit that flows down into a small creek. Previous owner had stocked it with the kitchen sink approach - hybrid bluegill, RES, LMB, SMB, BNC, and CC. I knew nothing about pond management (I am a wildlife biologist) so we just kind of let the pond ride. I knew the stocking was way off but didn't know how to fix it. Fishing was good for a few years and then we had a long hard freeze and a big fish kill. Otters helped wipe out any large survivors. Currently the pond has some RES in it that are from fingerlings to about 6" and a few small BNC. I am thinking I want to go more for a bluegill/RES pond - managing for bigger fish.

I am leaning heavily towards a trophy bluegill pond. I know it will take some heavy management but I am willing to do that.

I should add on here that although I have a BS in wildlife biology, and that is where I have mainly worked in my career, I have also worked in aquaculture (white shrimp brood stock production) and have had a graduate level fish genetics course that was taught by Dr. Boris Gomelsky at KY State. Managing a flow through pond is something totally new to me though - but I love to fish so I am ready for the new adventure!

At some point I would love to move the outflow as it was placed next to a power pole that it is slowly but surely making loose. I am sure I will have plenty of questions. Oh yes, I have a drainage that is downstream from my neighbors cattle pond that I would love to build another pond in the future.

FishinRod says - Bluegill are too fecund to have them at the top of the food chain. (Unless you want to try to manage a single-sex pond.)

You will need one top predator above them. Perhaps HSB would be a good option? They do not reproduce, so you could manage their numbers as needed.

Lots of people on the forum have managed a pond that is optimized for bluegill. There are many threads in the archives. Hopefully, some of those experts will also drop into your thread.

Good luck on managing your pond back into a good fishery! With your background, I hope you will enjoy that process.

Anthropic says -You could also stock a couple of female LMB, but you'd have to be sure they were female or they'd reproduce. Would keep panfish numbers in check so they could grow to good sizes, especially if you fed them.

Esshup says - Welcome to the forum. You know what you need to do about the otters. To keep BG numbers in check and to manage for big BG, you are pretty much forced to stock LMB unless you want to do a LOT of BG fishing and feeding the 'coons. Stock 30-40 LMB and once they start exceeding 14" in length, remove every one that is over 14". Remove the female BG and RES that you catch, and feed Optimal Bluegill food this year. Next year you could mix Optimal Bluegill/Bass food at a 50/50 ratio. You should have BG that exceed a pound within a year, maybe two years. If there are any Hybrid Bluegills left in there, manage those the same as the regular BG. Same for any SMB left, manage like LMB.

Remove any crappie and catfish that you catch too. You CAN fish all the Crappie out of the pond, I've done it. Don't release a CC that you catch, you will have a hard time catching it again and they will be predating on the BG too. Big CC can eat an 8" BG. You should install an aeration system to prevent the pond from freezing and wiping out all your hard work. A PondLyfe 2 system would work just fine, one diffuser in deep water, one in shallow water for the winter.

Dave Davidson says - Bottom line is that this stuff starts out with water quality. My first impression is that the previous owner had it overstocked for 1/4 acre, especially with crappie. It’s also about the symbiotic balance between predator and prey.
Without appropriate predation, an out of balance condition leads to an oxygen crash and messy fish kill.
Too much predation leads to skinny predators.

Bill Cody says - Welcome - Are you aware of our Common Q&A Archives section? Here is the detailed thread about growing big bluegill.

esshup also has good info as posted above. BNC might mean black nose crappie? Here they are called BNCP
One option not mentioned is to start over. You being a wildlife biologist you probably have a pesticide license or know an associate with a license to buy rotenone a piscicide - most common one is Prenfish. One gallon in 1/4 ac would eradicate all fish in your small pond so you could start over which would likely provide better results for having big BG. We can provide more advice if needed. A flow through pond would make rotenone use difficult during the wet season with outflow. Outflow year round???

SMB - IMO it is very doubtful that the pond still has smallies in it. After about 4-6yrs the LMB usually crowd out all the SMB when the last SMB died of old age. No SMB recruitment will occur with LMB and SMB together in a small pond. LMB always overpower the smallies.

Here is a consideration. Consider using specklebelly sunfish (SBS) in this pond. In the right conditions you can grow these hybrid sunfish to 3 pounds at 15"-16" long and sometimes more weight when pampered properly. What part of KY are you located? Jones Fish Hatchery who sells SBS has a branch in KY. Jones Fish - Greater Louisville Division, 500 N. English Station Rd., Suite 106, Louisville, KY 40223.

AnthonyT says - Bill - the pond has constant out flow. I am in an area of KY with karst geology so lots of underground streams and springs. There are at least two springs that flow into the pond and they flow all year. I haven't done a flow test yet but it is a decent amount of water. The spillway on the pond was done poorly and it is eroding badly (and taking a power pole with it, yikes) and I would like to move it to an area that has less slope and was part of the old creek channel before the the creek was moved to the base of the hill back in the 1930s-ish. Would love to let the out flow go into a series of wet meadow, marsh type wetlands before it makes its way back to the creek. I'm not sure rotenone is an option as the outflow goes right into a small creek - that is full of small darters and dace I would rather not take the chance of killing. Right now there are some RES and BNCP in the pond, but not very many.

All of the original LMB, SMB, CC, and HS are gone.

The SBS sound interesting. Could I have them with a few LMB or would it be best to just have the SBS? I read a bit about them and they are suppose to be 95%+ males so there shouldn't be any reproduction. I guess I just answered my own question about the LMB - there wouldn't be anything for them to eat! Any idea what species they cross to get the SBS?

I posted a little about my pond in the intro section, but am now ready to start asking some more detailed questions. The pond was on the property when we bought it, but had been dug a year or so before. Pond was dug in a wet area of a pasture and from old arial photos appears to have been part of the old creek channel (creek was channelized and moved to the base of a hill sometime in the 1930s). Pond is spring fed from several spring seeps on the uphill side of the pond and there is a basic low spot outflow with rip rap (the out flow is terribly constructed and I would actually like to move it in the future to a better location, more on that in a future thread) that flows into the creek. Flow is year round and a decent amount. Max depth is 12' (according to the previous owner) and sides slope quickly. There are shallower areas at the inflow and outflow ends. There is zero cover in the pond except for one old cedar tree. Pond is in South Central KY, Mammoth Cave area.

Pond was originally stocked with:
LMB, SMB, RES, HBG, CC, BNCP - basically they threw the kitchen sink into a tiny pond. Through fish being eaten by otters, herons, some big LMB (20"+), flowing over the spillway, and hard prolonged freeze (not normal here) that caused a fish kill, and I am sure some other things there are only some smaller RES and a very reduced population of BNCP left in the pond.

I was thinking of doing a trophy BG pond, but after reading some suggestions on my intro post I am now thinking a SBS pond with some HSB might be the way to go. If I don't like it I can always change it later and it won't be as tough to do with the hybrid fish in there. If the SBS do breed with the few redear in the pond it won't be the end of the world and the HSB could help with that as well as help me wipe out the remaining crappie. I don't want to try and kill out the pond as it has constant flow and the creek it goes into has some fairly cool fish in it. I would also remove any crappie I caught while fishing.

How many SBS should I stock in a 1/4 acre pond? I think I would rather be too few than too many. Same with the HSB.

I do plan to feed a good quality pellet and also add some cover to the pond. I have tons of cedar trees that need to die for upland habitat improvement so I should have plenty of material for the pond.

What time of year would be best to stock these fish? I'd like to get going on fixing the pond as it is currently not too fun to fish - can catch them, but they are mostly tiny. Thanks!
Liked Replies
by Bill Cody
Bill Cody
I agree a pond with a constant outflow is not a candidate for rotenone. Too hazardous. Any complete fish renovation would involve a pond draining.

Experience tells me that it is doubtful that all sizes of LMbass died during the winter kill because the pond does have some inflow - outflow. This means water flowing into the pond could have contained enough dissolved oxygen (DO) to allow a few small bass and other resident small fish that were near the inflow to survive the winter kill. Small fish generally require less DO for survival compared to larger individuals.

AnthonyT asks - “The SBS sound interesting. Could I have them with a few LMB or would it be best to just have the SBS? I read a bit about them and they are suppose to be 95%+ males so there shouldn't be any reproduction. I guess I just answered my own question about the LMB - there wouldn't be anything for them to eat! Any idea what species they cross to get the SBS?”

SBS are a relatively new hybrid sunfish on the pond circuit. Specklebelly is a trade name for the genetic hybrid cross of Bluegill and Redear sunfish. Supposedly they do grow to be a really big sunfish if given enough food and are not over crowded. A high percentage of males means some females will be present to produce eggs and initially a few offspring. As the population ages as Fx generations more females will likely be present to add more genetic cross offspring that could likely genetically trend more toward the BG rather than RES. Maybe not? This is why the SBS stockings should have plenty of predators to eat the SBS offspring. Although IMO any BG with some RES genetics mixed in is not a bad thing.

Plenty of predators could IMO mean LMB and or HSB. If it were LMB with lack of food they would typically stay small as in the 10”-12” size range. Little or slow growth would be due to lack of food. This can be a GOOD thing.
1. Numerous always small LMbass will be a type of management TOOL and keep ABOUT all or all SBS reproduction eaten. Small bass are forced to eat small fish that need to have numbers reduced
2. Numerous small LMB will almost always be hungry and easy & fun to catch especially for kids.
3. LMB at 12”(1lb) can be harvested and be invited guests to dinner.
4. Some small hungry LMB will probably learn to eat fish pellets and grow slightly larger than their close relatives adding to the angler action and harvestable results.

HSB will also be a good predator for producing big SBS.
1. HSB will actively grow large when eating pellets while keeping SBS offspring reduced.
2. HSB inch for inch fight harder than LMB.
3. HSB are usually more expensive than LMB.
4. HSB do not survive well when caught during the hottest months of the year. They fight to the point of exhaustion and warm water and low summer DO do not allow fast recovery.
5. HSB rarely ever create offspring in ponds. They periodically need to be restocked – ladder stocked to maintain several HSB size classes that will prey effectively on different sizes of smaller sunfish.

SBS are a trademark name for a cross between BG X RES. It is not known which parent is the male and which the female. I currently think these fish will also help reduce the number of common parasites in the pond by eating snails. RES thrive on eating snails and small mollusks. The BG part or contribution of SBS cross readily train to eat fish pellets. This combination of big BG and big RES potential, I think will allow SBS to have two genetic changes to grow big and often to trophy sizes. Regular hybrid bluegill BGXGSF IMO will not grow as big as SBS because GSF as a species do not normally grow as big as BG nor RES. IMO one of the disadvantages of the SBS hybrid is these fish might not have a strong catchability as the BGXGSF hybrid because GSF are a very big mouthed, aggressive species easily and readily caught by anglers. IMO the SBS make up for the possible lack of aggressiveness is the fact the SBS should grow significantly larger than the traditional BG-GSF hybrid.

How many to stock in a ¼ pond that has a reduced fish community is the question. Since the pond will have pellet feeding, I think a good number to begin a stocking is 40-100 (up to 400/ac). I think you are correct the SBS could grow bigger when fewer numbers are stocked. If the pond has bottom aeration then the number can be increased up to 150 (600/ac). Watch their development and growth rate. Harvest accordingly. More can be periodically added if the fishery is a whopping good success.

If it were my pond, I would stock SBS at the larger available size. I highly suspect that the two size groups of Jones Fish of SBS 2-3” & 3.5-5” are both one year old. IMO the 2”-3” are the small ones graded from a one year old population. The smaller ones are the runts and the larger ones are the faster growing group. Ask about this ‘age thing’ before buying or ordering. If all are 1 yr old then I would buy from the larger size group because these are the faster growing individuals who ultimately grow faster and larger. You are not buying a lot of SBS so the added cost due to bigger fish is not high. If the SBS are two different age groups then I would buy the smaller size.

I am currently watching a SBS producer shipped order of 2”-3” SBS that were purchased in December and grown in aquaculture in 75F water. As of March 10, these fish ranged from 3” -7” long – slow and fast growers - all from the same 2”-3” batch or shipment of fingerlings. FYI - Only one producer of these trade marked SBS exists - Malone's Fish Hatchery. All retail sellers buy from Malone.

PREDATION - For adequate predation of your existing small pond resident fish after the winter kill, I would add 6-8 HSB. If you want these HSB to grow larger quicker then add 6. If you want stronger predation pressure then add 10 (HSB), preferably 6”-8” long. As an option - for your small 0.2ac pond a few HSB and just one LMB could provide effective predation pressure on SBS and a few residual RES. One lone LMB in your mixed fish pond could grow to decent size 15"-17" and be eating larger sunfish and some small LMbass if produced.

If you buy the small 2”-3” size of SBS I do not think they will spawn the same year as stocked.

Watch and monitor for their growth and watch for numbers of all types of small fish near the middle or end of summer. A good way to check and monitor for presence and relative numbers of small hatchlings after a Spring spawn is to buy a 15ft to 30 ft ¼” minnow seine that is pulled through the shallow beach area.

Another less effective sampling method for small fish is to use minnow traps baited with bread or fish food. IMO the Gee Minnow trap is the best small trap. Note - small LMB are best sampled with a seine vs traps. The pond could have a few young low DO tolerant LMB remaining after the fish kill.
2 members like this
by Bill Cody
Bill Cody
Be cautious about the RES that you have in the pond. Catch one or two soon ASAP and show us a picture. I hope you do not have green sunfish(GSF). GSF hav some orange rose color on the gill flap and GSF are very tolerant of low DO. We can verify using pictures.

It is good that LMB and CC are absent. Fingers crossed for this.

Jones Fish – I have been familiar with their OH based operation for over 34 years. We are both members of Ohio Aquaculture Assoc. IMO it will be very doubtful Jones will have two sizes of SBS at their KY branch for their spring fish sale days. Branch fish sales for fish are hauled in from the home office and IMO fish desired are sometimes marginally available for custom orders. Often they have just basic fish at fish sale days. Jones Branch - Louisville KY April 15, May 20 10am-2pm,
FIRST - Verify they will have SBS. Maybe will not even be available? Very likely they will only have one size – if you are lucky all the fish you want will be available and as smallest ones. Contact them for sure in late March / early April for details of what you want and what they plan to have available. What they plan is not always a reality.

IMO do your best to buy the SBS at the April 15th sale. Fish always haul and handle better in cooler water. May 20 is IMO getting late and more risky for hauling fish in KY.

AnthonyT - “I'll probably go with just HSB for the predator. Do I stock them the following spring after the SBS or in the fall to give the SBS a chance to get big enough to not be eaten.

Can a 6-8" HBS eat a 3" SBS?” No.

Very doubtful you will even be able to get 5”-7” HSB from Jones on April 15. Definitely do not worry about their 5”-7” HSB eating your 2”-3” SBS. HSB have a small mouth and 5”-7” HSB will not eat 2” SBS especially if you are feeding pellets to help them fill their bellies. One thing you could do is buy 2-3 lbs of FHM when you get the SBS. FHM will strongly reduce the chances of HSB eating the smallest SBS that Jones sells. SBS in Apr-May will all be last year’s hatch of fish.

I would stock HSB as soon as you can get them. Jones may not have them on April 15 AND they if they have any,,, I think it will be only one size. Stock whatever you can get on April 15. Worst case for you Jones will only have HSB and no SBS. Bad on their part as fish sellers; especially if you have preordered your fish for Apr 15. Remember KY is their banch and not the main office with fish holding ponds.

If Jones has just 3”-4” HSB, which is very likely the available size, then I highly suggest you buy a few extra because this smaller size VERY often has survival problems. If you are lucky enough for all to survive then remove an appropriate number next summer when they are 12”-15” as dinner guests. They grow fast and expect those stockers of 3”-4” to be 10-11” by Fall.

ONE IMPORTANT NOTE. It is very common to haul and hold HSB in SALTY water. Be sure to ask Jones when you pick up HSB if the HSB are hauled and bagged in salty water. If yes, then when home be sure to salt dilute - temper them by incrementally slowly adding your pond water to the transport bag for 20 - 30 min before placing them in your pond. Small HSB are “touchy” and temperamental during movement, hauling, handling, and stocking. The smaller they are the more “touchy” they are. Just because they swim away does not mean survival during the first 3 weeks Lots of experience with this.

Ask Jones when you call if you can buy some of their small fish food in less than a whole bag. IF not and IMO do NOT buy a whole 40 lb bag of fish food. It will tend to mold before you use all 40 lbs. Your spring stocking numbers will only eat about 20 lbs of food all this year. Next year maybe buy a whole 40 LB bag of food. If Jones will not sell less than a whole bag,, I can proactively send you enough appropriate amount of starter food to get your low number of fish growing as soon as they are stocked. Use PB Private Messaging. As they grow,,,,, ideally they should eat larger pellets for more growth efficiency. So by the end of summer they could / should be eating ¼” pellets, for sure 3/16” pellets.
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