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I have a small pond (0.4 ac). It was stocked with 400 coppernose bluegill in Dec 2000.
40 largemouth bass were stocked in June 2001. The fish have been fed floating
fish food daily and the pond is fertilized when needed.

Up until about April of last year I was catching (and releasing) hand
sized bluegill fairly regularly. About that time I stopped catching
large bluegill and begin catching small bream almost exclusively. I
continued the feeding and fertilizing program and was planning on
starting to harvest the bluegill this spring. During the past couple
months, I began keeping records of my catches. I have been keeping all bluegill
that I consider "too small to clean" and throwing back all
"nice-sized" bluegill. I have caught about 220 bluegill of which about
200 were small (and kept) and less than 20 were large enough to throw back.

My question is this. Does this sound "normal" for a 2.5 year old pond?
I was expecting to catch many more large bluegill and the sudden
change in bluegill size I experienced in April 2002 has me wondering what
has happened. I haven't experienced any fish kills and I have
not removed any of the bass so I know they are doing all they can to
keep the young bluegill in check.

Any ideas?

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Are you actually taking out small bluegill for a reason? That is just what your pond needs is bluegill of all sizes. Your bass have now been in there 2 years which if put in as fingerlings could weigh as much as 3-4 lbs in the right situation. You may need to be taking out the bass.
If you are feeding on a regular continuos basis you should be able to throw pellets in the water and watch the largest of the bluegill churning the water like pyrannahs. At least that is my experience. Do you have much cover for the forage and bass to hide in?

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I am removing the small bluegill because the pond is obviously overcrowded with small bluegill. My question is how did it get this way? I should have many large bluegill since none have been harvested. When I throw out the pellets, there are sometimes large splashes (indicating large bluegill feeding) -- however, the majority of the time the pond surface looks like light rainfall is hitting it (indicating very small fish feeding).

I'm wondering if someone has come in and shocked my pond and harvested all the large bluegill. That's the only thing I can come up with. The fact that I was catching large bluegill during Spring 2002 indicates that the 400 that were introduced in December 2000 had grown to that size. Therefore, the first several generations of bluegill should be at least hand-sized by now.

I am not removing bass because the pond is bream crowded and the bass will help with this problem. My goal is to grow large bluegill that will eventually wind up in my freezer. Somewhere my "plan" has gone awry.

I guess another possibility is that someone has removed most of the bass -- that would also lead to a bream crowded situation.

There is structure in the pond. I put in several tree tops when the pond was constructed. I would estimate that about 20% of the pond has structure.

Any help would be appreciated.

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TB,

I couldn't tell by your profile where you are located. Is it possible you are too far north for coppernose to survive the winter? Large bluegills are the first to go under adverse winter conditions and coppernose cannot take cold water.


If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.






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The pond is in central Mississippi. The little cold weather we get should not be a factor at all.

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TB

Is it possible that someone is fishing your pond that you are not aware of?

Are you around the pond enough to keep a watch for poachers?

Just a thought. I have caught a guy that thought my lake was stocked just for him to fish.

Don Stuart

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That is possible, however, the pond is in my backyard less than 50 yards from my house.

I'm not sure that someone could have come and caught all the large bluegill without me knowing. However, I have wondered if someone came in (at night or when I was gone on a weekend) and shocked the pond removing the large bluegill and largemouth bass. What effect does shocking a pond have on snakes that might be in the pond? I ask that because last spring about the time I stopped catching large bluegill a "very ill" water snake that had been in my pond turned up on my front porch. It would not react or move when poked with a stick. Something was definitely wrong with it. I didn't think much about it at the time, but have since wondered if someone shocked my pond and left the snake on the front porch for me.

I know that sounds far-fetched, but I can't come up with any other reason why my pond is missing the large bluegill.

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TB:

How large are your avg. bass, remember that bass eat forage fish 3 to 3.5 times smaller than themselves. Therefore if you have many bass in the 18"+ range, these larger BG would be their targeted fish. If you have to many smaller BG then you don't have enough 6-8" bass to eat this size of forage base.

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I would say shocking is highly unlikely. Shocking gear in a boat requires an investment of of several thousand dollars(I believe 9 or 10 thousand dolloars). The average Joe can't afford that nor would have any reason to invest in it. Along with that, it would take some gile to come in with a boat and trailer not knowing if you would show up.

I say someone is, or was fishing when you are gone, or some type of natural thing is taking place as in predation by large bass as previously proposed.

There is another possibility. In my pond once the bluegills get really large they are much harder to catch and frequent deep water close to the bottom. Are you trying deeper water or live bait?


If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.






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It may be that the large bluegill are there but are in the middle of the pond. I have been fishing with live bait, but generally in more shallow water. That being said, even when the bluegill are bedding (on the full moons) I still don't catch the large ones -- the small ones seem to be the ones that bed.

I don't believe large bass are preying on the large bluegill. The bluegill I was catching in April 2002 were nearly 1 pound in size, so they would be bigger than that now and the bass are barely 2 years old. There's no way a 2-year old bass is going to swallow a bream that big.

Assuming nothing has happened to the large bluegill (someone shocking the pond or fishing out the large ones), what should be my management strategy in order to achieve my goal of being able to catch (and harvest) large bluegill on a regular basis? Should I continue to pull out all the small bluegill that I catch and leave all the bass in the pond?

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For those of you that wish to correct me if I'm wrong feel free. However, all the literature I have seen on growing big bluegills is to have a large bass population and to release the large male bluegills. That means you will have lots of skinny undersize bass unless you feed some like I do. The bass heavy population keeps the bluegill numbers down and promotes more food to go around. This is for huge bluegills. You can still have big bluegills if you have a balanced population.

I have two kinds of bass in my pond. Feed trained bass up to about 5 pounds that I feed daily, and are built like tanks (tiger tanks as in tiger bass,) and a population of skinnier bass that were spawned in the pond and were not trained on pellets. I have very few bluegills, but what I do have looks like it is on steriods. I mentioned one on this site I released last year that was only 9 inches but weighed 14 ounces.


If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.






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You mentioned you were feeding. How often are you feeding and how much feed are you putting out at each feeding. We have very large coppernose and all we do is feed and fertilize. Our kids were fishing this weekend with live worms at about 6 ft right below our feeder and we caught 45 bluegill in 30 minutes. I only mention this because everything you've said sounds so foreign to me from our situation. We can sit there and watch those large bluegill feed on pellets any time we want. The larger ones dominate the feeding for us.

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There is a good chance that your large bluegills have gotten smarter and tougher to catch. I had a small pond that I stocked and then didn't mess with for years. One day, I went by it and had an ultralight spinning rig with me. I caught whoppers; caught them for the next couple of times I went there. Then it all stopped. When the pond was drying up, I seined it and got some big mothers out. However, I couldn't catch them on lures or night crawlers. Bass and catfish do the same thing. They start out stupid and then smarten up quickly.

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I generally feed once or twice a day -- early morning and/or late evening. Since the pond is so small, I throw the pellets out by hand. I would estimate that I feed on average a pound per day (a 50 pound bag of feed may last almost 2 months).
This would equate to 2.5 pounds per acre per day, which is pretty significant feeding from what I've read.

But, as I mentioned earlier, it seems that most of the feeding is done by really small bluegill... which is puzzling if in fact there are large bluegill in the pond. I would think the larger fish would wear the feed out.

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Everything you have mentioned seems to point toward a low abundance of bass. It is easy in a .4 acre pond to takeout too many bass in just a couple of poaching trips. Have you caught any bass? If so run your Wr. If they are really fat, you have few of them and I would stock about 10-15 adult bass to acheive your quality bluegill goals. Keep us posted, intersted in your results.


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I think Greg and Cecil are giving good advice. if you have too many small fish then you dont have any bass eating them. if there were bass in the pond the small bluegill would be non existant. At the rate you stocked the bass I would expect a ton of little bass in your pond. The way you stocked it was right for growing large bluegill (as Cecil discussed).

You have not posted anything as far as your catch rates for bass and their sizes, that would be helpful. Also, I have seen 2 year old bass that are 18 inches long. An 18 inch bass can eat a 6.6 inch bluegill. I would not expect this much growth based on your stocking rate but it is possible. One or two large bass in a small pond can eat most of the large bluegill. Many consultants dont recommend stocking bass/bluegill populations into ponds under 1 acre in size because of this reason. Its difficult to keep a balanced population. Catching just a few fish from such a small pond can make a serious impact to the entire population. The advantage you have is stocking a few fish can correct the problem. I would expect this type of take fish out stock fish back approach to managing a 0.4 acre pond.

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TB,
Just another angle .. Is there a fairly large stream near-by that an otter could be coming from to visit your .4 ac pond? An otter will in short order remove all the larger fish in a small pond.
Ric


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Do you have any fish eating birds around your pond? If so they might be eating all of your bass. A water turkey would rather swallow a bass because its easier to go down the hole. Its hard to get rid of those suckers once they find your pond but a few fire crackers and M80's spook them very well.


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No otters nearby.

I don't know what a "water turkey" is, but I do have some blue herrons that come in on occasion. All I've ever seen them eat are small fish, though.

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Water Turkey is another name for cormorant. They can swim at high speed underwater and are deadly predators. Seeing them in clear water is pretty unbelievable.

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Old post and I'm not very knowledgeable about this stuff yet, but... Have you totally ruled out a fish kill that disproportionately impacted the larger fish?


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