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Hi,

I have a 1/4 acre pond that is stocked with fatheads now. I definitely want to keep lots of fatheads, as I crappie fish and like to have the bait readily available. Other than grass carp and koi, is there anything I can stock that will leave an abundance of fatheads? I would love to be able to catch and eat bluegill. Would adding them alone work?

Edit: Another priority that I am realizing is very important is that I keep my frog population. My pond is surrounded by woods, and in the summer we have a table and chairs down there where we sit at night and enjoy the deafening sound of frogs. Is it the case that just about any larger fish would eat up the eggs and tadpoles in the spring?

Thanks in advance,


Dan

Last edited by dananarama; 07/16/21 10:11 AM.
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That's a great question. Most people add Fathead Minnows for the sole purpose of feeding their initial stocking of LMB with the expectation that they will all get eaten. I've seen Catfish ponds that have tons of FHM in them, so that might be an option. I think the more you feed them, the less likely anything will eat your minnows, and habitat is key. I'd dedicate a section of your pond solely for your FHM to breed and thrive, and a place where any predators can't get to them easily. I've seen people use fencing or even just thick brush/trees parallel to the shoreline. Interested to see what others have to say, because I'd also like to keep a living population of FHM going beyond their first year.


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That will be a tough one, but like Steve_ said, having ample habitat that the Fatheads prefer is key. Even just BG in the pond will eat a lot of FHM. Blocking off the area won't help after the BG pull off a spawn, I have had BG swim into a cage that had 1/4" mesh and they stayed there long enough to grow too big to swim back out.


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Tilapia may eat some algae, but they'll be happy to dine on fatheads as well. Ask me how I know... frown

Last edited by anthropic; 07/15/21 11:51 PM.

8ac, full 3/16. CNBG, RES, FHM 10/15; TP 5/16; FLMB 6/16. 100 12" NLMB & 1k GSH 10/17,L, 150# TP & 70 HSB 5/18. 1k PK 11/18. 100# TP 4/19, 200# RBT 12/19, 10k TFS 3/20, 100#TP 5/20, 25 HSB & 250 F1 9/20,L,180# RBT 12/20, 206, 7k TFS,100#TP 5/21, 225



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Dan, I like fatheads but have never been able to have a sustainable population of them. The bottom line is that, although highly prolific, they are generally only good for jump starting a new pond. They are prey for everything.


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Originally Posted by dananarama
Hi,

I have a 1/4 acre pond that is stocked with fatheads now. I definitely want to keep lots of fatheads, as I crappie fish and like to have the bait readily available. Other than grass carp and koi, is there anything I can stock that will leave an abundance of fatheads? I would love to be able to catch and eat bluegill. Would adding them alone work?

Thanks in advance,
Dan

This is doable if you take care to stock only BG of one sex. Work with an equation that is is similar to the LMB/BG combination. So perhaps 60 lbs/acre as a goal weight of BG which serve as a surrogate to LMB as apex predator. The FHM are your surrogate to BG as the prey species in this combination and they will be allowed to reproduce at will. So the BG will be a put and take proposition where you stock males >7" and harvest them > 9.5 or 10". The stocking rate annually might be around 10 per year in a 1/4 acre pond. When you catch a large BG ... release to the grease. Such a scenario should provide all the bait you could possibly want and a few HUGE BG for occasional treats. I would limit fishing to the fall and I would would ladder stock in the spring using dominant parental males as the put&take BG stock.

Keep in mind that this isn't really a BG pond, it is a bait pond with BG as the apex put&take predator. If you misidentify the sex of a BG ... it will destroy the goal of a bait pond.


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Thanks everyone for your responses so far. Please see my edit. I really want to keep my frog population. We love all the frogs on this place. More thoughts:

- channel catfish
If I stock them alone will they eventually eat all the minnows?

- small goldfish
This would make the family happy. Would they coexist with the fatheads, or would one outcompete the other?

- common carp
Everywhere I read about common carp there is a warning that they should be avoided like the plague. I want to know more about this. If they are stocked by themselves in a pond that's already muddy, would they harm anything? I love to catch and eat them like most of the world outside the US. I am wondering how much information I read about them in ponds is influenced by our cultural disgust for them.

Love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again.

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Channel cats will eat anything that fits in their mouth. So, yes they will eat the minnow population down considerably. My pond had FHM's and crawdads stocked for a year before anything else. My gamefish population suffered some the first few years due to them washing down the drain pipe (I think), but the FHM population went from millions (maybe) to the occasional one in the crawdad trap in only two full seasons with the HBG and HSB. They are easy pickings and made great weight gains for the lower population of gamefish, however.

Gold fish have a bad reputation in ponds that are desired to be a fishery and not necessarily a goldfish pond. They tend to overpopulate and muddy the waters up more so than others that tend to do the same. Small goldfish in ponds get to be big goldfish, big enough that the predators can't eat them, then they make a lot more goldfish. A bad idea IMO. A good read by Helen Palmer Geisel - "A Fish out of Water", lol, circa 1961. A children's book from my memory...thanks for the flashback!

Carp are very good to eat IMO, but unless your pond has plenty of established plant life, they may take a while to grow. Although feeding them would not be hard to do. I think you may be onto something with carp and FHM, but I'll rely on a more experienced PB member to reply on that idea.


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If you don't mind the muddy water, and will be feeding the fish, then I'd go the carp route, I think that is the safest one FHM survival rate wise.


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3/4 to 1 1/4 ac pond LMB, SMB, PS, BG, RES, CC, YP, Bardello BG, (RBT & Blue Tilapia - seasonal).
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There's a YouTube channel that I follow, Carrasco Ranch. He has a Catfish pond (Blues and Channels), and whenever he posts a feeding video, hundreds of FHM always come up to the feed. Anecdotal of course, but that stuck out in my mind when I mentioned a Catfish pond. I just don't see Catfish coming up to the shoreline in less than a foot of water to chase around minnows like BG/LMB do. Of course they'll eat them, but Catfish aren't great predators. Not like other species anyway.


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Here is an excerpt from a treatise on fish production written 55 years ago by the father of modern aquaculture - H S Swingle.

Quote
2.2.4 Channel catfish-bass plus fathead minnows
Originally, 2,500 fathead minnows were added with 7,500 channel catfish per ha in ponds receiving supplemental feeding with the expectation that they would be eaten by catfish. This did not occur; therefore, they were utilized by stocking 125 largemouth bass per ha. In a period of 7 years this had added an average of approximately 45 kg per ha of bass to each crop of catfish without interference with the growth or production of the latter.

This method of making more efficient use of unused fish feeds in ponds would appear worthy of more extensive testing and use.

Whether CC will consume many fish depends on the size of the CC. By the time they reach 24 in, fish will be the lion's share of the diet but at this size ... they want 4.5" to 5.5" prey. Feeding probably reduces consumption of fish. For sure they will convert all minnows that die of old age ... FHM don't live very long so there is a big annual turnover of the population after a year of two of reproduction.

Last edited by jpsdad; 07/16/21 08:18 PM.

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Hey, I like it! Some science that backs up my claim! This does makes sense, as the Youtuber that I watch stocked fully grown adults into his pond, probably 5-10 pounds each. He wanted to be able to have good fishing immediately for his dad, and not have to wait for fingerlings to grow. Whenever he throws a handful of feed, hundreds of minnows swarm to it, and the catfish don't even seem to bother them, they're focused on the easy meal.


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Into my 0.2 ac minnow pond I put around 14-20 tilapia in it each year. The pond has lots of large rock shoreline habitat. It has thousands of minnows that I have to regularly remove annually to keep them from being over abundant so others can grow. I feed the minnows ground fish food daily and have high production. I would first try the tilapia. I think some tilapia varieties/species could be more predatory that others. Species might make a big difference. In my experience tilapia will maybe only eat small minnows when all plant materials are eliminated. They have to eat something when all preferred plant foods are eliminated. My minnow pond usually has quite a bit of nuisance algae and Chara. The really good thing about using tilapia is they keep the algae very low, you fish them out and eat them early fall, and remaining ones die each year so if you don't like their behavior you can very easily use a different fish next year. Adding some of the other fish species may make it difficult to get those trouble makers out. Also consider redears. they have low numbers of offspring, and young ones can be transferred to the main pond. Also consider golden shiners. Adult shiners when abundant may eat some small FHM fry but you should still get lots of FHM each year. GSH should also make very good forage for your main pond.

The male bluegill idea is a good one but if you make a mistake is sexing them be prepared to start over or deal with many thousands of starving small 3"-4" BG that will eat lots of FHM fry. IMO I would stay away from CC because they will find a way to spawn in ponds and thousands of them will eat lots of small minnows be prepared for that. CC spawns can be very successful in a pond without bass and other predators eating the CC fry and fingerlings. Larger CC will create their own spawning cavity in sides of a dirt bottom pond.

Depending on which other fish you decide to stock the appropriate type and amount of habitat becomes very very important for good FHM survival.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 07/18/21 08:45 PM.

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See recent PB mag on tilapia as a predator.
















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I liked both Bill's and Eric's posts. Overall I liked all of what Bill and had to say and Eric's ... I can say the same even though it really only applies to TP.

Growing up my dad kept a bait pond. It was very small, only about 1/20 acre. It doubled as a crayfish / FHM pond and we harvested all the bait we could possibly use. Two occasions we had to drain due to neighbors stocking fish. I know who did that by the way because it became a topic of conversation later in life.

FHM and crayfish for that matter have very strong niches in waters that fish predators struggle in. Many species of crayfish, including the water nymph crayfish that inhabited the prairies around our home don't even need standing water provide there is a dependable water table. Down hill of spring seeps usually supported a few burrows, for example. We really only wanted a FHM pond but crayfish found there way into the pond anyway.

Usually at some level of control, there are opportunities to diversify a production system and produce extra harvest. TP as Bill mentioned I think hold promise. He shared his experience but Bill I would like to know more about your stocking size and how much reproduction you got. To Eric's point, I think if there is a lot reproduction, there would be ill effect on FHM production due to predation of FHM fry and competition from TP. In other words, I would fear that unchecked reproduction of TP would squeeze out the FHM. Whether it would be sufficient to limit the FHM harvest below a minimum desired level ... maybe not because Bill must take a lot of FHM out annually to prevent too many from populating.

I think to some degree, it matters what species of TP. I think Niles and Blues will consume a lesser proportion of fish in their diet than do Moz. TP which are known to consume fish (which are completely digested with in hour). Although it doesn't apply to where I live (in Texas) or where the OP lives(in Missouri) but where legal I really like the addition of 1500 Blue or Nile fry/acre per acre to grow out along side the existing FHM. They should reach lengths >= 8" by fall and a person could begin harvesting them as they exceed 6". Fall reproduction of FHM would ensure a good standing of adults in the spring for bait and brood. If there were any shortage of FHM due to the TP, it would have to be in the late summer to early fall time frame when the standing weight of TP is high. I see this as very sustainable system where sources to TP fry are easily acquired. Blues and Niles produce a little less than 3000 eggs/lb so a single 1/2 lbs female and a male would be sufficient to produce the necessary stock in one cohort for 1 acre or less pond.


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