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#317182 01/11/13 01:04 AM
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We have plans to build a smallmouth bass pond that will be spring-fed and self-sustaining. What do smallmouth eat? I know they eat crayfish, but anything else? I would just like to build an acceptable, opportunistic food chain.

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crayfish, lots and lots of crayfish.
our lake in wisconsin is loaed with rusty crayfish and the small mouth feast on them. They have really targeted on them. They are always fat a bloated with them. They will eat crayfish and ignore other offerings. The small mouth population is very healthy fat and large as a result of having lots of cray fish to eat. Rusty crays might not be the choice for your pond, soft shell crayfish seem to be a favorite.
You might want to make sure you have good habitate for crays also so they can sustain a population.

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By "self sustaining" [taken from your other thread] do you mean that you're not going to feed? SMB, unlike LMB, can be readily feed trained. You can go either way, but your fish will grow faster and your pond will sustain a greater number of larger fish if you feed.
I agree that craws are absolutely premium SMB food-but it's hard to have a population thats large enough to sustain a really active SMB population in 1-2 acres. I've got great craw habitat in about 3 acres, there just doesn't seem to be enough natural reproduction for them to be the primary food source, in my experience.

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Have you read through this from the Archives? The last post by me on 24/9/12 dealt with foods of SMB.
http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=103428#Post103428

The forage producing panfish that seems to be not very good to use with SMB is the bluegill. BG are great for growing LMB but not so great when combined with smallies. Many members here have difficulty with the SMB being able to adequately prey on BG. Not a lot of other sunfish species have been studied and reported as raised with SMB. I know of a couple ponds that have SMB and HBG and this combination seems okay or acceptable. Fish are fed pellets at different frequencies of occassional and more regular feedings in each pond.


Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/12/13 11:19 AM.

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Crayfish is mentioned above as good food for SMB. I and many thriving, jumping, fighting SMB agree. However note that crayfish do not contain lots of nutritional value compared to fish forage. Both fish and crayfish are no doubt great for growing the best smallies. For more information about growing SMB see the recent article of: "TALKING POINTS: SMALLMOUTH BASS" by Dave Willis and Bill Cody in Jan-Feb 2013 Pond Boss magazine.

The use of blue tilapia in SMB ponds to help with algae control is probably beneficial for growing better SMB. The baby and small 1"-3" tilapia provide good algae control and serve as abundant forage especially in late fall when tilapia are struggling to survive in cold water and thus are very vulnerable to predation. SMB no doubt build fat reserves by eating lots of nutritious easy to catch, fatty, baby tilapia right before winter. When I clean tilapia the offal seems to have lots of or an excess of fatty deposits and oils compared to offal from perch, bass, and sunfishes.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/12/13 12:22 PM.

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SMB food items from FishBase. Note 4 (SMB) and 10 (YP) as well as the crusts.

nekton - finfish bony fish - Cottus bairdii =sculpin
nekton - finfish bony fish - Etheostoma nigrum = johnny darter
zoobenthos - insects insects - insects
nekton - finfish bony fish - Micropterus dolomieu = SMB
nekton - finfish bony fish - Oncorhynchus kisutch = trout salmon
nekton - finfish bony fish - Oncorhynchus mykiss = trout salmon
nekton - finfish bony fish - Oncorhynchus nerka = trout sal.
nekton - finfish bony fish - Oncorhynchus tshawytscha = trout sal/.
zoobenthos - benth. crust. other benth. crustaceans - Orconectes = crayfish
nekton - finfish bony fish - Perca flavescens = yellow perch
nekton - finfish n.a./other finfish - unidentified
zoobenthos - benth. crust. lobsters - unidentified
zoobenthos - benth. crust. shrimps/prawns - unidentified
zoobenthos - insects insects - unidentified

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/12/13 09:14 PM. Reason: added common names















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GSH in my fishery survive predator heavy conditions - HSB to 26", SMB to 18", YP to 13", and HBC to 15". Adult GSH are too large for anything but the largest HSB to prey upon, so they continue to exist and reproduce annually. Important to note - Shrimp, Crays, BG, RES, YP and daily pellet feedings help take some pressure off the GSH.

If I were to do it all over again, I'd go HBG, RES, Shrimp, Crays, a few minnow species better equipped to escape predation [topminnow, bluntnose, etc.] and perhaps a smaller shiner, like the spotfin per Bill.

Bill's note: I dont have a lot of experience with spotfins with SMB. Spotfins work well so far with YP. SMB may be too aggressive of a predator for spotfins and GSH may be the better soft rayed forage with SMB. Survival of spotfins with SMB may depend a lot on amount of cover/refuge areas.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/12/13 09:20 PM.

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TJ:

What type of cover is in the pond for the forage fish to hide in, and what % of the surface acreage is it?

I think that has a lot to do whether the forage fish base stays or gets over "grazed".


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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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Water clarity also probably plays a big role in GSH survival with SMB-HSB


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My clarity averages 60-80" November-March, 36-48" rest of the year except during blooms, which are fairly infrequent and relatively light. All irrigation comes from virgin prairie watershed [no siltation] or via well, so that helps.

Submersed vegetation used to cover 30% of the pond - american, horned, sago pondweed - plus emergent arrowhead which is pretty cool, came out of nowhere. I spray all cattails to eliminate preferred skrat forage. My 5 GC are becoming more adept at grazing, and vegetation has been reduced to 15-20%. Still no filamentous algae, however - despite the reduction in vegetation, hoping my luck holds out. GSH populations are still strong, but I rarely cast net or cage trap many juvenile YOY or age 1 GSH - I think they are hammered pretty hard, but adults are going strong. Hope a few are making it every year. If not, bait place 10 miles away always has GSH in their tanks and I can usually get 100 adults for $25.

Would like to add that I think GSH are partly responsible for my YP feeding reduction as they swarm and intimidate the YP in my opinion, and my YP size and population has decreased in the past two years as a result. I am going on year two of supplemental YP stocking - buy 2-3" Spring fish, cage and grow to 6-8" and release in Fall. I hope this will help boost my YP population.


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Large GSH are maybe eating the YP fry?? It might be interesting to catch and check stomach contents of a few big GSH after the YP egg strands hatch.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/13/13 07:40 PM.

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Bill it's not recruitment I'm worried about, it's my 12-12.5" fish caught in 2010 [age 3 fish] that disappeared I'm worried about. I thought I'd be into 13-14" YP by now. I don't have poachers, but my catch rates began to plummet and also noticed no YP feeding just about the time the GSH population began asserting itself. It's really a mystery.


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Originally Posted By: teehjaeh57
Bill it's not recruitment I'm worried about, it's my 12-12.5" fish caught in 2010 [age 3 fish] that disappeared I'm worried about. I thought I'd be into 13-14" YP by now. I don't have poachers, but my catch rates began to plummet and also noticed no YP feeding just about the time the GSH population began asserting itself. It's really a mystery.


I bet those larger YP are still there, they are just very hard to catch with an abundance of GSH YOY forage available.




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