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#462763 01/27/17 10:58 AM
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Guys I need to guidance on how to quickly restore the population of bluegills in my 1.25 acre, southeastern Iowa pond. My end goal for the pond is to have a sustainable group of excellent 9+ inch male bluegill, some catchable 15-20" bass and the occasional decent crappie.

Details on the pond can be seen here:
http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=462759#Post462759

I currently have a very aggressive and healthy population of severely stunted 4-5" bluegills, 4-6" crappies and 8-10" yellow bullheads.

We plan to seine the pond in the spring to remove the bullhead and get a better overall idea of the numbers of fish.

I have access to a couple other private ponds and can bucket stock 15-18" bass, and some mature bluegills in the spring.

My question is, what would be the proper number of bass to stock in this pond to help create my goal bluegill population? How many mature bluegills should I add this spring? Should I add some mature crappie or just let my existing group of stunted crappie grow to size? Should I consider any other species of fish to balance out my pond?

This pond hasn't been stocked since the 1970's and hasn't been "managed" since around the same time.



Last edited by Matzilla; 01/27/17 11:00 AM.

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In my long term experience doing stuff like this it will take years to accomplish your goal as you have it planned - probably 6-8yrs. Then you will still have a substandard fishery due to what the basis of the fish you are starting with. The current issue of PBoss mag has a very good article why not to use bucket stocked LMbass if bass are really important for your fish goal. PBoss Jan-Feb 2017 "Will Stunted Bass Grow", pg 30-32. A quote from the article: " Its not the fish that get you where you want to go. It's how you plan & implement your strategy that will hit the target". Also "If the goal is to grow huge BG, it's more appropriate to stock the pond properly in the beginning." In a hurry mix sizes of forage fish and feed them; both will quickly speed the process.

Quickest way to achieve your goal is to 'bite the bullet' drain it down, renovate and restock. It will cost some money, but what is your time and a successful fishery worth to you?? In three years you can have your goal of 9" BG, 16" bass, some 16"-18" HSB, and crappie (either BCP or hybrids at 9"-12"long). Pond management is all about choices and its now your choice to make.


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Here is the place I started to grasp the idea of a small ponds and managing bluegill....

http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=189988

It sounds like you have a couple of extreme options (or something somewhere in between - that's my disclaimer)

Kill the pond and start from scratch.

OR

Start seining and removing the bullheads and any larger bass (anything over 14") Larger bass eat larger BG and keep the BG from getting big. If you have no bass, stock LMB that are big enough to not be eaten by the fish you do have. Too many BG breed way too many more bluegill and fill the pond with biomass cutting into the available food sources, stunting all the fish. So, you may need to remove a lot of smaller BG too. Removing the bullheads will also help reduce the biomass leaving more food for the more desired BG.

Here is another great read on the BG subject...

http://bigbluegill.com/forum/topics/why-everything-you-know-about-bluegill-management-is-wrong

Last edited by Quarter Acre; 01/27/17 11:25 AM.

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Matzilla, unfortunately, there is no chance of removing all the bullheads by seining.

I would strongly suggest a draining, sterilization with Hydrated lime, and restocking. It would not be difficult to lower the pond as low as possible and selectively save several fish to restart with, but needs to be well planned for sizes and numbers kept.

I recently drained, sterilized, removed/rehomed dozens of large Koi and restored a church pond in Tulsa for under $2K. Seining a fishing pond is usually extremely difficult, if not impossible due to the usual structure present, not to mention a foot to feet of sludge, muck, and soft clay in the lowest parts of the basin.



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All the effort to EFFECTIVELY remove the required fish and then round-up the ADEQUATE fish for supplimental stocking will take time. You will find as I did numerous years ago, that selectively removing specific individuals is a real challenge if not just about impossible with them spawning and with a full pond that has half-way decent habitat. Existing pond fish are notorious at avoiding capture. I doubt you can do it adequately to achieve your full goals in 2-3 yrs. Then you need to restock and wait for your fish to re-balance and grow to meet your goals.

Keep good records on paper and with pictures, so if you succeed "your way" it will make a wonderful story for PondBoss magazine. LUSK will help you write it. All you need are the good harvest - restock records and the before, during, and after pictures.


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Bill, and others... wouldn't it matter what is in the upper pond that may drain into his?

So Matzilla, what is in the pond above you?

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thanks for the advice guys! Unfortunately at this time the association has not set aside any funds for the pond - they'r more interested in improving the trail and building a floating dock for fishing. I don't think draining the pond at this time will be viable as I'm basically on my own.

When the upper pond property was for sale a few years back the realtor told us it was stocked with bluegill, crappie, bass and catfish. that pond was built with a stand off drain and an emergency spillway, mine uses a siphon drain for what its worth.

So far this winter I've thinned the bluegills by 50+ by ice fishing and should be able to remove plenty more before ice out.

I'm more interested in having a quality bunch of bluegill over bass. I figured if I could get some decent bulls on beds and thin the stunted population it might be possible to increase the overall average bluegill size over time. There are two local strains of bluegills I can use to supplement the pond with; both are extremely aggressive feeding and fast growing. I also have no problem getting appropriately sized bass and HSB from local waters. Right now the only predators are GBH


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If draining is not an option, IMO it sounds like it would be easier at this point to make it a pond for nice LMB and HSB, at least for a few years. You report the BG and CP (Do you have black or white crappies?) are stunted so I suspect they will never go ahead and grow to large size. I will be surprised if you can remove enough angling and seining to really change that stunted dynamic. I would think the addition of 24/7 anglers like LMB and HSB will stand a better chance of reducing the stunted herd in a few years. Do you have budget to buy some good 8 to 10 inch LMB and HSB (Bigger stockers if you have the budget) for stocking? IMO Just bucket stocking a few will take a long time to get results and you will know nothing about your stocker genetics or health.

IMO adding more BG now will do more harm than good. BG stunt due to lack of food. I suspect if you try to stock new ones now they will suffer the same fate of stunting as you would be just providing more mouths to feed on an already over burdened forage base. IMO you need to get the pond population/balance back to a place the pond has the capacity to support. You need predators and I would remove every BG and crappie caught. The LMB will spawn and provide you with more anglers as time goes by. I would keep records of quantity and size of BG and crappie caught. Once you see a trend that the BG and crappie are getting bigger and you are catching less of them, consider it may be time to start harvesting some of your 14 inch and larger LMB.

Just my 1 cent

Bill D.

Last edited by Bill D.; 01/27/17 08:08 PM. Reason: After thought

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Originally Posted By: Rainman
Matzilla, unfortunately, there is no chance of removing all the bullheads by seining.

I would strongly suggest a draining, sterilization with Hydrated lime, and restocking. It would not be difficult to lower the pond as low as possible and selectively save several fish to restart with, but needs to be well planned for sizes and numbers kept.

I recently drained, sterilized, removed/rehomed dozens of large Koi and restored a church pond in Tulsa for under $2K. Seining a fishing pond is usually extremely difficult, if not impossible due to the usual structure present, not to mention a foot to feet of sludge, muck, and soft clay in the lowest parts of the basin.


What he said.

4 times in the last 2 years, I've seined, drained, reseined, and then completely drained my 1/4 acre pond to the muck, and every time there are dead fish from the hydrated lime. It takes only a small gap anywhere the net touched the bottom to allow fish to escape. Even a fallen limb on the bottom of the pond will create a gap that fish can escape by.


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Matzilla - Give your plan a shot and keep us informed as to your monthly progress reports. We might able to provide more advice based on your updated results. If you are truly interested in big BG, I would add LMB-HSB until they stunt and stop growing due to not having enough to eat. At that point the remaining BG-BCP should be showing gains in length and weight.

Since you have bullheads, you are sure you have BG and not green sunfish nor hybrid bluegills? Pictures? Just checking for verification.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/27/17 07:44 PM.

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Great info guys!!! I really appreciate all of the excellent ideas.

I'll definitely start keeping a log of what goes in, what comes out, and what gets caught..with pictures lengths, etc. I'll start tagging what goes in as well.

Here are some pictures

crappie


bluegill


bluegill


one of the 5 8" + males I dumped in last weekend


Summer, fall, and winter those are the average sizes for the bluegills and crappie

I'll be on the ice again tomorrow to fish and get some more pictures

Last edited by Matzilla; 01/27/17 08:43 PM.

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Good pics. The first one answers my question as to what kind of crappie you have. They are Blacks (BCP) and that one looks stunted to me as well with that big eye. If you stock the 15 to 18 inch LMB you were talking about, they will think you are their best friend for dropping them in with a bunch of those little guys! smile

FWIW The other pics look like BG to me.

Last edited by Bill D.; 01/27/17 09:18 PM. Reason: After thought

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As you add the larger bass watch the BG density and as their numbers decrease and growth of remaining BG increases toward the larger one pictured above. At that point many of the smaller BG should be low density and catch rates of the noticeably decreased. Then go in and harvest a good number of those larger bass to allow the remaining BG to resume growth. You want a few larger bass but too many will eat too many 4"-5" BG and not leave enough BG to produce a good crop of large BG. It is definitely a balancing act. Watch your catch rates and as things improve and the size structure shifts more larger BG will show up in your catch records. As that happens remove many of the large bass and start protecting mostly smaller bass 9"-13" who will be eating 2"-3" BG to keep the numbers of them thinned and remaining ones growing. It is rather difficult to have both big BG and good numbers of large bass because too many large bass will be cropping too many of the BG at 5"-7". You want those 5"-7" BG to grow into the 8"-9" category as the older ones die and are harvested. I think it is proven that 25%-36% of the biggest oldest BG (9"+) naturally die each year if they are not harvested.
Read through the Harvesting BG in the archives for more information about natural mortality of old BG.
http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=273316#Post273316

A web search of mortality of adult BG may provide more information.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/27/17 10:00 PM.

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Lots of us interested in your project Matzilla. Please keep us up to date on what you do and your progress.

You may already know this, but you can mark this thread by putting it on your "watch list". Then just make this your permanent thread to add all your progressive new information.

If you do not have it on your watch list and it goes for a week or two without adding anything it becomes very hard to "find" your old thread to add new things.

Under "my stuff" you can also find your old posts, but if you become very active on other threads this list can get long also. The watch list is the easiest for me to keep track of threads I am interested in, both my own threads and those of others.

Just a tip on making the forum easier to use.

Welcome to PBF.


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Originally Posted By: snrub
You may already know this, but you can mark this thread by putting it on your "watch list". Then just make this your permanent thread to add all your progressive new information.

If you do not have it on your watch list and it goes for a week or two without adding anything it becomes very hard to "find" your old thread to add new things.

Under "my stuff" you can also find your old posts, but if you become very active on other threads this list can get long also. The watch list is the easiest for me to keep track of threads I am interested in, both my own threads and those of others.

Just a tip on making the forum easier to use.

Welcome to PBF.


Good tip snrub. Lots can benefit from this, even veterans. I have often thought there should be some place to list/find all usefull tips on using the forum. Like yours, and ways to search info, and photos, etc. I see there is one for photo upload, but it has one thread!!!!!!!!!! Kind of a joke. There has been lots of posts on how to do photos. Perhaps expand that one some more to include other hep, or put it under PB guidelines? It don't really belong in the archives of pond questions, but some place for newbie to EASILY find help. Just rambling......sorry for getting away from the topic.

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Originally Posted By: Bill Cody
As you add the larger bass watch the BG density and as their numbers decrease and growth of remaining BG increases toward the larger one pictured above. At that point many of the smaller BG should be low density and catch rates of the noticeably decreased. Then go in and harvest a good number of those larger bass to allow the remaining BG to resume growth. You want a few larger bass but too many will eat too many 4"-5" BG and not leave enough BG to produce a good crop of large BG. It is definitely a balancing act. Watch your catch rates and as things improve and the size structure shifts more larger BG will show up in your catch records. As that happens remove many of the large bass and start protecting mostly smaller bass 9"-13" who will be eating 2"-3" BG to keep the numbers of them thinned and remaining ones growing. It is rather difficult to have both big BG and good numbers of large bass because too many large bass will be cropping too many of the BG at 5"-7". You want those 5"-7" BG to grow into the 8"-9" category as the older ones die and are harvested. I think it is proven that 25%-36% of the biggest oldest BG (9"+) naturally die each year if they are not harvested.
Read through the Harvesting BG in the archives for more information about natural mortality of old BG.
http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=273316#Post273316

A web search of mortality of adult BG may provide more information.


Great info Bill

So will his stunted BG, or their offspring, have the capability to produce "Big" BG in the future or does he need to stock new BG with good genetics once the current BG population is brought into line?


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I don't have lots of experience with adding growth to stunted BG. Keep in mind that a stunted fish is older but smaller. For it's age the lost growth will never be reclaimed compared it other same age well fed fish. A regrowing fish that was stunted will never reach the full potential size before it dies.

IF it were my pond, I would add some new BG genetics to stimulate the pond's BG gene pool. It is a tricky balance to not allow the BG to overpopulate and overeat the natural food base. It involves understanding carrying capacity and keeping the BG density low enough so all sizes of BG keep growing at their optimum. Feeding high quality fish pellets helps maintain good fast growth when BG density tends to get too abundant for the natural food production. Population management is very important for maintaining a high quality BG fishery.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/28/17 08:08 PM.

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What would you guys suggest for the initial stock of 9-13" LMB? I shouldn't have any issues finding plenty of bass in that size range but I need an idea of how many to add to the pond at ice out so they can start picking off these stunted fish. As an alternative to the LMB, how many and what size HSB would be beneficial?

I've added this thread to my watch list and will continue to post updates.


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There is no single correct answer on renovating populations. It depends on many factors. If it does not work you can start over. Given the situation I would try to add 25-30 lbs of LMB between 12 and 16 inches. Watch to see if they spawn !
















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Be extra careful to not crowd them into a hauling container. Just because a fish readily swims away does not mean it survives especially when it has been jaw jerked out of a pond and then held then transported. Often they will die of handling stress several days later and often not float. Based on your hauling capability, I would not haul more than a few at a each time. It is much better to have a few of them survive than have several die a latent death. Time, effort, and a quality bass was wasted.

Remember a bass typically eats a BG 1/3rd and less of its length. 1/3rd the length are normally the largest ones. Select bass that correspond to the length of your most common stunted BG. LMB 14" long are going to target 3"-4" actual measure forage BG. Do some collecting and measuring of your most common forage sizes then select your appropriate bass.

It is a big stressor for a bass to be jaw jerked, held, and transported to an entirely different habitat and overall water chemistry. Many never survive the transplant adjustment process despite not later floating. They are often bucket stocked later the owner says what happened to all those bass??? They grew up in one type of habitat and now have to adjust with added stressors to entirely new location.

Remember it is best to hold and haul the bass in some salt water to maintain a healthy slime coat which protects them from disease, fungus, and parasites. Every pond has its own unique accumulated inherent set of latent disease, fungal spores, and parasites. There are past posts here about good amounts of non-iodized salt concentrations for hauling fish. I found this that I often use.

Add salt (non-iodine) 0.67 oz per gallon of water.
http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=307088#Post307088

Adding Salt to reduce fish hauling stress
http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=207116



Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/30/17 07:17 PM.

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The salt is interesting and I will start using that method for sure! right now transporting isn't too bad with the colder water temperatures but I know once things warm up its much harder to keep fish lively. The ice is coming off most bodies of water in my area now so this will likely be the last week I can safely walk across the pond.


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If possible when you catch the LMB , assuming you can catch a lot of them , then to start select the best conditioned LMB to transport. Don't just keep and transport every skinny LMB you catch. Be selective if possible.
















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I will definitely be as choosy as possible when it comes to selecting some additions to the pond, not only in terms of bass but all fish.

My two oldest sons and I added a small cedar tree for cover in the 7-13' drop off yesterday and I took a few pictures of my inlet and outlet.


This is the outlet of the upper pond which feeds my pond

A good friend is a civil engineer specializing in green methods to reduce sedimentation and improve water quality. He has suggested adding a shallow settling basin at the inlet and line it with as much rock and gravel as possible to help control any erosion and siltation.



This is the standpipe along my dam - it took a while to find as it is nearly impossible to see from the ice



Here is the outlet from my dam


We added this cedar tree to provide some overwintering cover - the pond is completely void of any cover deeper than 5'



There were no signs of the large bluegill I bucket stocked being belly up, not to say they didn't sink and aren't sitting on bottom haha

If all goes well I will either be ice fishing the pond later this afternoon to remove stunted fish or bucket stocking some more large bluegill from other private ponds.


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The smaller BG will generally not use the cover that is deeper than 5ft. Shallow water is instinctively the refuge zone for small fish. Consider anchoring the cedar tree close to shore parallel or perpendicular; butt or tip end on bank for optimum performance for refuge, if fish refuge is your goal.


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Put the trees Bill suggested about 30 feet from the BG nesting area for fry to easily hide in.
















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