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Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
#502694 03/05/19 02:31 PM
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I've been reading/researching a lot (mostly here on the PB forums) over the past couple months to educate myself on fisheries biology, and I'm continually impressed and thankful for all the help and top-notch expertise that's shared freely in this community.

There seem to be some tried and true stocking formulas on this site, and I could be content with trusting and following along, but only after I question some things (I enjoy overthinking things). Also, my situation as far as the food chain is a bit different than others', since I'm from PA where everything's illegal (I'm still not quite convinced that if a fish warden saw me catch a bass from my own pond and release it back into the same BOW, that I wouldn't be convicted of an illegal introduction and have my wages garnished for the next 25 years... I am kidding, but you get the idea.).

I'd summarize that most peoples' goal for their fishery is to maximize the target biomass in their BOW. That biomass may be allocated towards a few individual trophy fish, a large number of smaller fish, and allocated among any number of target species, but in general we want as much biomass as we can confidently/stably maintain.

(BRIEF MATH LECTURE - SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T CARE)
I'm a mathematician, so the nerd in me pictures this like a typical operations research maximization problem, where you have an n-dimensional graph with lots of limiting factors (e.g., DO, zooplankton), and we're testing all the limits to see how far out from 0 we can push the biomass before hitting some limiting factor. If we're running into a limit in the amount of biomass in our ponds, we can usually manage the pond in a way that moves this limit out so the biomass can increase a bit more. For example, without aeration, DO is probably a big limiting factor for a lot of ponds, so if the owner puts in a properly sized aeration system, the limit line representing DO moves out, allowing more biomass than before, and the pond's biomass probably will bump up into a different limiting factor as it expands.

That long-winded sideshow to get to my main motivation for writing this: My family has a 0.5ac, 20 year-old fishery that has become very unbalanced/boring, and we'd like to begin a big revamp this year. We currently have LMB, BG, PS, GC, and have stocked a bit of everything else over the years that we haven't seen recently (so not sure if any have survived), like YP, BCP, a few SMB and RBT. We'd like to start over and make it a SMB and YP pond. I have a few thoughts/questions as I'm planning the food chain.

Thought #1: It seems to me that several discussions on forage and the food chain suggest stocking various species that all have a very similar diet, and thus don't truly move much more biomass up the food chain. For example, stocking 15 species of minnow/shiner that all just eat zooplankton and insects doesn't give you 15X the forage as stocking only 1 or 2 of those species (I get that there could be other differences and other benefits). You only have X lbs of zooplankton in your system which can be converted into little fish biomass, so adding more species doesn't seem to me like it would increase conversion of zooplankton into forage lbs, if you're already up against that zooplankton limit with only 1 or 2 species.

Thought #2 (1.5 really): I think the main base-level inputs to the food chain are nutrients and sun, right? So on leg 1 of the chain, nutrients and sun are converted into phytoplankton, which is converted into zooplankton, which is converted into your typical forage fish like GSH (ignoring FHM since they're more of a short-term forage) and YOY game fish. Thus, leg 1 is pretty well converted and moved up the chain to be available for your game fish. But then, what about leg 2 of the chain, where nutrients and sun are converted into algae and macrophytes? This leads me to my next question...

Question #1: How can I move algae and macrophytes up the food chain in PA, considering this beautiful state's laws and other considerations:
1. Tilapia - Illegal.
2. Crayfish - Illegal. Yes, seriously, even native species are illegal to stock, even between BOWs on your own property.
3. PK shrimp - Lovely, but nearly impossible to source.
4. LCS - Lovely, but nearly impossible to source, or crazy expensive (only source I've found: Sachs Systems Aquaculture)
5. Scuds - Are they likely to maintain a population under predation, without heavy weed cover (which in a SMB pond, I'd try to keep the weeds light-moderate)?
I really, really would like to find a (legal) way to move this algae/macrophyte leg of the chain up into fish biomass, so any thoughts at all would be stellar.

Thought/Question #7/C/whatever: If one's goal is maximizing pounds of SMB (or other apex predator), does it really make sense to stock such heavy numbers of YP relative to SMB (e.g., I've seen 5YP:1SMB or 10YP:1SMB)? I'd like to hear from more experienced/educated members, but my thought is that GSH and YP have a decent bit of overlap on diet, and plus they predate each other (GSH adults on YP fry, YP on GSH fry and juveniles), and given the assumed 10 lbs of forage to gain 1 lb of predator, this seems like just a big waste of food chain potential given the 10:1 loss of biomass at each level of predation. You have 10 lbs of zooplankton converted into 1 lb of GSH, which is converted into 0.1 lb of YP (assuming the YP are mostly going to predate the GSH given their high density relative to SMB and piscivorous nature), which is converted into 0.01 lb of SMB. I.e., only 1/100th lb of apex predator per 10 lbs of zooplankton. Why not cut way back on YP numbers to allow a shorter food chain (also to allow YP to get bigger due to less overcrowding, which is really the point of YP as forage, no? Have a bigger forage fish available for your bigger trophy bass?), so more of the small-medium SMB can prey directly on GSH, thus converting 10 lbs of zooplankton into 1/10th lb of SMB (10X better conversion than with the added YP link in the food chain). In a SMB pond, I've seen that fertilization is strongly recommended against, so I need to make the most out of the limited amount of zooplankton available. Or, in your experience/opinion, is zooplankton typically not a limiting factor at all? As in, with loads of GSH and YP stocked and reproducing SMB, you don't think the fish can even consume all the plentiful zooplankton available?

I'd greatly appreciate any thoughts, corrections, or tutelage.

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502696 03/05/19 03:57 PM
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First off, I tend to overthink things a s well and can appreciate your mathematical approach. Secondly, my experience level with pond management is very limited and I have no experience with YP, SMB, etc. (the northern types of fish). And lastly, in short, if I understand your thoughts...it seems like you are driving towards a same sex population within the species for your pond. Without that, the mathematical approach goes haywire with "what-ifs".

Assuming that the planktons can all be consumed by a forage base or a predictable forage population can be calculated, then the following larger participants in the food chain need a control. Meaning population control in particular and same sex populations would seem to fit the bill. Throw recruitment into the equations and it could go too many directions for adequate confidence in the actual outcome.

As far as moving algae up the food chain...I would suggest keeping it to a minimum, but look forward to a lesson from the experts.

Just my take, I'll be interested in following your thread!


Fish on!,
Noel
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Quarter Acre #502699 03/05/19 05:12 PM
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Thanks QA for enduring that short book and providing your input.

Do I understand this correctly? You're thinking that without good numbers of YP (a small-medium sized predator) in the mix, that the top-end predator would quickly overpopulate? I.e., the YP don't function just as forage, but also as a control on YOY SMB (the apex predator)?

I guess I should add a few more details of what I'm planning so far. I'm hoping/wishing for a reproducing population of SMB. I think having YP to eat and for some diversity would be nice. My only concerns with this would be what limiting factors we'll run into. I don't think that the pond will support a super high biomass, because in the short-term, my family doesn't have the appetite to install aeration (pond's about 700ft from power, so they balked at the cost whenever I put together estimates for a system), and I'm not counting on being able to feed. So, my last thought/question was mainly just exploring whether it might make sense to cut back on YP, since I'm concerned that going heavy on them might tie up a lot of our limited biomass potential (no aeration) and put us at more of a risk of a fish kill or predators decimating the forage base. Also note that we're planning to initially stock the SMB in quite low numbers, like 12ish at about 6-8" (so about 24/acre).

Maybe I should be more concerned about predator management, but at the moment I'm thinking we shouldn't have much problem containing the SMB population given that it's only a 0.5ac pond, and we have some quite good anglers in the family who would be thrilled if we made it our mission to harvest 50 slot-sized SMB a year. With our low initial stocking of SMB, I'm thinking that should be a slow enough start that we'd have plenty of time to see any big predator overpopulation issues brewing before they got too bad. I mean, IIRC we probably stocked LMB to BG at a horrid 1:2 ratio or worse 18-20 years ago, we practiced pure catch and release, and had no predator to control LMB, and it took probably 8-10 years to become mediocre with LMB overcrowding. I've also contemplated adding a few (like 8-10) adult PS a few years down the road as a crisis remediation plan if the SMB start to overpopulate and decimate the forage base, since Dr. Willis seemed to have some success with that combo (though it's debatable how much the PS really controlled the SMB in that experiment, because they also harvested SMB heavily), and because IME PS are much less prolific than BG (all ponds around here have them and BG, but I've never seen a pond with them even decently populated, or more than a 1:5 ratio of PS to BG; their population always just seems to barely limp along just shy of extirpation in the typical LMB ponds around here).

It very well may be true that heavy stockings of YP help control YOY SMB. In that case, would a large population of medium-large GSH also eat enough SMB eggs and fry to control YOY in the absence of YP?

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502703 03/05/19 06:51 PM
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Drew, you mention limiting the species due to conversion rates but let me add this.. The conversion and growth is only at it's optimum if the correct size of forage in the correct number is available at ALL times. That may require 15 different forage types to maximize the potential. you want no gaps (too small-too large) for the predators to get maximum return.
The YP and SMB to some extent in the cycle will eat the fry of the other.
Any route you choose will require some harvesting to maintain a quality fishery regardless of species, but I can tell you've put a lot of thought into this, and I'm sure it will be good to hear from those with many years of having this combination.


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Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Snipe #502705 03/05/19 08:02 PM
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Thanks Snipe. Great point about optimal foraging (needing the right size forage at the right time). I suppose in theory GSH can get over 10", but I don't know enough about them to be confident that I could maintain enough larger ones to optimally feed the largest SMB. I wouldn't really want the forage base to be based on just one species, so this little quest is mainly just to wisely choose another pillar in the forage base so that ideally my forage pillars wouldn't be competing directly head-to-head for a limited food resource, rather that each one would have enough of a distinct diet to bring some different/new biomass into the food chain.

Your comment about the YP and SMB preying on each other's fry just made it dawn on me that maybe one reason to have YP in the mix is due to spawn timing. I believe that usually YP will spawn quite early, then SMB a bit later, and probably most of the minnows and shiners a month or so after the SMB; so, is part of the benefit of having YP that they'll produce fry early so that SMB fry/fingerlings have something to eat while they wait for the GSH or other forage species to spawn and produce fry?

I've definitely put lots of thought into this, though that doesn't necessarily mean my millions of thoughts are even remotely meaningful haha. Time will tell...

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502707 03/05/19 08:42 PM
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I'm liking your thinking here.. Maybe Bill or TJ will pop in and add some first-hand knowledge on this combo. I've started with the same but not a year into it yet!


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Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502708 03/05/19 09:41 PM
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Firstly. How are you going to renovate "revamp" the 20 yr old fishery? I appreciate your mathematical background. Biological organisms IMO are not very close to, nor behave as do numbers and math. I am sure you probably realize this. But as a basis, fish and the entire biology of a pond are variable, adaptable, opportunists, unpredictable, and often reproduce to cause crowding; all unlike math. Thus we have to take this into consideration. We can apply some theoretical numbers to a living, viable fishery but often it does not respond as we would like or calculate.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 03/05/19 09:43 PM.

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Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Bill Cody #502711 03/05/19 10:39 PM
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Bill,

My idea for the revamp is to drain the pond and nuke the remaining puddle with hydrated lime, add plenty of rock/gravel/rip-rap, marginal plants, and other habitat as it fills back up, and then begin stocking from scratch (probably would be forage this year, then YP this fall or next spring, and SMB next fall). The pond's built into a fairly steep slope, so with that much fall I've also been considering making a siphon to try to pump out a bit of the silt as the pond is draining.

My training was focused more in statistics and probability, which acknowledges the unpredictability of the real world. I realize there isn't an equation that we can just plug some numbers into and get some answers, especially given that the ecosystems we're playing with having trillions of variables; so I'm not trying to actually calculate anything, rather I'm just trying to understand the broader strokes of the system we're working with in pond management. I used numbers in my conversion examples just to illustrate the concept I was trying to explain.

I know I can turn a 1-minute story into a 1-hour confusing ramble session, so I hope you all pardon me for that. My main reasons for starting this thread were to determine:
1. Most forage fish species are predators/carnivorous, so are there any reasonably available forage species options besides crayfish (because they're illegal in my state) to broaden the food web to include more plant-matter, detritus, etc.?
(1.5. Are scuds likely to maintain a population with only light weed cover and with lots of predators around (like YP, GSH, juvenile SMB)?)
2. In the typical SMB/YP/GSH/FHM pond, does it really make sense to stock such huge numbers of a smaller predator like YP if SMB are your primary goal? Wouldn't the high numbers of YP put extremely heavy pressure on the minnow/shiner forage base, while not really being much larger than a GSH, so not really doing much to increase the size of forage available to larger SMB? Wouldn't this extra link in the food chain just decrease the amount of biomass at the base of the food chain that's one day converted into SMB biomass? Or, do high numbers of YP bring so many other benefits that outweigh their impact on the forage base?

I should note that I'd love to have PK shrimp or LCS as a part of the forage base, so please let me know if you know of any potential source.

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502716 03/06/19 12:54 AM
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Drew, here's a contact for PK info and source.. send him a PM..
teehjaeh57- a very helpful gent here on the forum!

Last edited by Snipe; 03/06/19 12:55 AM.

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Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502717 03/06/19 04:57 AM
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Bill just about said it all. Lots of tried and true concepts sometimes get variable results. I liken it to using common sense to raise daughters.


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502719 03/06/19 06:39 AM
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Just a thought...you mentioned that you could not between two bodies of water even if it was on your own property...what if it was the same body of water separated by something that lets water thru but not fish of a certain size. Maybe a mesh or screen or a water ladder system. I don't know just talking out loud

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502725 03/06/19 08:32 AM
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When your hands are tied due to regulations I am not sure you can get to your goals. I would most likely be an outlaw with some of the regulations mentioned. smile My pond experience, I have learned its hard enough to get there because of Mother Nature's input and when you have to also deal with government people who lack knowledge and don't want to change it's laws when it comes to things like having Tilapia in cold water environment, it would make it hard to accomplish ones dream pond I would think. You can money whip it and maybe just maybe meet your goals. In Texas we have a lot of freedom. God Bless Texas! Hay! My mother once told me I don't like authority. PA is a beautiful place to visit but with your kidding comments I am not sure I would be welcomed there. Wishing u the best with your pond goals. People here like Bill C. and Bob Lusk along with a few others here can most likely help you get there.


Do not judge me by the politicians in my City, State or Federal Government.


Tracy
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502727 03/06/19 08:38 AM
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Thanks Snipe, will do.

Ladies and gents, I can delete any reference to the word "math" if need be, because it somehow has become a huge distraction. I have yet to actually do any math, or even try to calculate anything. Just the mere mention of the word "math" seems to make people anxious and lose their minds. I only used the oft-cited '10 lbs of forage to produce 1 lb of predator' in an example, a principle from biology that is thrown around here on a daily basis. I know that isn't exact, and I don't give a care in the world if the ratio is exactly 10:1 on loss of biomass at each trophic level, or 8:1, 4.89:1, or 5397:1. I'm not at all trying to actually calculate or predict biomass.

I was simply trying to illustrate with an example that having a shorter food chain could possibly, maybe result in a higher standing crop of apex predator per acre, so why purposely lengthen the food chain by adding tons of intermediate/small predators? I just want to get people's thoughts on that idea. Could someone please address this, instead of the fact that I once studied math/statistics in college?

(As a side note, I specialized in statistics/probability, so I'm in tune with the random nature of the real world. My early career was based on cleaning up after the 2008 financial crisis, which was largely caused by faulty calculations/models, and then I worked in explaining why financial models created by some literal rocket scientists couldn't accurately predict the real world observed numbers, so I don't think it'd be arrogant to say I'm more aware than anybody you'll meet of the limits of the calculations of even a horde of geniuses.

But, I'd also maintain that these predictions/estimates, when made even decently well, are much better than a world without any estimates. At least they give us an idea of which direction things are likely to move (increase vs. decrease) when we take a certain action, so we can take better actions that are more likely to have a good outcome. No sense in wasting a ton of time and money just throwing random stuff into the pond when we do have some general ideas of how some things usually affect others. Using the example of this thread, I'm not trying to predict SMB biomass. I'm merely saying, "Do we think the number of a smaller/intermediate predator stocked (like YP) affects the standing crop of apex predator (like SMB) that a pond can produce?".)

Last edited by Drew Snyder; 03/06/19 09:41 AM.
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
TGW1 #502729 03/06/19 08:55 AM
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Thanks Tracy and Mfitz. There's the tiny off chance that if I made some great habitat (tons of rock and vegetation), some crayfish from the creek about 0.5 mile downstream would eventually find the pond on their own, and that would be legal... But obviously I can't base my pond's forage base on that little hope.

This is the only case where I've found PA's regulations to "restrict my freedom" or really bother me, so I shouldn't complain, and Tracy I'm sure you'd be welcome here, unless your idea of fun is setting off bottle rockets in the middle of a crowded Walmart. The crayfish restriction is because they're terrified of invasive species like Rusties which have already started to overpower some native species, so I get the reasoning for making the law, it was just a stroke of brilliance on the politicians' part to outlaw all species, including the native species they want to preserve... So, they won't even let us help fight the problem by stocking natives from an approved hatchery (whose species ID has been confirmed by DNR)...

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502730 03/06/19 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted By: Drew Snyder
Do I understand this correctly? You're thinking that without good numbers of YP (a small-medium sized predator) in the mix, that the top-end predator would quickly overpopulate? I.e., the YP don't function just as forage, but also as a control on YOY SMB (the apex predator)?


That's not were I was headed. I was simplifying the whole equation by removing a ton of variables. Staring with reproduction of the game fish which seems to contain the bulk of unpredictable variables. Without reproduction, it's kinda like having a field of heifers (no bulls). So long as you can grow enough grass/corn (forage critters) you can more easily predict their weight gain and adjust the population according as they mature in size and intake requirements. Not that this becomes a simple endeavor, but much more "thinkable". This may not be a part of your ultimate goal, but it does simplify the theory.

A basic example (with some holes I'm sure)...

Stock minnows, scuds, and PK shrimp at first along with the appropriate habitat and spawning structures. Give them time to seed the pond.

Then, add the YP, but all the same sex. Add the SMB (same sex) at the same time or thereafter so that the YP can get out ahead of being SMB food. Ultimately, you could just add one species of game fish or many so longs as they could not inner breed.

Now, all you have to do is equate the "put and take" of the game fish to balance the natural forage production.

Some holes that I can think of...

1.) Sourcing larger game fish for future ladder stocking that will not be snacks for the established grown populations or predicting the fingerling stocking numbers that allow for some predation (is that a word?), but ensure the proper survival rates.

2.) Guaranteeing same sex species.

3.) Adjusting game fish populations as the biomass increases due to individual fish size so that the forage base does not overpopulate or diminish into extinction.

I believe you could apply more successful mathematical theory to this scenario, but it may not fit into your available ambition if you are looking at a more "hands off" BOW. You would at least be less insane! LOL

EDIT: I hope that I am not overemphasizing the "math" portion as you have mentioned. I was hoping to get some math lessons out of this thread, all the while, realizing the impossible correct outcome by nature. Just the same, I hope that the point I am trying to make shows how the complexity of a managed BOW can be greatly simplified by removing the reproduction factor from the "equation". Not that it makes it simple.

OH, it was not your mention of the word "math" that made me lose my mind...that happened years ago.

Last edited by Quarter Acre; 03/06/19 09:25 AM.

Fish on!,
Noel
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Quarter Acre #502731 03/06/19 09:32 AM
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Thanks Noel. I think I'm with you now; taking predator reproduction out of the picture so you have much more control over the whole system. That's basically what you're doing in your pond with HSB as the main predator, right?

I agree that accurately sexing every single predator is tough, and I wouldn't trust myself to do that correctly, so I think if we decide to go the route of a non-reproducing predator, I'd rather go with HSB, or something that's just unlikely to reproduce in my pond like WE.

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502733 03/06/19 09:48 AM
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You are correct, the HSB are my main predator, but my HBG will reproduce to some degree. My hopes are that the HSB will keep the HBG in check along with some HBG culling. I will be using a feeder to balance my food chain as the FHM and Crawdads will not likely keep up their end of the deal long term. I have not figured out what to do exactly as the HSB age and pass, but I should consider ladder stocking some larger-than-fingerling HSB this year and years to come.


Fish on!,
Noel
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Quarter Acre #502740 03/06/19 11:36 AM
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I'm sure this comparison will offend some people, so sorry in advance, but:

Don't YP play a similar role in a SMB pond as GSF do in a LMB pond?

Both are a smaller predator with a medium gape that can reproduce quickly, so in large numbers, they would put a lot of pressure on the forage base and YOY. They sit in the middle of the food chain, so the apex predator will eat them, but wouldn't it have resulted in a higher carrying capacity (higher numbers, not necessarily higher top-end sizes) to cut out the GSF or YP and allow the forage base (something like GSH or LCS that grows to a respectable size, actually a similar size as your intermediate predator) to recruit better to larger adult size, and let the apex predator prey directly on the forage base, so you don't lose all that biomass potential by adding another trophic level in the middle?

I have limited experience with all this, so feel free to contradict anything I've said. That's why I'm throwing these wild thoughts out there. I want to see if I'm nuts, or may be onto something.

I don't think many of you have to worry about this as much given that you aerate and feed, so basically you've pushed your total biomass/carrying capacity out to a much higher limit and have some room to play with for adding some bonus predators, but I don't believe we'll be aerating or feeding at my pond, so I think I have to be more careful/selective than the typical pondmeister who aerates and feeds.

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502743 03/06/19 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted By: Drew Snyder
Don't YP play a similar role in a SMB pond as GSF do in a LMB pond?

Both are a smaller predator with a medium gape that can reproduce quickly, so in large numbers, they would put a lot of pressure on the forage base and YOY..........so you don't lose all that biomass potential by adding another trophic level in the middle?


If I were trying to grow larger SMB (not huge, but larger) in a small BOW, I would consider stocking a variety of reproducing forage fish (or otherwise) with a range in adult sizes and forego the YP because of what you mentioned regarding the conservation of biomass. I believe, not know, but believe that the SMB (or LMB, HSB, etc.) would grow nicely on relatively small forage fishes so long as there was an abundance. Some of my reading here on PB states that the larger the predator, the larger the forage needs to be to grow out to be trophies. This could limit the BOW to merely a big fish producer, but not a trophy fish producer.

Now, if I wanted diversity and potentially larger SMB. Adding the YP would take some room in the pond from the SMB overall biomass, but add to the diversity and allow for some larger meals for the SMB that had trophy potential.

SIDE NOTE: I didn't think feeding and aeration were that appealing when I first started my quest, but at two years in, I have both and am glad I do.


Fish on!,
Noel
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Quarter Acre #502744 03/06/19 01:05 PM
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Noel, that's exactly what I've been thinking... Without YP, I doubt if we would ever grow any really large SMB, say 5-6 lb, but I think the BOW could hold more overall pounds of SMB. IMO, I suspect that could look like a fairly large number of 2-3 lb fish, and maybe the occasional 4lber, but they'd probably hit a wall at that size due to size of forage available. In this scenario, I also suspect that we'd have too good of SMB recruitment, so we'd probably have to harvest small SMB heavily.

This is all theoretical, but it's interesting to me to think out how different stocking numbers might play out, to hopefully avoid a situation where my predators absolutely decimate the forage base quickly, or where we can only support 5 adult SMB because I have so many intermediate predators, or just a big fish kill a couple years in. Just for the record, I am considering still stocking some YP, but maybe in lower numbers than what you usually see on these forums.

I've been only mentioning GSH as forage so far just to keep the thought experiment simpler/cleaner, but the other part of my original reason for the thread was looking for another longer-term forage species, so I definitely agree on the "variety of reproducing forage fish" point. That's an important point, because even if I only stock an apex predator, they could wipe out the forage if it's based on only one species.

I'm sold on the value of aeration and feeding, but this is my parents' property, so I'm coordinating this project with them and my brother. I'm also trying to start my own business so my purse strings are extra tight these days, otherwise I'd just money whip it and cover the aeration expense myself. Aeration could come back into play in a few years, if they see we're having some success with the pond and if the money situation loosens up a bit.

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502747 03/06/19 02:15 PM
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do it yourself aeration is cheap.

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502765 03/07/19 07:01 AM
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Drew, there are a lot of variables in this stuff. For example, you mentioned 10 pounds of forage for a predator to gain one pound. But, it has to be properly sized forage. A five pound bass will actually languish and lose overall body condition if the only forage is minnows. It's a matter of calories obtained vs energy expended. Likewise, if it feeds on bluegills that are in poor condition(skinny) it doesn't get proper groceries. That's one of the reasons that we use commercial feed.

Aeration helps but is only one of the variables.

The biggest and most important variable seems to the ponds environment. This involves water quality, alkalinity and PH, which can be mostly influenced by location regarding various soils. For example, East Texas ponds often need to be limed and fertilized. West Texas seldom needs doctoring.

I like the idea of aeration but no way I can get power to my water holes. Heck, one of them is 3/4 mile from power.

The most important variable is a PROPER mix of predator and prey of the right sizes. That's what we call a balanced pond and it takes a lot of work and often cash infusions. It generally lasts about 15 minutes in the life of a pond.

BTW, if you ever figure out all of this stuff, let me know. I've been doing it a long time and still Mama Nature tosses a mean curve ball that I wasn't expecting.


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
canyoncreek #502782 03/07/19 12:52 PM
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I have an idea for a budget DIY system, so I'll try to put that together as a new thread over on the aeration section...

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Dave Davidson1 #502784 03/07/19 01:18 PM
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Thanks Dave. It sounds like we may have similar soil types between East Texas and at least my part of PA. Our akalinity and pH are quite low (here I believe it's because most of the area is covered by deciduous forests dropping tons of leaves (especially oak)), and fertility isn't that hot, so we're at least hoping to help with the pH/alkalinity issues by putting a lot of limestone both in the pond as structure and in the inlet stream.

I've seen firsthand the results of a poor predator/prey mix from the start, which I guess is why I'm laboring over these ideas so much. I obviously know much more about how to maintain the balance in a pond through harvesting nowadays since I've found PB as a resource, but my main worry is getting it unbalanced from the start and putting us against a headwind as far as managing it in the coming years. With my career/business stuff up in the air, I'm not 100% confident that I'll always be around to actively manage it, and though my brother and Dad will be around, with Dad hopefully retiring sometime soon, it'd be nice to set him up with an enjoyable fishery that's reasonably balanced instead of one that's way out of whack and a chore to manage. I think I've read enough cases about correcting an unbalanced pond to know that most situations would be salvageable, so I'm not that worried, but why not take a big swing at having a stellar fishery?

That's why I'm concerned more about broadening the forage base with several species with as diverse diets/habitats/etc. possible to get it as strong and stable as possible, and also questioning some common ideas about predator stocking because I'm leaning towards keeping predator pressure as light as reasonably makes sense at the start. It'll be much easier to add more predators later on if I stocked too predator-light than it'll be to establish a forage base later on if I stocked too predator-heavy.

Re: Musings on Optimizing the Food Chain
Drew Snyder #502787 03/07/19 01:59 PM
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Drew, First, the super light predator numbers will allow faster growth and decrease the time they spend on one forage species, requiring a larger forage-quicker, and on up the ladder.
Not to over simplify but the fishery is out of balance as soon as you stock it. It's how it fills in the gaps and how you correct for overages in one area and being short in another that brings it closer to a balance as time goes on.
To maintain balance is going to require input in some area at all times, that's what makes this all work.


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