Good afternoon gentleman ( and ladies ),
I know that there may be a few TL:DR responses to this post, but I have several questions, all of which require a little bit of explanation. For those who are interested, I'd really appreciate any help or advice that you can offer. I've been reading the forum for several weeks now, and thoroughly enjoy the knowledge it provides, but this is my first post.
For some background, I live in south Louisiana, about 20 miles outside of Baton Rouge. My pond is about 1/3 acre, and was originally dug in October 2016. It's kind of shaped like a figure 8, with a shallower area that runs across the pond in the middle, and is about 4'-6' feet deep on the far side, and it was originally 14'-16' deep on the large side. Unfortunately, i think it has become much more shallow, but it may not be as bad as I believe. Last summer, the water dropped pretty drastically, but this summer, it has remained full. I may try to confirm the depth in a couple of areas soon.
So, I had not stocked the pond until about 2 months ago, but in March and April of this year, I did notice several bream beds of about 50-75 bream each, ranging in size from 2" to 4". There was also a pretty sound breeding population of minnows and possibly a few shad in the pond before I stocked.
In early May, I stocked:
(60) 3"-5" LMB
(75) ~3" Coppernose BG
(50) ~ 2"-3"HBG
(35) ~ 4"-5" Channel catfish
3 lbs of Fathead minnows
The pond originally did not have any aquatic vegetation, but now there are several patches of narrow leaf pond weed in a few areas. Its not problematic yet, and even though it is giving the fish some shade and structure, I think it is something that I will have to address at some point.
I am currently feeding the TSC mixed floating/sinking feed, and it seems like it is having great results for the bream and catfish. They seem to be growing rapidly. I was fishing yesterday just to mess around, and caught several hybrid bream of some sort that would nearly be keepers if I was out on the lake. I was doubtful that they were fish that I stocked 2 months ago, but I feel like they must be. We don't really have green sunfish down here, and these fish had a huge, very un-bluegill-like, mouth, and were mostly green, with a black gill spot ( see attached pic )
So, for my questions:
#1 The bass will not eat the feed. Some of them will come up and look at it or bump it, but they won't eat it. So, is there a feed that the bass will eat? I caught some minnows in a drainage ditch on my property and the bass annihilated them, but no interest if its not alive. I have seen a few bass that have significantly grown over the past 2 months, and they should have plenty of forage, but I'm just wondering if there is anything else I could be doing.
#2 Black bullheads -- The first day I started feeding, I discovered a swarm of black bullheads fingerlings that is probably about 150-200 strong. I initially thought they were blues, because in the water they looked like they had a fork to their tail, but I netted some and they are definitely black bullheads. They are all currently about 2.5"-3" ( see pics )
My first instinct was to start culling them immediately, not because I don't like catfish and wouldn't enjoy catching and eating them when they get bigger, but because I don't want them to negatively affect the pond or the growth of the other fish. However, I've heard that bullheads grow very slowly, so I started thinking that maybe the Bass and Channel Cats will grow large enough, fast enough, to start feeding on the bullheads within the next 3-4 months. So, should I start netting or removing most, or all, of the bullheads, or do you think that they will provide forage for the other fish? I considered going fishing locally to catch some bass or larger channel or blue cats to bring back to release in the pond, but I'm worried that might do just as much harm to my bream and bass population.
#3 I intend to increase the size of my pond by adding two secondary 1/4 acre ponds on either side and then connecting them to the main pond. I also want to re-dig to increase the depth and length of the main pond sometime within the next year or so. Of course, this is assuming that I can actually afford to pay for someone to do this work, but if I can, is it possible to do this without killing or harming the currently stocked fish? I'm assuming that they will obviously avoid an excavator bucket coming into the water, but stirring up the sediment might make it difficult for them to get enough oxygen. Any advice?
#4 Lastly, I got my fish from Dunn's Fish Farm because they have a route that comes near my house. I was very happy with the fish that I got from them, and plan to continue to buy fatheads and forage bream from them ( if needed ), but their selection of fish was somewhat limited. Despite my love for them, I've been told not to stock black/white crappie, as they need at least an acre or more, and tend to take over small ponds and stunt other species, but I would love to stock some goggle-eye/rock bass, maybe a few blue catfish, even smallmouth bass ( if possible ), or a hybridized Magnolia/Blackstriped Crappie, or any other suggestions(?) but was wondering if anyone knew of fish farms where they might be ordered.
I have many more questions and I'm sure I will be on here frequently to ask for advice from those with much more experience and knowledge than I. Thanks for any help that you can offer. Have a great day!