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I'm looking for a predator/prey combo where both are great eating. I don't consider black bass or sunfish to be great eating.

Bass fishing is fun, but I'm always happier to catch a catfish. The more I thought about how happy I am to catch a catfish and how much I enjoy eating them, the more I concluded that my ideal pond would be one where the predator and prey fish are both known for their eating quality. The problem is that it's hard to find info on anything other than the standard combination of LMB & BG. I get why BG are the standard prey fish, but I think I'd rather use Yellow Perch. Which makes me wonder if Channel Catfish can utilize YP as a prey fish the way that LMB utilize BG.

What prey fish are most commonly used when CC are the primary predator?

What predator fish are most commonly used when YP are the primary prey?

What are the most common predator/prey combos for ponds with no LMB at all?

Are there other great eating predator or prey fish I should consider that would thrive in the absence of LMB and BG?

If my predator fish is less aggressive than LMB, will minnows survive as a sustainable component of the food chain?

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Are you going to supplement the CC diet with feed pellets?

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What is your water temp during the year?

Other combos are:

Smallmouth/Redear (or Pumpkinseed Sunfish) Yellow Perch (with minnows such as Fatheads and/or Golden Shiners)

The above combo with the addition of Hybrid Crappie

Redear (or Pumpkinseed Sunfish)/Hybrid Striped Bass/Yellow Perch/Walleye and the above mentioned minnows


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esshup,

I believe the thinking has somewhat evolved lately on crappie in small ponds. (At least I hope it has - I would love to have a pond for "eating crappie".)

How would it work to get eating size crappie, rather than stunted crappie, in your SMB/RES/YP pond?

Is your recommendation to use hybrid crappie for limited reproduction? Or is it for faster growth and the SMB will eat (and control) the YOY small crappie?

Will the YP also provide a significant portion of the predation on the small crappie?

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You ask a difficult set of questions. Best bet is to make a list what fish you like to eat , list the possible species (in your location) and each one's attributes. That will narrow down the options somewhat. Then there are lots of threads here on most combinations. One thing to consider is that some of the mentioned species have a propensity to stunt or overpopulate. YP , BG , PS , CC , Crappie , LMB and others can overpopulate. I did not see WE mentioned or trout.

IMO PS are not a substitute for RES (they both eat snails) but PS will stunt. That does not mean they are not an option but only that the management may be more work. Goals are important as is an understanding of how much work do you want to put in to reach the various goals.
















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Stocking combinations of fish all depends on ones goals. Keep in mind that whatever fish combo you decide on, management and attention to the fishery balance determines the quality of the fishery. Each fish specie has its pros and cons. Just about any freshwater fish can be stocked into a pond, however how well they succeed can vary widely from pond to pond. Ideally you want to match the prey or forage fishes with the correct predator/s. Some stock to achieve large predators and some prefer larger panfish and there are numerous fish balances in between each end of the spectrum. Despite commonly desired, it is very difficult and very time consuming to have both ends of the spectrum at one time; mostly high quality or mostly all large fish of prey and predator. Again what are your goals? The in-between sizes of fishes are commonly the more fish numbers compared to those of big panfish or big predator. General fishing of various all sizes, often smaller ones, is the most common situation. Depending on how one harvests the crop determines what sizes of fish that are most often caught.

Keep in mind that some species such as RES are a more southern climate fish while PS fill a similar northern climate niche. Also note that some fish species are more prolific than others. So it is sort of important to match the panfish with the predator. We are here to help and guide your choices. Ask questions as they develop.

IMO I would not stock CC & YP because CC will reproduce and YP will not have the ability to adequately eat enough of the young catfish to keep them from stunting and overpopulating. I visited a pond one time that had YP and CC. No bass. Lots of 6"-9" CC and YP were not growing because the water was too turbid to allow the pond to be productive and grow adequate amounts of food for YP. The more numerous CC are in a pond usually the more turbid the water becomes. YP do not thrive as well in turbid water. Larger predators such as LMB are very good at eating small catfish and thus very efficiently keep CC numbers controlled unless lots and lots of refuge habitat is present.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 11/30/21 08:07 PM. Reason: clarifications

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Originally Posted by ewest
You ask a difficult set of questions. Best bet is to make a list what fish you like to eat , list the possible species (in your location) and each one's attributes. That will narrow down the options somewhat. Then there are lots of threads here on most combinations. One thing to consider is that some of the mentioned species have a propensity to stunt or overpopulate. YP , BG , PS , CC , Crappie , LMB and others can overpopulate. I did not see WE mentioned or trout.

IMO PS are not a substitute for RES (they both eat snails) but PS will stunt. That does not mean they are not an option but only that the management may be more work. Goals are important as is an understanding of how much work do you want to put in to reach the various goals.


ewest, the only reason why I mentioned PS is that the OP was from Upstate New York and I am not sure if RES will survive up there. I agree that PS aren't a substitute for RES, but if it's PS or nothing to help control snails (and the parasites they harbor that transfer to fish) then PS it is.


Yes I agree on PS and RES will not do well, if at all , in upstate NY.

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Originally Posted by FishinRod
esshup,

I believe the thinking has somewhat evolved lately on crappie in small ponds. (At least I hope it has - I would love to have a pond for "eating crappie".)

How would it work to get eating size crappie, rather than stunted crappie, in your SMB/RES/YP pond?

Is your recommendation to use hybrid crappie for limited reproduction? Or is it for faster growth and the SMB will eat (and control) the YOY small crappie?

Will the YP also provide a significant portion of the predation on the small crappie?

FishinRod, how is the minnow forage base in the SMB/RES/YP pond? My recommendation is for both of those reasons. I doubt that YP will be a big predator of small crappie.

I pellet trained about 60% of the Hybrid Crappie that I held this year......... The pellet eaters went from 1 1/2"-2" to 5"-6" from early May to late October. Thank you Optimal. Started on #4 starter, transitioned to a bag of food that I was able to coax out of Dustin and finished up the year on BG Jr.


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esshup said,

"I pellet trained about 60% of the Hybrid Crappie that I held this year......... The pellet eaters went from 1 1/2"-2" to 5"-6" from early May to late October. Thank you Optimal."

Pellet-trained Hybrid Crappie literally sounds like the optimal path for raising "eating sized" crappie in small ponds!

I think I recall a study on Hybrid Crappie that asserted the subsequent generations had slower growth rates than either pure White or Black Crappie. This could actually turn out to be advantageous for some management situations.

What do you think about ladder stocking Hybrid Crappie and a small-gaped top predator to create a primary crappie pond?

I am imagining stocking a number of Hybrid Crappie (every 2 years?) to maintain a good size distribution throughout the population. A small number of SMB (female only?) or HSB are added as the top predator. That predator cleans up the progeny of the Hybrid Crappie that did manage to reproduce, but DOES NOT do significant damage to the forage base for the mature crappie.

Would that work if you could manage your top predators to not eat many of your newly introduced Hybrid Crappie from each ladder stocking? (That would be expensive "forage".)

P.S. What is the most common size of Hybrid Crappie you deliver in your business? (I don't know the actual size distribution to contemplate the question, since Hybrid Crappie are certainly different to raise than your standard stocker fish.)


P.P.S. Scott E, I apologize for adding so many questions to your original post! I thought exploring a single tangent might help you evaluate how specific the discussions become as you get closer to finalizing your pond plans.

Thanks to all,
FishinRod

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Quote
If my predator fish is less aggressive than LMB, will minnows survive as a sustainable component of the food chain?
There are numerous variables or possibilities for this answer. Well this all depends on 1. the aggressive nature and feeding habits of the predator; 2. adult size, average size, and mouth gape of the predator, 3. if the predator is reproducing by adding more predators to the system each year, 4. harvest rate of predators; 5. the type or species of minnow used, by far not all minnows are the same;. 6. the amount and type of habitat and cover available to all fish present. Habitat and amount and type of cover has a lot to do with fish survival.

ewest mentions several fish species that will stunt and overpopulate. (...some of the mentioned species have a propensity to stunt or overpopulate. YP , BG , PS , CC , Crappie , LMB and others can overpopulate. I did not see WE mentioned or trout.). To this I add from my knowledge and experience, any fish, including even fathead minnow, that is reproducing in a pond without harvest or predation has a good possibility of overpopulating and stunting. If anyone can think of one let us know about it.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/01/21 05:39 PM.

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Based on your stated goals and preferences I would definitely go with CC but I might lean toward a replacement for the YP. I think I would lean toward walleye if they can be sourced and stocked in your New York location. Walleye probably will not reproduce and you could use them to thin or prevent CC recruits. If their numbers are modest (say 20 to 40 per acre) you could grow some large ones. If they happened to reproduce they may stunt but the numbers should be fewer than YP so they should be larger than YP even if they don't grow at the full potential of walleye. (In that worst case scenario Walleye are your YP surrogate that wouldn't be as prone to stunting). You would probably have to ladder walleye which could be every 3 or 4 years or annually. I think this scenario would prevent over population of CC with modest harvest and modest feeding. So I would encourage providing CC nesting habitat to encourage reproduction. I think this combination would play nice with spotfin shiners or satinfin shiners whichever is native in your watershed. Also I think bluntnose minnows would be a good addition for you. I would be very surprised if these minnow could not flourish in a Walleye/CC pond.


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My main goal is that the predator fish would grow to a large eating size and that the prey fish would reproduce well enough to keep them fed. If the prey fish occasionally grow to eating size, that's a bonus.

I'm happy to feed them (in fact I am partial to fish that will take pellets), and I am willing to occasionally restock the predator fish every few years. I am not willing to restock the prey fish.

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Bill,

I accept and embrace that any stocking strategy has a corresponding management strategy. Heck, even the tried-and-true LMB/BG combo involves culling a lot of LMB to keep them in balance. I just understand that some predators and some prey are more well matched than others. A more effective predator demands a less vulnerable prey. Right? I want to do a reasonable amount of culling & stocking, and to have a predator-prey combo that isn't terribly difficult to keep in balance. My first assumption is that any predator I can buy for stocking is going to be less aggressive than LMB. My second assumption is that YP are more vulnerable to predation than BG. Are those two assumptions somewhat correct?

Your list of fish that can overpopulate seems to include almost every prey fish and almost every predator fish that can reproduce in a pond. Bluegill are on that list, and that is the quintessential prey fish for ponds. In my mind I use BG as a benchmark with which to compare other prey fish. BG are great because they have high fecundity, the yearlings are vulnerable to predation, the adults are not so vulnerable to predation, their small gape means they don't compete with the predator fish, and they eat pellets. I would use BG except I don't like to eat them. Eating the prey fish is not a primary goal, but you do hook them occasionally and I'd rather have to option to eat them.

I've never had CC in a pond that didn't also have LMB. We always attributed the lack of reproductive success to lack of suitable spawning sites. Should we have attributed it to the LMB eating all the CC fry? From what I understand, CC fry hatch later in the season than other fish and are highly vulnerable to predation.

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Originally Posted by FishinRod
Are you going to supplement the CC diet with feed pellets?

Absolutely

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Originally Posted by Scott E
Originally Posted by FishinRod
Are you going to supplement the CC diet with feed pellets?

Absolutely

Then you might be able to get by with a CC only pond.

I have read threads on Pond Boss that say it is possible to severely limit CC reproduction by eliminating all of their brooding habitat. Other experts on those same threads have said they have seen the CC reproduce significantly - despite all attempts to stop them!

I don't know the correct answer. However, you could try the simple experiment of a CC only pond first and see if that gets you tasty eating fish without a huge hassle!

Good luck on your project!

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IMO only the unique pond owner is going to be able to locate, source, or capture spotfin, satinfin or bluntnose minnows. Members here often talk about those minnows but there is no good place to buy them! Those minnows are not for the normal or average pond owner due to their retail scarcity. Be aware that some of the combinations that are suggested in this thread are not tried and tested pond fisheries and mostly theoretical based on knowledge of the fish species.

IMO I do not think WE will do well with CC for mainly two reasons.
1. supplemental stocked common size of walleye are young of year mostly 5"-7" which are no bigger in cross section than a cigar; easy prey for a 17"+ CC. Plus WE are bottom oriented and newly stocked ones will be readily and often in the hunting zone of CC.

2. CC dominated ponds are often murky, turbid and WE do not do well in turbid water. Sauger tolerate turbid water a lot better than WE but where do you buy sauger - no where. Sauger are common in the commonly murky upper Ohio River. Murky water means WE as sight feeders will grow slower and be in the good prey size of CC for a long period compared to a faster growing WE in clearer water. You plan to feed CC thus the pond will have large CC capable of easily eating WE less than 10".

If it were my pond I would start with YP-SMB. Use only pellet trained 4"-6" and some maybe 20-30% 6"-8" stocker YP. This creates big eating size YP the first fall and pellet eaters will allow the FHM to produce high numbers. NY DNR suggests you use GSH (g.shiners) and they as adults can produce long term broodstock.

I helped a local pondowner in 1989 stock their new pond with RES, YP(pellet fed), SMB, FHM and golden shiners. If you are in the same latitude as northern Ohio where RES persist, then RES would be an option to try. Today after 32 years all fish in this 1989 pond are doing well except the FHM. Some of the SMB are 19". The SMB can be added after the first YP spawn as fingerlings or as a last option catch and relocate 4 to 8 9"+ SMB. Surely at least one pair will be in the 4-8 fish mix and the offspring will provide a good M-F mix of recruits. In some areas and during poor SMB hatch years,,, fingerling SMB are not available. If after a few years you dislike performance of the YP-SMB fishery, you can easily change it by stocking other species including your CC. Note if you later add LMB you will significantly hamper CC, SMB, and YP recruitment. I have proven that with numerous pond fish surveys that were published. In northern areas the YP-SMB combo is a good starter fishery that can easily be changed just by adding the other desired fish. This is definitely not true with BG-LMB starter package. Once in,,,, BG and LMB will always be there to reproduce. New generations of each always persist which has pros and cons. No matter what you stock the CC will persist for a relatively long time maybe 14-20 years before the original stockers die of old age. Catch and release CC easily become hook smart and hook shy as hard to catch individuals even with good angler methods.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 02/17/22 05:23 PM. Reason: several enhancements

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Its always good to get perspectives and Bill makes a good point that large CC are capable of eating walleye in the 5" to 7" lengths. So I can't say that ladder stocking would be successful at that size. Even so, I somehow think we need to discuss how to make your vision happen (of which CC seemed to take a very prominent role).

Scott, read this white paper on raising catfish for home use. It discuss the potential of CC as single species production where reproduction is allowed in the pond.

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Some Kentucky farmers spawn fingerlings and produce food-size fish in the same pond, year after year. The large broodfish that are accidentally captured during harvest are returned to the pond after seining. Spawning cans are used (2-3/ac) and the catfish are allowed to reproduce in the production pond. Fish are fed to satiation and daily feeding is capped at 25-30 lb/ac. When feeding reaches this level, ponds are selectively harvested with large mesh seines. Selective harvest removes the 1.5- to 2.0-lb fish, allowing the smaller fish to remain for continued growth. This method allows continuous production of 1,000 to 1,500 lb/ac of fish each year.

While CC can stunt, generally management like this above can produce 18" CC without any other predator than the catfish under production. It takes supplemental food and continual harvesting to properly manage a pond like that. Speaking from my own experience, I have never seen CC stunt when combine with lepomis or stronger predators. I wouldn't recommend CC only to you and have you feed like the example above because I think first that you really don't want to eat that much fish or work that hard at it. Also you probably don't want to feed more than a ton per acre of feed. So I think combining with any other fish that provides sufficient predation of the CC YOY will work to keep recruitment below levels that would cause CC stunting. A population of bluegill weighing 300 lbs only supports 60 to 80 lbs of LMB. This is only because they breed like rabbits. What standing weight of LMB could a population of 3000 lbs of CC with 1 or 2 spawning containers support? I don't know but it significantly less that what BG can support. Possibly as little as 20 to 30 lbs. The point I am making is that you don't need a lot of predators to keep CC in check. They don't reproduce like rabbits and when YOY are available, predators seem to prefer them. Again, I have never seen them overpopulate with BG and/or GSF in the pond with them (even with absolutely no LMB). So I think your dream of a CC fishing pond can be made a reality.

CC only muddy the water when they are high in number and only then when they are smaller sized. The key is population management and limited recruitment. My brother in law has a 2 acre clear pond and a 1 acre muddy pond. The latter is CC and GSH. No other species are present and the CC proliferate and cannot eliminate the minnows. (Usually LMB completely eliminate GSH.) There is nothing at all special about cover or anything like that. Its a bare bottom pond with tractor tire for spawning ... that's it. The CC are stunted but they can live more than 10 years so if they are moved to the clear 2 acre pond they still have time to grow. So we spend a day or two catching dinks and move them to the larger clear water pond. That pond has nothing but GSF, LES, and CC. The GSF and LES do not get large and are limited to about 5" in length (most smaller). These lepomis do not allow much recruitment at all. As far as we know, none. CC grow fast in this pond and he supplement feeds them maybe 120 lbs of catfish feed a year (hand feeds). He's been doing this for maybe 15 years and it works for him and I enjoy fish with him when I visit. The CC are excellent eating from that pond. He has caught CC in excess of 6 lbs but most range between 2 and 5. So if you want CC I say go for but just figure out a way to limit recruitment if you want to feed modestly and want clear water.


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Jpsdad,

It sounds like you are saying that Bluegill breed enough to be a good food source for CC, and that BG will prey on CC fry well enough to keep the CC numbers in check. Do I understand correctly? Bill stated that YP would not effectively prey on CC fry. I would have expected YP to be a more effective predator than BG due to the larger gape. Thoughts?

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Bill,

My takeaways so far are 1) WE are delicious but are too vulnerable to predation to keep in combination with nearly any other predator. 2) SMB are not delicious but can be easily fished out if I decide I don't want them. 3) Neither WE nor CC will eliminate a minnow population. 4)Your preference of YP-SMB over YP-CC is because CC will have better spawning success in a pond compared to SMB. Is that right?

Where does CC rank as far as the ability to prevent overpopulation via culling? Some fish, like LMB, will overpopulate on their own, but can be kept in check with slot culling. Other fish, like Crappie, will overpopulate and can be very difficult to keep in check even with aggressive culling. Small catfish are pretty easy to catch with a piece of hotdog on a hook. Would it be an uphill battle to cull out the young CC if they have better spawning success than anticipated?

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ScottE,

In the ponds with which I have experience with CC/Lepomis (two of them), the recruitment of CC is very subdued and does not prevent good growth of CC. Neither of these ponds have CC spawning containers which might make a difference. Both pond receive supplemental stocking of CC. My sense is that most of the fish the CC are eating are aged or sick lepomis (possibly even dead) which probably turnover completely every 5 years or so. IMHO, short lived minnow are better forage because their populations turnover much more quickly. They won't compete with CC for large insects or YOY fish fry older than say 14 days or so. In other words, they can grow a greater weight of predators. This is corroborated by many studies which indicate that minnows produce greater standing weights of LMB than do BG. BG are used in combination with LMB because they are resistant to predation relative to the minnows which are typically extirpated.

My brother in law has his vision of a "dream pond". It meets his version of perfection but he doesn't care that standing weight is shared with dink lepomis. You will probably never get large BG (even with feeding) with CC as the apex predator. They will just reproduce too much and the numbers be to high. This could be true of YP, I don't know, but that is why I suggested walleye as an alternative. Also walleye is a bigger gape more effective predator.

Last edited by jpsdad; 12/02/21 10:25 AM.

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Originally Posted by Scott E
Bill,

My takeaways so far are 1) WE are delicious but are too vulnerable to predation to keep in combination with nearly any other predator. 2) SMB are not delicious but can be easily fished out if I decide I don't want them. 3) Neither WE nor CC will eliminate a minnow population. 4)Your preference of YP-SMB over YP-CC is because CC will have better spawning success in a pond compared to SMB. Is that right?

Where does CC rank as far as the ability to prevent overpopulation via culling? Some fish, like LMB, will overpopulate on their own, but can be kept in check with slot culling. Other fish, like Crappie, will overpopulate and can be very difficult to keep in check even with aggressive culling. Small catfish are pretty easy to catch with a piece of hotdog on a hook. Would it be an uphill battle to cull out the young CC if they have better spawning success than anticipated?

re: #3. They will if there isn't the correct habitat for reproduction by the minnows.

I like CC because they are inexpensive, grow quickly and if you don't have habitat in the pond for them to reproduce, they won't.

I have fished out Crappie from a 1 acre pond, it took about 3 years of removing EVERY one caught.

I would just use the CC as a put and take fishery, I think you will have problems down the road catching them if you have them in the pond reproducing and do the catch and release thing with the smaller ones. They are the 2nd smartest fish in N. America and they remember what a hook is VERY well, and from year to year too.


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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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All pond species that have been studied for hook avoidance (learning, genetics, etc.) have shown that they have that trait and it is likely heritable. The only one not shown to be that way are HBG. Some I have seen no studies on.

Put and take fisheries are good if you are going to manage them as required. Feeding helps a lot on put and take.

Last edited by ewest; 12/02/21 02:33 PM.















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Eric, GSF don't appear to learn either. Not sure why other than they like to dart and take prey with powerful attacks. I can tell just by the take whether a GSF is responsible. It is this devil may care approach of GSF that may be passed onto GSF hybrids. An interesting hypothesis anyway. BG often quickly approach and then give an offering a thorough lookover before sucking it in. The take is often without the fish moving forward. Many times after they have studied an offering they will only nibble and spit or altogether give it the stink eye.

Have you seen any papers on the issue of learning with regard to BG-RES hybrids? I would be interested to know if they are more vulnerable to hook and line than are BG and if they learn hook avoidance.


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You now have several choices. Now it is up to you to decide what to stock. Then please return here every so often to report how the fishery develops and report your results so we can all learn more good fish stocking and management ideas. One more addition. For spawning I have seen at least two instances where large catfish dug shallow caves about the size of a deep bushel basket back into the side wall of ponds.


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Hey, I know this is an older thread, but I found t extremely helpful as a fellow upstate ny pond owner.

Thanks for all the great info!


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