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I am starting a new thread for this question, since I seem to keep playing "20 Questions" in other people's threads! However, my question is tangentially related to anthropic's Trophy Bass thread.

Trophy bass Catch-22?

There are frequent and detailed discussions on Pond Boss about the best way to provide the optimum forage to the main predator that is "goal" of a pond's specific management. The main predator is frequently LMB, but there are many other fish species that sit on the throne in the ponds of the forum contributors.

My question (using LMB as an example):

Is there a strong seasonal component to the forage species that a LMB consumes over the course of a year?

Further, if there is a strong seasonal component, instead of focusing our management on the forage species that provide the LMB with the bulk of their calories, would the LMB gain more weight over the course of the year, if management was focused on providing calories when the LMB are hungry but are not able to eat their daily fill?

[I will state some observations below based on my fishing experience, feel free to correct any items that are counterfactual.]

While fishing in the spring we would catch the most LMB and spotted bass in relatively shallow water. We would also sometimes catch panfish on lures much too large for them, but it indicated to me that the small forage fish were existing in the same location as the black bass - including the very large LMB.

At this same time, we would also observe crayfish feelers protruding out of the gullets of almost every single small bass.

Eventually, the black bass would move out to deeper water and we would still have some days with good success, but at that point we would catch (or feel strikes from) essentially zero small panfish while bass fishing.

As spring turned into summer, we would observe much more shad activity out in the open waters. Either jumping to get away from bass feeding our just clearing the bow of the boat.

In the fall, the black bass would move back into shallower water, but not as shallow as during the spring fishing.

Were the black bass preferentially eating panfish and crayfish in the spring because that was the optimum time to catch that prey, or because the bass were co-existing in the same water due to the bass spawning cycle?

After the bass gorge themselves on easy forage in the spring, do they have to work much harder to catch panfish and crayfish later in the year as the habits of those forage species have changed?

If those forage species are now harder to catch, do the bass then move on to shad in the summer? I am envisioning a scenario by easiest effort expended per calorie to most difficult effort as: spring BG < summer shad < summer BG.

My larger question is then, would adding a "seasonal" forage species into the gap where the bass are not gorging have a significant impact on raising trophy top predators?

For instance, adding shad (threadfin or gizzard) in a lake without them. Would that be a valuable "summer" food source?

Or how about adding tilapia in a lake without them to make a supplemental food source during the summer and a massive food source in the late fall when they begin to die off due to the temperature change?

I would appreciate any comments in this thread (no such thing as off topic), and discussions about top predators other than LMB would also be relevant.

Thanks,
FishinRod

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Rod, I know that some pondmeisters stock rainbow trout, RBT, in the winter to help feed the bass after the tilapia die off. Typically the RBT are around 1/4 #, maybe six or seven inches long. Their fusiform shape is easier for LMB to eat than most other prey, especially BG. Also, RBT flesh seems to meet LMB growth needs particularly well, witness the gigantic bass that have come out of trout-stocked waters in California.

RBT grow fast on pelleted feed and put up a great leaping fight as they get large. Here in east Texas, they basically a late November thru mid May fish. I suspect you could add three weeks to both ends of that schedule.

Caveats: They aren't cheap, and they aren't always available. But when they are available & budget allows, they are a blast!

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Historically, all of the largest (U.S.) LMB were taken from the deep southeastern states. Then there was suddenly a period (early 90s?) where many very large LMB (20#+) were taken in California.

Articles were written that the LMB world record would likely be broken from one of these California reservoirs. I also recall articles that attributed these record bass to the intense management of rainbow trout in those reservoirs.***

Perhaps adding RBT to the pre-existing food chain of the LMB significantly contributed to the development of trophy bass.


*** (Everything written above the asterisks is from my foggy recollections of articles read a long time ago. Even if my recollections are accurate, I don't know if the articles were written by actual experts. Everyone should feel free to correct any "BS" they see above!)

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A lot to answer on this one. Looking for the original thread on Calif LMB.

Here is the basic info on RT

The previous trophy LMB (records) were from California (Fla LMB imported to Calif.). Those waters were supplementally stocked with RT in advanced size from state hatcheries. LMB would feast on RT when released and later again when the RT were trapped (concentrated) in the cool water thermocline.

When Purina invented its LMB pellets they ground up RT and analyzed the contents for replication into the pellets.

There is a bunch on the Forum and in PB mag on LMB feeding/growth by source and season. TFS are great for LMB sized 12 in to 20 inches. Trophy LMB spend to much energy chasing TFS to be a great source of growth.

Feeding and growth are temp dependent (assuming enough food) as fish (cold blooded) metabolism rises and falls with the temp within its optimum range.

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Originally Posted by ewest
The previous trophy LMB (records) were from California (Fla LMB imported to Calif.).

ewest,

I read stuff about the California LMB long before I was ever introduced to Pond Boss.

However, your quoted comment above probably explains a good portion of the push to the new state records in California.

I definitely did not understand the significance of Florida strain LMB genetics at the time I read those articles. Therefore, a good science writer may have mentioned that, and I only focused on the parts about RBT - which I though was fascinating stuff.

(Partly because as a youth we fished for LMB, walleye, and catfish in one set of reservoirs, and then went to Colorado to fish for rainbow trout. At that time, I experienced zero overlap between those fish species!)

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Originally Posted by ewest
There is a bunch on the Forum and in PB mag on LMB feeding/growth by source and season.

Feeding and growth are temp dependent (assuming enough food) as fish (cold blooded) metabolism rises and falls with the temp within its optimum range.

Thanks for that additional info. (Which I kind of knew at a non-expert level.)

I will try to simplify my initial long-winded question a little bit.

We know that LMB feed less in winter as the water temps cool and there metabolism slows down.

I used to believe that they caught less forage at that time because they were sluggish due to the cold water and had poorer forage "capture" success, rather than the LMB just weren't hungry.

However, I think my speculation above has to be wrong, because the people that feed pellets note their fish going off the feed as winter deepens. Trophy-size LMB may be lazy, but surely they are not so lazy that they couldn't rouse themselves to eat a large pellet.

However, that train of thought lead to my poorly expressed reasoning of my initial question.

Would there be a significant impact in raising trophy bass if their rate of weight gain could be extended outside of their normal calendar range of maximum weight gain?


As you stated above, threadfin shad are not a significant food source for large LMB. We would expect gizzard shad to be far more likely to be sized correctly to be eaten by trophy LMB.

However, there are many places in the south that are excellent trophy LMB fisheries that have threadfins, but not gizzards.

Since TFS are more temperature sensitive than LMB, is there a time period in the fall where the TFS become so sluggish that a trophy LMB would make a meal out of the "wrong-sized" forage, because there is a window when the bass does not have to expend nearly as much energy to catch shad?

If that theory does not work because the TFS are just too small for the trophy LMB, would it work for tilapia? Would gorging on "right-sized" tilapia as the water cools be a way to convert a good LMB pond into a trophy LMB pond by having the bass put on "extra" weight in October(?), that they wouldn't get in a pond where they primarily fed on large BG?

P.S. Has anybody with tilapia that die off in the fall observed a top predator "gorging" event in their pond as the tilapia became sluggish?

My original post also contemplated supplemental forage as a way to enhance a trophy LMB pond. Adding crayfish to a pond where the LMB eat their fill of forage regardless, would not help raise trophy bass. However, I was considering the question of crayfish being consumed over some time period where the LMB were not eating their fill of their main forage. Supplementing those time periods could have a big effect on growth rates.

I realize most of the alternative forage is not at the proper size to be consumed by trophy LMB. I was instead considering the earliest periods of their lives. If a pond owner could turn 8" Florida strain LMB into 4# bass in one fewer season, then they would have a much greater chance of becoming hogs before old age begins to effect their growth rates.

I was just thinking out loud in this thread since you people hand feed me so much "food for thought" on Pond Boss!

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In theory, an ideal seasonal strategy would be to stock tilapia when it's warm, trout when it's cold. TP sluggish as temps cool in fall/winter, so should be easy prey. RBT sluggish as temps warm in spring/summer, so they balance the TP seasonal tendencies. Both get big enough to fatten even a trophy size bass, but in most climates without the risk of taking over like gizzard shad might.

"In theory" covers a lot of ground. I've tried it, and seen very little gain in relative LMB weights. This despite feeding pellets all year, as the RBT are aggressive in most winter conditions. Too many bass, despite vigorous harvesting the last several years.

Maybe hand thrown large feed pellets would help the LMB grow, as the BG have a hard time eating them.

By the way, I remember reading that a captive LMB frequently fed 1lb RBT grew from 4 lb to 9 lb in just a few months. It can be done, and in California it was done. Of course, California is a magical kingdom where bees are fish, and fish are invertebrates, so who knows!

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Back in the day, stories were told about the CA fisheries trucks driving across dams to stock RBT, and huge schools, of huge LMB, were following the trucks all the way to the ramp they released the fish at. That tells me 2 things. 1, the RBT trout were released often enough so that the LMB knew meals were coming. And 2, CA had the resources to raise those RBT. That means hatchery ponds might be at the top of my list for forage of any kind when taking about double digit LMB. Hatchery fished released into an existing pond "should" be confused, and an easy target for LMB. Ewest has referenced acclimating newly stocked fish for survivability, and this would be the perfect time to not do that. We would want whatever is stocked to be eaten, not comfortable in their new environment.

Now, a few questions. There's no right or wrong answers, just curious.What would you be willing to spend per acre to get double digit LMB, and would you spend that money just to get one DD LMB? Would you be willing to reduce LMB numbers to a minuscule number to ensure that they got all the forage they wanted? Would you quit fishing for your LMB, knowing that one hook set could potentially mean that unless live bait was used, that fish may never bite again? I'm not even sure how I'd answer those.

If fun is any part of this, then consider hand feeding larger LMB. My boss and I would go to our hatchery pond, and catch 6-7 CNBG, GSF, or hybrids, and take them to our feeder pier at the same time every day. I would clip the tails so that they couldn't swim away, but their motion was very erratic. It took a week or two, but much like BG, LMB started showing up at that dock and were waiting for a handout. The largest LMB that came was approx 7-8#, and she was the most aggressive of the group. She would bully the smaller LMB out of the way, so we always threw out the largest CNBG first. If we threw out a smaller one, she would often leave even though she got a smaller meal, so feeding her the largest CNBG first was a priority. Zero effort required, 100% success for a meal.

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anthropic,

Some of my questions were from specifically thinking about your pond!

You seem to be doing things right, but haven't reached your goals for trophy bass. I am hoping you just haven't reached your trophy goals yet.

If it is possible to hand feed a LMB to put on 5# in a few months, then clearly we are not even getting close to maximum LMB weight gain - especially since moving from a tank environment to a highly-managed pond should not be too big of a change.

(Crazy thought - Perhaps the LMB in ponds ARE eating until satiation. The LMB in the tank was just frustrated to have a RBT buzzing around her tank, so she utilized her only solution and ate the offending RBT?)

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Al,

Your entire first paragraph is great stuff. Would it be possible for Pond Boss people to replicate the RBT truck feeding in a poor-boy fashion?

I agree with your idea about periodically sending in un-acclimated forage fish to the LMB pond. Could people on the forum do that with a small BG forage pond. Estimate the optimum-sized BG to be fed to the largest bass in the big pond. After the BG reach that size, push a few dozen (hundred?) from the forage pond into the bass pond. Repeat every week?

The next year, you would have to start with fewer BG stockers in the forage pond so the BG grew faster to reach the optimum size that you would feed THAT season.

Your second paragraph consists of really tough questions! I am not a wealthy person, so almost all of my Pond Boss questions are about the "right" way to do something, and then I work to get as close as the budget and time allow to the optimal solution. (I suspect a lot of people on PB work under that constraint.)

Perhaps your "how much money would you spend question" would be an entertaining topic for a Pond Boss Live from Bob Lusk. I bet he has some great stories on that topic!

However, if I was managing a pond ONLY for trophy LMB, then I think I would calculate the maximum carrying capacity for bass considered to be a "trophy" size plus the capacity of their required forage. If that was only five 10#+ LMB, then I would stock six Florida strain female bass. That way it wouldn't be a bass pond, it would just be a "trophy pond".

I also like your hand feeding story. Several other people on PB have done similar things. Maybe the lesson should be to never remove valuable fish food from a pond. If you are culling GSF, then fin clip them and throw them back in the pond. For each big bass that eats those GSF, then that might be a lot fewer meals made out of something you wanted to keep in the pond.

P.S. Were you guys ever late to feed because you got hung up on a job? Just curious to hear if the big momma LMB was absolutely set on her time schedule, or if she figured out there were other clues to indicate it was meal time at the pier?

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Al, were these Florida LMB? I've always heard they are less aggressive than Northern strain, might take them longer to feed train.


7ac 2015 CNBG RES FHM 2016 TP FLMB 2017 NLMB GSH L 2018 TP & 70 HSB PK 2019 TP RBT 2020 TFS TP 25 HSB 250 F1,L,RBT -206 2021 TFS TP GSH L,-312 2022 GSH TP CR TFS RBT -234, 2023 BG TP TFS NLMB, -160




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Rod, re your comment about not wasting fish, I sometimes tail & fin clip smaller LMB and return them to the water, rather than removing them. The hope is that they will fatten the larger bass rather than raccoons or vultures in the back woods.

A fishery biologist told me that he has a client who does the same, but is reconsidering. He catches too many bass that lack a tail!

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Originally Posted by anthropic
A fishery biologist told me that he has a client who does the same, but is reconsidering. He catches too many bass that lack a tail!

I would have assumed that the clipped bass would have been quickly eaten or starved. Surely no tail would make it difficult to catch your prey.

No matter how simple the "fact" that I learn on Pond Boss, the "it depends" component never seems to go all of the way to zero!

I wonder what the relative weights were of the "no tail" bass compared to the unclipped LMB of similar length?

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Originally Posted by anthropic
Al, were these Florida LMB? I've always heard they are less aggressive than Northern strain, might take them longer to feed train.

Yes they were. If you see LMB hanging around waiting for the feeder to throw, and the BG to be fed, they're the perfect candidates. We have one 4-5# LMB that hits both the morning feeder throws. She has a red hook hole in the center of her lower lip, so it's easy to confirm her. She waits for the CNBG to be distracted by eatting floating pellets, then traps the CNBG against the surface.

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I never catch a clipped LMB, but that's just a de-tail.

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The tail clipped LMB won't starve if it's pellet trained. If I can find the picture I will post it. I rotenoned a pond for a guy that raised LMB for the Oriental live market. He'd raise roughly 5,000# of LMB in a 1.5 ac pond. Took him about 18 months to go from 5" to 1.5#. This LMB somehow had it's tail cut off right behind the anal.secondary dorsal fin. It was about 1.5# and was able to evade the seine 4x when they seined the pond.

He had me rotenone the pond to kill any stragglers before they stocked the new batch of LMB.

As for the RBT in Ca. They didn't stock them to feed the bass. They stocked them for people to catch. The RBT that were stocked were around 10"-12", that's why the HUGE swim baits were invented. Lake Jennings in San Diego County, Dixon Lake in Escondido,Castaic Lake, etc. all received supplemental trout stockings once a month from roughly October until April (IIRC). I used to live in Oceanside, Ca and was only 25 miles from Dixon but never fished it.

A 25-1 was foul hooked at Dixon back in 2005. I don't know if it was ever caught again. It was a female that was getting ready to spawn. It was caught a few years (I think) earlier at 21 and change, they know it was the same fish because it had a black spot on it's right gill flap.


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Originally Posted by FishinRod
Would there be a significant impact in raising trophy bass if their rate of weight gain could be extended outside of their normal calendar range of maximum weight gain?


Absolutely that is exactly what occurs in Fla and Calif with both optimum temps almost all year and lots of productive water loaded with forage.

Since TFS are more temperature sensitive than LMB, is there a time period in the fall where the TFS become so sluggish that a trophy LMB would make a meal out of the "wrong-sized" forage, because there is a window when the bass does not have to expend nearly as much energy to catch shad?

Yes LMB do that with several forage species like shad and tilapia and RT.

If that theory does not work because the TFS are just too small for the trophy LMB, would it work for tilapia? Would gorging on "right-sized" tilapia as the water cools be a way to convert a good LMB pond into a trophy LMB pond by having the bass put on "extra" weight in October(?), that they wouldn't get in a pond where they primarily fed on large BG?

Yes

P.S. Has anybody with tilapia that die off in the fall observed a top predator "gorging" event in their pond as the tilapia became sluggish?

Yes see above
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The first Spring I ever saw fat SMB followed the first year that I had stocked Tilapia in the SMB pond.


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That is a good data point to add, Theo!

I assume the tilapia acted as a primary benefit to the SMB (consumed as forage).

Did the tilapia also clear your water significantly that first season? If so, perhaps they were also a secondary benefit to the SMB if they made it easier for them to see and catch additional forage such as crayfish, etc.?

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ewest,

Thanks for your reply.

Yes, "near" optimal temperature conditions throughout the year are the best for raising trophy LMB, which is why Florida and California and south Texas will always lead.

I will refer to the fall period heading into winter, and the early spring period coming out of winter as the "shoulder months".

Ponds away from Florida and CA spend much more of their annual cycle in the shoulder months. The north Texas members have a chance of replicating the Florida conditions for Florida-strain bass some years, but in other years the weather can diverge greatly from the optimum. This problem increases moving north to the Oklahoma ponds, and then increases again moving to the Kansas ponds.

The Kansas ponds spend LOTS of time in the shoulder months! We can have water temps reach the level for spawns to start and then get hit with a big snow storm.

I believe that helping the LMB gain weight during the shoulder months would have a significant impact on their total weight gain. (I also think I stated my question poorly in my initial post.)

Any advice on helping any bass species in the sub-optimal periods have forage for their consumption that helps them gain weight more in alignment with the optimal periods?

Maybe the best advice is to maximize the conditions for the bass's "best" forage throughout the year. But perhaps there is a supplemental non-traditional forage that could help even more during the shoulder months, WITHOUT detracting from the production of the main forage?

P.S. Thanks to everyone that has taken the time to type up a reply. Especially since this is a theoretical discussion, rather than helping someone solve a specific pond problem!

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FishingRod:

Bob Lusk said that the LMB in Texas have the same length of growing season as the fish do here in the Midwest. Not only do the LMB not grow much in the winter, they don't grow much if the water gets too hot too. The hot water in the summer is a Texas problem that we here in Indiana don't have. So, the early winters and late Spring cool water up here is offset by the hot water down there. At least that's the way I understand it.

CA can have the same hot weather, but maybe not for as long of a time. I have seen 115°F daytime temps out there in Ca. BUT it cools down significantly at night. I didn't have an A/C system in the house and there was only a few days in the 10 years I was out there that I really wished I had A/C. Even with 100°F daytime temps., it would cool down to the 60's at night. Desert temp swings..... So, after I installed a couple of 2x4 opening skylights in the ranch style house, I'd open the windows, open the skylights and the house would cool down pretty quickly at night. I had a double wide front door, 2 sets of sliding doors in the master bedroom and a sliding door at the back of the house. LOTS of air would move through the house even if there wasn't much of a breeze.


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If I recall correctly, Bob Lusk said that the big difference between North & South was not perfect days for LMB, but rather perfect days for BG, backbone of the LMB food chain. South has more growing & spawning days for these fish, which means more of them for LMB to eat.

This would help to account for the oft-observed fact that Florida LMB are more cautious about what they put in their oversized mouths. They have more prey for longer time than bass up north, so don't have to rush or take chances like their Yankee cousins.

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Good further clarification, esshup!

The Indiana LMB record is 14# 12oz. (Impressive!)

If the "growth" genetics of a Florida-strain LMB could be plugged into a northern-strain LMB (to survive the colder winters), then do you think Indiana could produce a 20#+ LMB? (That would further support your and Lusk's arguments that the true "effective" growing season is equivalent in both places.)

I think it was Lusk? that pointed out that a 12# LMB in the north is much older than a 12# LMB in the south. The price for faster growth was shorter lifespan. And the cold winters in the north somewhat "slow the clock" on aging.

Feel free to clarify everything that is fuzzy (or dead wrong) in my speculation above.

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Originally Posted by anthropic
If I recall correctly, Bob Lusk said that the big difference between North & South was not perfect days for LMB, but rather perfect days for BG, backbone of the LMB food chain. South has more growing & spawning days for these fish, which means more of them for LMB to eat.

Thanks anthropic.

That is another way to get at what I have been trying to ask.

We can't control the weather or climate at our ponds. Is there a way to create more A+ forage days/year at our ponds for the conditions that we have?

Joined: May 2014
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A
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A
Joined: May 2014
Posts: 3,851
Likes: 294
Rod, you asked esshup, not me, which shows you are wise. But despite my inferior knowledge compared to him, I really don't think Indiana could ever grow a 20 lb LMB, even with the best genetics & even if Florida strain survived the winter in good shape.

The reason is forage. BG only spawn once, or very occasionally twice, in the Midwestern climate. Just not enough food to support world record type LMB.

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