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#560121 08/01/23 09:59 AM
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After 10 years of observing my pond (more or less) I have never seen a ball of tiny forage fish all balled up like a mini tornado before. I see it now in the shallows and from time to time the ball erupts and a few fish fly out of the water on top. I understand this balling up is a survival tactic and that in theory there could be a predator heading there way. Although in my observation it may just be a comfortable position for the fish since the ball tends to form here and for now reason erupts, then forms again a few feet over and continues that way.

I have had GSH and SFS in the pond for 4-5 years now but have not seen this behavior. It makes me think that it could be a new reproduction event from an unexpected species since it is a first for me to observe.

I can't get close enough to identify them. Does anyone know if SFS do the 'bait ball' thing? I wonder why it wasn't observed in the past since we have had scads of baby SFS all summer long every year.

I don't have reproducing GSH as far as I know as I see no more young GSH, only very old menopausal size GSH.

My concern is that bullhead and possibly LMB are reported to ball up like this and I just was hoping i didn't have a surprise tenant in my pond having babies that are more apt to ball up like this. Do large and small fish (the young of their species) ball up like this? Walleye for example?

Thanks

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LMB fry do that but only for a few days. Shads also exhibit that behavior.
















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I've only seen LMB, Bullheads and catfish fry form those balls. If I were to guess I'd say they were LMB fry. How many days have you seen this? Can you cast a bare treble hook through the school and snag one? Or take a dip net and catch one?


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Hmm This will be most interesting if they turn out to be LMB as my pond has no outlet or inlet and it would have to be an intentional bucket stockings by some unhelpful individual if they actually are LMB.

It would also have to mean that there are TWO adult LMB bucket stocked (or more than 2) and that the 2 new LMB stocked happened to be MALE and FEMALE. Or... that a gravid female was stocked...

They are very small so hard to get a visual on but I was a bit concerned as I thought I could see a hint of a black stripe on them. uh oh....

My adult Spotfin males are in beautiful spawning colors and my bloom has faded enough that I can really see them drift up for the food pellets and linger a bit before turning to go down. They have a silvery blue side coloring and the fins have become much more golden.

I have seen the bait balls every day that I have been down there feeding (which means 3 days in the last 5) although my kids have noticed these black blobs in the water that have splashing associated with them so I think it is safe to say they have been there maybe 2 weeks now? I see only one pond location (near to the spotfin shiner spawning stack of disks) so hoping they are actually shiner minnows which would make the most sense.

They stay about 15 feet out from shore and move quickly so not sure how I could swipe through them, would have to get a long handle and sneak up on it somehow.

I should get some minnow traps out again and sample in a more general fashion.

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I might need Bill Cody help!
I searched around town and found one Walmart that had plain galvanized Gee minnow traps in stock. I bought one and tried a bait combination of bread, dog food and optimal fish food pellets. I soaked it in shallow water for about 30 min, saw plenty fish around it but none inside. Then moved it a bit deeper for about 90 minutes, pulled it in, no fish. Put it back in the shallows again for another hour, this time it got dark. Went out to pull it in after dark, nothing, notta.

The entrance and exit holes are about the size I would think would work well for minnows (1" or just under)

Is the trap too shiny still as it is brand new galvanized?

I hate to paint it with how much work they put into galvanizing and making it rust free.

I'll leave it over night and see what happens.

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cc, I recall someone saying that the gray, galvanized cylinder traps work better than the black, coated ones, but I can't recall who said it.

In my experience, I've only ever seen bullhead YOY to be dark colored in a bait ball, but they look like little catfish early on. For LMB YOY, I call that more like schooling than a bait ball like bullhead do. However, the faint dark or black stripe on a baby LMB is visible at around 1"+ I think, and soon after, the black tail appears.


Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
"She took another microscopic bite of her sandwich, then pushed it away. Maybe she absorbed nutrients from her surroundings."

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The minnow traps work the best when the openings are parallel to the shore. Leave it in for 24 hours and check it the next day. BUT, if the "bait balls" are staying together out in deeper water they might not go into the trap.

If it was just 1 gravid female bass, the eggs aren't fertilized until they exit her body, and it's the Male that guards/fans the nest to keep the eggs oxygenated.


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SMB also school like that and are black as yoy.

LMB

[Linked Image]

LMB

[Linked Image]

Last edited by ewest; 08/02/23 12:28 PM.















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ewest's second picture is what I'm referring to as 'schooling' vs. 'bait ball.'

To me bait ball is like a blob that moves together in various 3-D shapes.


Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
"She took another microscopic bite of her sandwich, then pushed it away. Maybe she absorbed nutrients from her surroundings."

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Yes, this is the very classic bait BALL, a tight black blob that catches your eye at first because it seems to be a solid mass and then when you get closer you see minnows moving and then once in a while the whole ball blows up, a few minnows dart out of the water and then the whole ball reforms down the bank a ways again.

Because it is so characteristic of what bullhead/catfish do I'm a bit concerned.... Really didn't want anything even close to the catfish family ever in my pond.

This blob is not a school of young fish for sure, it is a 3D shape shifter..

I tried the trap a couple more places, deep, shallow, parallel and perpendicular to shore etc, nothing, not a minnow. I left it over night again and will check this morning.

Either my fish are super smart or that shiny galvanizing needs to be dulled out somehow. Or there is a bait I need to come up with. I would think between bread, dogfood and fish food there would be a variety of scents and attractants for them there.

They are a bit too far out to catch with a net. Maybe a cast net?

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My pond was loaded with bullheads prior to renovation. Cast net thrown on the ball would catch hundreds at a time. HIghly recommended.

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Checked my trap again after overnight session. 2 perch in the trap (about 4" each)

Good news is that there are still young YP in the pond (never see them and not sure about recruitment)

Still can't get minnows to go in traps. I'll try other bait and locations (and depths)

I imagine the galvanizing will tarnish or get a brown coating on it by itself if I keep it in the water long enough. I'm surprised the shine scares them away...

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Originally Posted by canyoncreek
I might need Bill Cody help!
I searched around town and found one Walmart that had plain galvanized Gee minnow traps in stock. I bought one and tried a bait combination of bread, dog food and optimal fish food pellets. I soaked it in shallow water for about 30 min, saw plenty fish around it but none inside. Then moved it a bit deeper for about 90 minutes, pulled it in, no fish. Put it back in the shallows again for another hour, this time it got dark. Went out to pull it in after dark, nothing, notta.

The entrance and exit holes are about the size I would think would work well for minnows (1" or just under)

Is the trap too shiny still as it is brand new galvanized?

I hate to paint it with how much work they put into galvanizing and making it rust free.

I'll leave it over night and see what happens.
I have tried black Gee trap and caught nothing, used a galvanized Gee and it works fine catching bg up to two inches

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CC, toss out a bare treble hook and rip it through the bait ball. Keep it up until you have one impaled and brought in to get a picture of.


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great idea esshup. I searched around the shallows yesterday and today in case I could cast a cast net on them but did not see the blob anymore. I'll check tomorrow if I can catch it before it starts our 24 hours of steady rain. Maybe once they got big enough they didn't need to swim in formation in a blob anymore.

I went out after dark tonight and am heartened to see lots of SFS minnows in the shallows of all sizes.

I had baited the trap with remnants from a cooked chicken carcase and some more fish food (looking to create new scents and smells from different protein sources and was heading to throw the chicken remnants away anyway) For sure there must be zero crayfish in my pond as I would think any crayfish for miles around would head towards the greasy plume coming from the trap.

The trap was in about 6 hours and pulled it in, the chicken remnants are washed clearn but not a hint of life in the trap.


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