See this from the Kansas Fish & Wildlife Pond Management advice
All ponds produce some natural food for fish. The amount of food produced is a function of the pondís productivity. Food quantity, in turn, determines what weight of fish the pond can support. The average amount of fish in a Kansas pond of average fertility is about 250 pounds per acre, of which only a portion (30-50% by weight) can be harvested per year. Fish populations in most Kansas ponds are not harvested heavily enough to overtax natural food production. Supplemental feeding is thus not usually required. In special cases where the harvest demand is high or where large fish are desired, feeding can be beneficial.
Formulated fish feeds in pellet form are available at most feed stores. The most common feed is formulated for catfish, but it is also suitable for bluegills. These feeds are available in the form of sinking pellets or floating pellets. The advantage of floating pellets is that the person feeding the fish can determine whether the fish are eating the feed.
Bluegills will eat artificial feed, but feeding alone will not usually increase the sizes of overpopulated bluegills. Adequate predation on small bluegills by bass along with the feeding can, however, result in increased bluegill growth rates and larger bluegills.
Channel catfish are practical to feed, either as the only species in a pond or together with other species. They quickly learn to eat artificial feed and their growth rate increases. Both catfish and bluegill should be fed no more than they can consume in 15 minutes, up to a maximum of 20 pounds per acre per day. If fish are overfed, decomposition of wasted feed can result in oxygen depletion, killing fish. It is a good idea to monitor water temperature and oxygen content. Feeding should occur daily or at least every other day when water temperatures are over 60įF. Once a feeding program has been started it should continue throughout the growing season unless the pondís oxygen content falls below 5 ppm at the surface. If it is stopped, fish will lose weight.
Muddy ponds or ponds less than half an acre usually do not produce enough bass and luegills for consistently good angling. It is in such ponds that densities of 200 or more channel catfish per acre can be maintained through supplemental feeding.
Channel catfish can also be fed in cages constructed of 1/2- 3/4 inch mesh screen suspended from floats and anchored in a pond. A cage with a volume of one cubic yard can support 200-275 channel catfish 6-10 inches long. Diseases and oxygen deficiencies due to overfeeding are much more common with confined fish; no more than 1,000 fish per acre should be raised in cages. Food formulated for cage culture should be provided every day of the growing eason, but no more food should be furnished than can be consumed in 15 minutes.
Here are some Feeding fish and pellet training links from the PB Forum:
Getting older bluegills trained to pellets.http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=400107#Post400107
Improving bluegill growth with supplemental feeding:
SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING From Growing Trophy Bluegills in Pond Boss Magazine by Condello, Biard, and Cody
Most animals generally benefit from a nutritious, varied diet. Bluegills are no exception.
Providing artificial feed for your bluegills gives them a chance to use whatís known as optimal foraging theory. Optimal foraging for bluegills means they use minimal effort to consume a maximum amount of beneficial food. Commercially available floating fish food pellets fit this theory to a tee.
Invertebrate populations are cyclical in ponds, which means different types of bugs are available primarily at certain times of the year. If floating pellets are available during periods of low invertebrate numbers, your bluegill can use nutrition from pellets as a supplement to get to the next invertebrate spike.
Pellets provide important protein for growing and bulking up your fish. Different pellet formulations have different levels of protein, vitamin and nutrient content. See Figure 2 for examples of various pellets with different protein levels.
While it may seem intuitive to buy the cheapest pellets, you should keep in mind that the bluegill is using energy to metabolize this food source, and higher quality pellets mean less digestive effort required to derive the same amount or a higher level of nutrition. In the end it is entirely possible that you are spending less to produce each ounce of bluegill muscle mass with the more expensive, higher quality feed. Results of a study by Hoagland et. al. (2003), showed pellets with a protein content of 44% and 8% fat produced the best growth for bluegills.
You could also make the argument that higher quality pellets have a higher percentage of digestible materials and thus produce less waste materials. This gives your precious behemoths a better home to live in. Based on your situation, we suggest that you research pellet availability in your region and attempt to secure the highest quality of feed. We think you will be rewarded with larger sized, healthier bluegills.
You will find that after a period of time your giant Ďgills will fall into one of three categories.
1. The Pellet Pig--Some bluegills will opt to subsist almost entirely on pellets. The fish will show tremendous initial growth and their relative weights will be off the chart. There is some speculation amongst the authors that these fish wonít necessarily be the largest in the end. It is conceivable that this diet could create some systemic problems in these fish. New research on the nutrition of bluegills will add more knowledge to this topic.
2. The Opportunist--A portion of your bluegill will readily forage for natural prey items, and take pellets when available. Itís likely that these individuals will be your one kilogram fish. Their diet is varied, they are always full and they grow the best.
3. Mr. Snooty--This one either canít figure the pellet out, or just plain doesnít like them. Since a pond with just male bluegill should have abundant invertebrates, this fish still has the ability to become a trophy. He may start a little more slowly, but as he matures and his mouth gets bigger, heíll begin to use more of the giant dragonfly, damselfly, and caddisfly larvae that should be available in your pond if you are following our methods. However the all male bluegill, that are stocked into a mixed fish community, may have a hard time finding enough of just natural foods to reach the behemoth size.
By using the standard weights for bluegills in Table 1, you can periodically capture, weigh and measure bluegill in your pond and use the results to determine if the growth of your males is consistent with growing behemoths. Standard weights can also be used to calculate the condition of relative weight of your bluegills.
Supplemental feeding could have the dual benefit of improving body condition of not only the bluegill but also other fish in the pond. However, you should carefully observe fish during pellet feeding sessions. You want to make certain that bluegill arenít squeezed out at feeding time. Careful observation will confirm other types of fish in your pond arenít getting all the goodies.
PELLET TRAINING TECHNIQUES
To get YP and other non-pellet trained fish to eat pellets in a cage, it takes some concerted effort. For first timers this can be frustrating and often not very unsuccessful. Pellet training in a cage or pond is not as simple as tossing in pellets. Often it is much quicker, easier and often more successful to just buy the fish already pellet trained, even if it costs a little more in time and money. This is especially true for beginners. In the end it will actually save time as you wonít spend time training the fish to eat pellets which can be time consuming if done correctly, which results in a high success rate - IMO and experience. There are previous topics here about various ways to train fish to eat pellets. IMO the training technique for fish in a cage is different than pellet training fish in a pond because pond fish can still get natural foods, but caged fish cannot feed on natural foods. Caged fish are also under added stressors which makes it more important to get good food intake to maintain health.
Basically feed training involves first getting contained fish to eat some sort of damp natural food such as rehydrated krill, chopped worms, fish, crayfish, shrimp, clams, etc. Once they are eating the damp natural food then the best procedure in my experience is gradually introducing damp fish pellets (high protein 40%+) with the wet natural foods, then gradually reducing natural items and increasing the damp pellets. This process usually takes 7-14 days for me. When fish are eating the damp pellets gradually make pellets drier and drier until they are completely dry. So you see, the process is sort of involved and buying pellet trained fingerlings is usually easier and much quicker unless one cannot find pellet trained fish. One important facet is to get the fish eating some sort of food asap once they are in a cage which is a pretty stressful environment for them. You do not want them to become sick or with fungus while in the cage then mortality and losses are usually very high. Again - buying pellet trained stockers is usually the better way to proceed when putting fish in a cage. Even with pellet trained stockers they sometimes do not readily accept pellets and this depends on the source or supplier which is usually VERY important.
From Cecil Baird:
I have some old aquaculture tests that talk about how impossible it is to feed train bass and yellow perch. Same goes with walleye but we know that's been done too. And we know of folks here on the website that have done it on a limited basis right?
I see the best chances to feed train them are:
1.) Use very small fish.
2.) Crowd them in tanks for competitive feeding.
3.) Mix in bluegills of the same size that readily take artificial feed.
4.) Keep water temps warm to have them at peak metabolism to be constantly hungry.
5.) Start out with something palatable and wean to hydrated artificial feed and then solid artificial feed.