|Ohio Farm News
By Steve Bartels
The number two question we receive here at the extension office about ponds is, “How do I keep the bluegill from taking over so that my bass will get big?”
Well, no two ponds are the same, so it’s really impossible to give a simple answer to that question. Maybe we should rephrase the question to: “How do I get the fish in my pond big enough to harvest as quickly as possible?” Too often we want to fish for only bass. By the way, the number one question is about weed control.
To provide good fishing, your pond should contain between three to six pounds of bluegill, redears or minnows for each pound of bass. About one third of these should be less than 2.5 inches long, small enough for the average bass to eat.
Sixty to 85 percent of the fish in the pond should be harvestable size. A bluegill or redear can be harvested when it is five inches or more in length. You should not harvest a bass until after it has spawned once. It takes at least two years for a bass, nine inches in length, to spawn. Most will not spawn until they are three years old, and would be about twelve inches long. We recommend not harvesting bass until they are at least twelve inches long.
For each pound of bass that is harvested, four to five pounds of forage fish should be taken. That means for each bass harvested, measuring 12 and 13 inches long, at least 10 to 30 forage fish should be taken out of the pond, depending on their size.
So what do you do if the pond is now out of balance? Invite every youth group you can think of to fish for bluegill. Put the fish in a container for you to take care of after the kids leave. You may want to ban fishing for bass for a year. Don’t take any money or any of the fish to eat as compensation, which may increase your liability. You may also want to tell your insurance agent what you are doing.
You can use large seines, at least 20 feet by 4 feet with half-inch mesh to catch larger numbers of forage fish. To seine, make moves ending toward the shoreline. Lift the seine onto the bank and immediately put the bass and large forage fish back into the water. Dispose of the small fish later.
Fish traps can be used to accomplish the same thing with much less work. Bait the traps with soybean or cottonseed cake, bread or other foods that disintegrate slowly in the water. Cottage cheese in a cloth mesh bag suspended inside the trap will also attract fish. Place the trap in two to four feet of water with the long axis parallel to the shoreline. Traps should be checked and emptied daily. Several traps may be used per surface acre depending on the number of fish you want to remove.
It is impossible to suggest how many fish should be removed. You will need to experiment to determine when you have reached the correct amount. With an overabundance of forage fish you may need to remove as much as 100 lbs. per acre before the bass can keep them under control.
For more information on maintaining good fishing and managing your pond, go to http://ohioline.osu.edu and search for pond management. The Ohio Pond Management Guide will come up. You can also pick it up for a small charge at your OSU Extension Office.
This farm news was published in the August 9, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.