Stocking a new pond
is easy. Much more difficult is trying to figure out what to do with
an older pond with an established fish population. A basic understanding
of what is being caught can help keep track and identify problems with the
One method to evaluate the bass and bream population is to fish for
both large and small bluegill and bass and keep track of what you are able
to catch. Then, look at Table 1 to see if your pond is
in balance or if corrections need to be made. You should keep accurate
records of your fishing effort (time), success (fish caught), and harvest
(fish kept) for every time you fish the pond.
A much more effective evaluation technique is to capture some of the
young fish using a seine. The best time to do this is in mid-May to late
June after the bass and bluegill have spawned. Using a 20-foot seine
(4 to 5 feet deep with 1/4 to 3/8 inch mesh), make three to five semi-circular
passes in shallow areas of the pond and record what you catch. Allow the seine
to arch so that the fish cannot easily swim around it. The fish caught
in the seine hauls provide information on the reproductive success of the
fish in the pond and also help determine if there are unwanted species present.
Look at the fish in the seine, and match your catch to Table
1 to find out what kind of fish population you have.
Lightweight seines suitable for checking ponds cost only about $25.
If catfish are desired and are not being caught, stock more fish.
In ponds with existing bass populations, make sure to stock catfish fingerlings
at least 8 inches in length. Keeping records of the number of catfish stocked
and caught help determine if and when additional stockings are needed. Catfish
Table 1: Fish
population status based on seine and angler catch data.
|Many recently hatched bluegill
less than 2 inches; some intermediate size bluegill (2-4 inches); some recently
hatched largemouth bass.
|Largemouth bass and bluegill
of various sizes.
|No or very few recently hatched
bluegill; many intermediate size bluegill; no recently hatched largemouth
|Largemouth bass catch low and
only larger fish (15 inches or larger); few harvestable bluegill (6 inches
|Many recently hatched bluegill;
very few to no intermediate size bluegill; very few to no recently hatched
|Largemouth bass numerous but
small (12 inches or less) and often thin; bluegill few but large and robust.
is in balance, the bluegill are providing all of the food that the bass
need, and the bass are controlling the bluegill population. Ponds that
are in balance have bluegill and bass present in all of the possible sizes
from newly hatched to large adult. Seine hauls in a balanced pond
should contain many recently hatched bluegill (less than 2 inches), some
intermediate size bluegill (2" to 4") and some recently hatched largemouth
bass (1" to 4"). These ponds provide great fishing. Monitor the
fish in a balanced pond using a seine each summer to check for adequate reproduction
and through angler catch information throughout the year. If the pond
is in balance, then no corrective measures are needed; just follow the harvesting
directions in the All-Purpose Option
If you remove too
many of the larger bass from a pond, too few predators will remain to control
the bream population and they will overpopulate the pond. The overcrowded
bream are unable to find enough food and they don’t grow well. The small
bass that are left in the pond are unable to compete with the bream for food,
so the bass are unable to grow to a size large enough to eat the bream that
are present in such high numbers. Most of the baby bass are eaten when
they are tiny so there are few small bass in the pond. Rarely, a bass manages
to get large enough to eat the stunted bluegills. When that happens,
the bass grows quickly. Bluegill crowded ponds are characterized by
a large population of stunted bluegill (2" – 4") with very few of harvestable
size. The bass population consists primarily of a very few large individuals.
Successful bass and
bluegill reproduction is greatly reduced. Summer seine hauls have
very few, if any, newly hatched bass or bluegill. Ponds that are overcrowded
with bluegill are difficult to correct. However, there are four potential
methods of correcting this situation.
- Harvest as
many bluegill of all sizes as possible. The number needed to reduce
the effects of the overcrowded situation may not be possible through fishing
alone. Most pond owners will not be able to catch and remove enough
of the very small 2" to 4" bluegill.
- Lower the water
level in the pond to about one-half the original volume. This concentrates
the bluegill so that the bass can more readily eat them. This is best
done in late summer or early fall. Allow the pond to refill before the
- Stock 20 to
30 adult (8" to 12") largemouth bass per acre. These adult fish will
eat and help reduce the overcrowded bluegill population.
- The methods
described above are often successful in fixing an out-of-balance pond.
However, they do require some work and dedication, and improvements may
be slow to happen or may not happen at all. An alternative to the
methods above is a complete renovation that includes draining and killing
all of the fish in the pond. Once the pond has refilled, start over
with stocking. This may be the best choice in cases where large numbers
of unwanted species are in the pond or corrective measures do not improve
the size structure of the population and return the pond to balance.
When there are too
many bass in the pond, they eat most of the bream before the bream reach
2 to 4 inches in length. When this happens, there is not enough food
for the medium-sized bass and they can’t grow to larger sizes. The
only bream present are the newly hatched fish that have not been eaten yet
and a few large adults that have somehow escaped the bass and reached a size
too large for the bass to eat. Ponds that are bass crowded have large
numbers of small (12 inches or less) and thin bass and a small population
of large bluegill. This is a desirable situation if you prefer to catch
large bluegill. However, if bass are the desired species, then ponds
in this condition would benefit from an increased annual harvest of bass.
In a single year, remove approximately 35 pounds of bass (12 inches or less)
per acre. This reduces the competition for food among the remaining
bass resulting in increased growth in following years.