Trophy Bass Management “Stocking” Outside the Box Greg Grimes Aquatic Environmental Services Fish List for Quality/Trophy Bass Stocking Bluegill Sunfish Redear Sunfish Fathead minnows Threadfin Shad Golden Shiners Crayfish Largemouth Bass(F1, Florida, Northern) Gizzard Shad
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“Stocking” Outside the Box
Aquatic Environmental Services
Largemouth Bass(F1, Florida, Northern)
Tilapia (if legal)
Known as bream to many, they are the backbone of forage production for largemouth bass ponds. Bluegill are very prolific, reproducing multiple times a season (3-5 times/year). This provides largemouth bass with a large quantity of food while still allowing themselves to sustain a healthy thriving population. They spawn in large colonies of nest in 3 to 6 feet in depth over sandy and gravel substrates close to the shore. Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach 67-70°F. Bluegill readily eat floating fish food and have great growth rates from supplemental feeding. They also provide excellent fishing opportunities for kids and novice fishermen and are good to eat. There are two subspecies of bluegill native (also called Mississippi) and coppernose. The coppernose are better suited for warm climates and are aggressive with supplemental feeding program.
Also known as bream, the Shellcracker occupy a different ecological niche than bluegill, improving the utilization of the pond’s natural productivity. Shellcracker eat snails along with other invertebrates present in the pond and can help to reduce the incidence of some fish parasites (i.e., grubs, flatworms) that use a snail as a intermediate host. Similar to other bream species, Shellcracker are a favorite prey fish for bass. They can grow larger than bluegill, but they are not as prolific, since they reproduce only once per year. Usually distinguished from bluegill by presence of red or orange ear tab.
Fathead minnows are typical stocked only in new lakes at the same time the bluegill and redear sunfish are stocked. Fathead minnows provide a excellent forage species for young, newly stocked bass and help reduce feeding pressure on the bluegill from the bass. Fathead minnows will reproduce at a high rate but will become almost non existent after a year or so due to predation from the bass. However, during the time that the fathead minnows population numbers are high, the bluegill are flourishing and getting a head start on the bass due to less Pressure from the bass. This is why fathead minnows play such a critical role in a newly stocked lake.
This species occupies an additional niche in the ecosystem and improves lake productivity since they mostly feed on phytoplankton. They provide a rich and abundant source of protein for largemouth bass. It is critical for establishment to stock in the spring with spawn ready shad. This means adult size (>2 inches) shad gathered when they are surfacing in efforts to spawn. The numbers need to be high enough to survive initial bass predation in lakes where already established. The bluegill population will increase due to less predation pressure allowing higher recruitment of medium size bluegill.
Golden shiners feed on small aquatic organisms and provide an additional forage species for largemouth bass. They are known to eat the eggs of other species. This provides a management concern. However, this can help to keep the bass population from becoming over abundant. They routinely reach sizes up to 10 inches in length providing a larger prey item than threadfin shad.
Called swamp bugs, crawfish, crawdads or crayfish they are an asset to growing big bass. Stocking rates are less for a new pond than existing lake. Establishment is accomplished usually with 50 lbs/acre. They occupy a different niche and in the right environment aid in bass growth. Some also feel they create a situation where the bass bite better as well. Crayfish thrive when they have hiding places, thick trees are good but rock and concrete are even better. They also need a high hardness, something that should be achieved with a good lime application.
Largemouth bass are the preferred game fish in the U.S. providing exciting fishing for anglers. They will eat just about anything that they can fit into their mouths making it the top end predator in most ponds. Largemouth bass begin to spawn when the water temperature reaches 63-68°F, normally once a year the in early spring before bluegill begin to spawn. There are two known subspecies, Florida and Northern. Florida bass are known to grow quite large but research has shown them to be less aggressive when adults thus harder to catch. Northern bass are more aggressive but do not have the top end potential of Florida bass. The F1 is a cross between the two having the characteristics of both. You can also have Fx bass that are a mix of genetics of both subspecies. Lower stocking densities provide increased initial growth during critical early year growth periods.
Gizzard shad are filter feeders and also feed on benthic organisms. Gizzard shad provide an excellent forage species for largemouth bass. However they do grow large in size and can become too big for a bass to eat. Due to this it is critical to monitor their size to prevent what is called a “gizzard shad lockup”. This is where large gizzard shad too big for bass use up a large amount of food in the lake and they themselves do not spawn. To grow really large bass this risk is worth taking. Though threadfin shad are excellent forage when a lake owner wants to grow true trophy size bass, they are the next choice. Do not stock these fish until the lake is established with a high percentage of bass over 4 lbs.
Rainbow Trout(Oncorhynchusmykiss)Rainbow trout provide a good game fish for children and novice fisherman and they diversify the fishing options of the pond. Rainbow trout are aggressive fish that bite well during the cooler months of the year when other fish are not as active and survive temperatures up to 70o F. When stocked in November/December they will provide six months or more of fun fishing before dying in the summer heat. They take awhile to float and rarely do you ever see any dead fish. They prove excellent high protein forage when stocked at smaller sizes utilized by the bass.
Tilapia are a tropical fish belonging to the cichlid family. Tilapia are very prolific and under the right conditions a female tilapia can produce 500 plus fry every 3-5 weeks. Stocking tilapia provides a tremendous amount of additional forage for the bass, but also helps reduce feeding pressure on the bluegill. Tilapia feed on small aquatic organisms, fish food, and they also feed on some aquatic vegetation such as filamentous algae and water meal that are known to be hard to eliminate with herbicides. Tilapia can survive in poor water quality conditions, however they die when water temperature drops below 52°F for several days. They become lethargic providing easy meals in the fall when temperatures drop to mid 50’s.
Why continue this outdated plan if you want trophy bass growth?
Our stocking plan is about 48:1. You add in other forage items and you can see why you get great bass growth.
EX: Lake stocked in June 2006 with 2 inch F1 bass.
October 2007- 3 lbs, 16 months after stocking
March 2007-less than a yr. 1.4 lbs
A bass was caught in July 2008 over 6 lbs. Just over two years after stocking.
Does the program work? You be the judge!
April 2008- 4 lbs
2009 clients stocked with this program. The bass were stocked June 13, 2009 as two inch fingerlings.
3 year old Avery Upchurch caught August 14th at 9 inches.
Jeff Foxworthy Pond Stocked same day June 13, 2009 with fingerling bass. Later also stocked with advanced bass ( see next slide) . We expect these bass to be over 12 inches by the end of this fall and pushing 2 lbs one year after stocking.
9 inches in August
Which one to frying pan?
Theo’s bass grown on feed, 158% relative weight.
Aquatic Environmental Services
2050 Howell Bridge Rd.
Ball Ground, GA 30107