at the bottom there’s a Creel Survey Record chart that deserves its own post. not sure how to port that in.
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Carrying Capacity– Ponds that are not fed or fertilized can support 300 pounds of fish per acre. Well managed ponds that are fed, fertilized or aerated can support 600 to 1000 pounds of fish per acre.
Feeding– Ponds that are fed daily will grow more and bigger fish than ponds that are not fed. Unfertile ponds with poor soils will need to be fed in order to grow big fish. Fish feeding should begin when water temperatures warm in the spring and should continue through the fall until water temperatures cool and fish stop feeding. Fish should be fed daily all they will eat in 10 to 15 minutes. Ponds without aeration should be fed no more than 10 pounds of feed per acre per day at maturity. Aerated ponds can be fed 20 pounds per acre per day at maturity. Excessive feeding can lead to oxygen depletion and should be avoided. Bass/Bluegill and Bream ponds should be fed with a feed that has at least 38-40% protein and 8-16% fat. Catfish ponds should be fed a feed that has at least 28-32% protein and 4 to 8% fat. One year old fish will eat a 1/8 inch floating pellet. Small fish need a smaller pellet size. Newly stocked fish may not feed immediately and may need to be trained to feed by feeding in the same area of a pond at the same time each day. As the fish grow they will feed more aggressively. Automatic fish feeders make fish feeding simple and easy.
Fertilization– Fertilization increases productivity of a pond and can help control aquatic vegetation. Water chemistry determines how effective a fertilization program will be. Ponds must have a total alkalinity of 20 ppm in order to benefit from fertilizer. If alkalinity is less than 20 ppm agricultural limestone can be added periodically to increase alkalinity. Contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service Agent for assistance when measuring alkalinity and determining how much limestone to add. Fertilization should begin when weather warms in spring and can continue until water temperatures cool in the fall. Fertilizer should be added every 2 weeks until visibility is less than 2 feet, then only as needed when visibility increases beyond 2 feet. Excessive fertilization can cause oxygen depletion and fish kills and should be avoided. Ponds with muddy water or aquatic vegetation should not be fertilized. Fed ponds will require less fertilizer. Muddy water can be cleared by adding gypsum or agricultural lime.
Aeration– Aeration improves the carrying capacity of ponds and helps mix pond water to prevent turnovers and fish kills. A variety of aerators are available ranging from ornamental fountains and windmills to air compressors and paddlewheels. The most important aspect of aeration for fishing ponds is mixing of pond water to prevent turnovers. This can be accomplished with fountains or air compressors. Pond owners wanting serious fish production may consider paddlewheels. Solar and wind powered systems are available for remote locations without electricity.
Fish Habitat Improvement– Stake beds, brush piles, and Christmas trees can be sunk throughout the pond to provide submerged habitat. To avoid overpopulation of channel catfish, old tires, milk cans and buckets should not be added to encourage spawning. Artificial fish habitat can also be purchased and placed strategically around your pond to improve fish populations and fishing success.
Proper fish harvest can extend the life of your fishing pond. Each type of pond requires a different harvest strategy. Catfish ponds and bream ponds are generally put/grow/take ponds allowing a pond owner to grow big fish, catch them out and start over without concern for proper harvest. Crappie ponds, bass ponds and fishing ponds however require careful management of the predator/prey balance in order to maintain good fishing. Unfertile ponds with poor soils cannot be harvested as aggressively as fertile ponds. Beginning one year after stocking, fertile ponds need to be harvested according to the following chart:
Monitoring Fish Populations
Fish populations and predator/prey relationships are always in a state of flux requiring constant monitoring to maintain quality fishing. Two common methods are shoreline seining and angler catch records. Angler catch records should be maintained year round keeping track of how many, what size and what kind of fish are being caught. Anglers should record every fish they catch even if they release them.
Based on the results of this sampling you should be able to determine the health of your fish population and if any corrective management is necessary.
-If you are managing a bass pond and all of the bass you catch are less than 12 inches and the bluegill you catch are all over 6 inches, you should harvest 50 pounds of bass per acre and then stock 1000 5 to 6” bluegill per acre . *If the bass in your bass pond stop growing at 15 inches, harvest 30 pounds of 15 to 20 inch bass for one year.*
-If managing a fishing pond and all of the bass you catch are over 15 inches and the bluegill you catch are all less than 6 inches; you should stop harvesting bass for one year, harvest 200 pounds of 5 to 6 inch bluegill for one year and stock 25 eight inch bass per acre. If all of the bass you catch are less than 12 inches and the bluegill you catch are all over 6 inches; you should harvest 50 pounds of bass per acre and then stock 1000 5 to 6” bluegill per acre .
-If managing a crappie pond and the bass you catch are all over 15 inches and the crappie you catch are all under 8 inches; you should stop harvesting bass for one year and harvest 100 pounds of 6 to 8 inch crappie for one year.
-If managing a bream pond and the bass you catch are all over 15 inches and the bream you catch are all less than 6 inches; you should drain the pond and start over.
-If managing a catfish pond and are not catching very many catfish; you should stock more catfish.
How Fast Will My Fish Grow?
Fish growth rate and maximum size are dependant on food availability and space. Fish will grow fastest in a fertilized pond that is well fed and aerated. Fish will grow slower in ponds which have become overpopulated or contain aquatic vegetation or clear or muddy water. Channel Catfish should grow 1 pound per year and average 5 to 10 pounds in size. Largemouth Bass should grow 1 pound per year and average 4 to 6 pounds in size. Hybrid bream should grow 1/3 pound per year and average 3/4 to 1 pound in size. Bluegill sunfish should grow 1/4 pound per year and average 1/2 to 3/4 pound in size. Redear sunfish should grow 1/3 pound per year and average 3/4 to 1 pounds in size. Crappie should grow 1/4 pound per year and average 1 to 2 pounds in size. Triploid Grass Carp can grow 1 inch per month during the summer if food is available and can reach sizes of 20 to 40 pounds.
How Often Should I Restock?
The average pond requires 2 years to mature and provides good fishing for 3 to 5 more years. Once fishing begins to decline, it is sometimes best to drain a pond and start over if possible. Adding more small fish to an old pond does not necessarily maintain good fishing. See page 16 for information on proper harvest and corrective stocking to maintain good fishing in old ponds. The average catfish pond or bream pond needs to be drained and re stocked every 5 to 6 years. The life of a fishing pond, a bass pond or crappie pond can be extended beyond 6 years through intensive management, proper harvest and corrective stocking. Professional Pond Management Consultants are available for population monitoring and corrective stocking recommendations to extend the life of your pond.