Can You Have Too Many Bluegill?
Folks often ask, “Can you have too many bluegill?” If your goal is growing big bass, then the indisputable answer is–no.
A GA client’s fast-paced travel, long hours in conference rooms, and family obligations limited time in the outdoors. When rare fishing moments arose, having a memorable experience was important. He was on a mission to build a 4-acre bass haven. Initial forage stocking included 7,500 small bluegill per acre, plus 250 redear and 10-pounds of minnows per acre. Minimum recommended bluegill rates for a quality bass fishery are 1,500 per acre. The more, the better. Include fertilization and supplemental feeding so bluegill achieve above-average sizes and produce more forage. Our friend installed two automatic feeders.
Stocking higher-than-average bluegill numbers early gives three advantages to achieving a strong food chain. First, small fish grow up in your lake, become conditioned to your water, your habitat, and adjust to environmental conditions for long-term success. We’ve seen over and over that stocking fingerlings yields super adults. Second, stocking higher numbers of fish gives an advantage using percentages to grow more numbers of big bluegills. There’s a certain percentage of fish which have the most aggressive nature to grow large. Stocking more numbers increases chances of growing more fish to larger sizes. Third, stocking higher numbers of bluegills builds a sound food chain for eye-popping growth. Additionally, when introducing bass, they will have all they can eat and grow rapidly.
Within 18-months of stocking bass, you’ll have three size classes. One group is the fastest growing fish you’ll ever see. Next size down will be quite a bit above normal. The third size will be males and under-performing females. The more overweight fish you have, the more likely they will reach trophy class. Those fish will be your first group of the biggest bass you can grow. This is especially true when using our quality Tiger Bass. As outlined, the priority is managing habitat, food chain, genetics, and population dynamics so bass grow as big as possible–as fast as possible. Ultimately, the faster they grow, the sooner they will be big enough to catch and enjoy.
Well intending friends may want to give you bass from area ponds or reservoirs. Please DO NOT add fish from outside sources unless approved by your consultant. They may be below healthy relative weights, too old, stunted, and not have desired Florida genes. There’s no way to casually stock right numbers or right specimens to produce a balanced fishery. A less than scientific plan would be difficult to reverse if not started on the right path. If your goal is quality bass and large bluegill, don’t stock channel catfish in bass lakes. They dominate feeders, rob bluegill of valuable nutrition, and compete with bass for critical forage. If you like to catch and eat catfish, we’ll help establish catfish in a separate, smaller pond.
As with any project, front-end costs require the greatest investment. In future years, as you meet bass harvest requirements and sustain a strong food chain, there should be no need to stock additional bluegill, redear, or minnows, unless you want to set records. Without harvest, small bass become too numerous, usually between 10 to 14-inches. They consume large amounts of ideal forage needed by bigger bass. Eventually, they deplete the forage base, no matter how abundant. Consistent harvest pushes bass sizes over 15-inches. Generally, annual maintenance expense includes fish food, plus regular electrofishing surveys to monitor fish health and harvest under-performers. Hopefully, you won’t experience serious vegetation issues. If so, then grass carp or tilapia could be stocked as a biological method for managing certain plants.
Our friend’s lake survey data at the end of the second season found 25-percent of the sample was 16 to 19-inches. Many exceeded ideal weight and were considered trophy class (Relative weight shows what a bass of a given length should weigh). From 36 bass evaluated, 15 recorded normal 90 to 100 percentile, 19 were an impressive 100 to 120 percent, and two topped 120 percent. Aggressive harvest will improve those numbers.
Contact us for a lake survey to measure bass relative weights. Results quickly show–if you have enough bluegill.
Walter Bassano – American Sport Fish