Are Hatchery Ponds A Good Investment?
When biologists are ask if they can achieve a desired goal, many answer–it depends. Working with Mother Nature presents unforeseen variables and challenges. Sometimes there are no definitive answers why certain events occur. One thing biologists know unequivocally, if a bass doesn’t have a strong food chain–it won’t grow. That’s why we’re big proponents of hatchery ponds to produce large volumes of baitfish.
You’ve heard a bass MUST consume 10-pounds of forage to gain one-pound. Your first thought, that doesn’t seem like an efficient conversion rate. Why so much? Fact is, when a bass metabolizes 100-pounds of fish flesh, approximately 80-percent is water. Only 20-pounds is solid nutrition convertible to growth. High protein fish food supplements accelerate growth rates, but bass don’t recognize fish food as a meal opportunity unless trained from birth. Management programs relying on natural forage MUST cultivate buckets of baitfish for quality results. Want to grow 10-pound trophies? Your lake MUST produce 100-pounds of nutrition per fish. No compromises!
During a five to 10-year period, let’s assume your lake produces100 bass with potential for induction into the 10-pound Hall of Fame. How much forage is required to help them fulfill that dream? Applying biologists theory, it takes 1,000-pounds of food to put one-pound of growth on 100 bass. If you want each candidate to have an opportunity at attaining the coveted 10-pound crown, you MUST provide approximately 10,000-pounds of forage. That amount is required to feed just the first 100 bass. Throughout the same time, there are 500 additional bass in all other size classes growing up the ranks. Let’s see, 10-pounds x 500 = 5,000-pounds for them to reach the first pound. Then, 5,000 more to weigh two-pounds, 5,000 more to top three-pounds…you get the math. Bass prefer diverse menus of tilapia, crawfish, and threadfin shad. As bass grow, they like larger meals. Gizzard shad are great for big bass. You can farm bluegill for approximately $600 of fish food per pond annually. We can supply other species.
If you think we’re exaggerating, conduct a relative weight survey of bass and see for yourself. Relative weight is what a bass of a given length should weigh if developing normally. Catch a 16-incher. Did it weigh two-pounds or two-pounds, four-ounces? If your answer was two-pounds, start digging a hatchery pond today. The 16-incher is one-quarter pound under weight. Contact us if you don’t have a relative weight chart. We’ll e-mail one with instructions for completing the survey. It’s a great excuse to go fishing.
Bluegill hatcheries are among the most economical, efficient methods to ensure bass have abundant food. Bob built two at his home side by side. Each is 150-feet long, 30 to 40-feet wide, and average five-feet deep. Before building, consult a dirt contractor. All ponds require the same specs to prevent seepage and hold water–solid clay basins. If feasible, construct hatcheries beside the main lake. Install an 8 to 10-inch pipe so fish can be flushed directly into the lake. Close proximity to the lake also helps maintain water levels during summer and refill when starting the next crop. Stock with 25 adult bluegill six-inches or larger. Feed from mid-March through November. They’ll spawn multiple times until Fall. With no predators present, you’ll grow thousands. Around October 1, if you don’t have a pipe system, seine the bluegill bounty and move them to the lake. Bass will gorge themselves and enter winter in great shape. If you want to convert an existing one-quarter to one-half acre stock pond to a hatchery, simply rotenone it, eliminate potential predators, follow above steps, and you’re in business. If you have a duck hunting wetland with water management resources or considering building one, here’s an innovative hatchery developed by a customer in East Texas. He carefully surveyed wetland elevations so it drained into a strip basin about 75-yards long and several feet deep. While filled for duck hunting, it doubles as a bluegill hatchery. When emptying each spring to regrow waterfowl vegetation, he harvests a truck load of baitfish. Our attending biologist estimates the value of his annual forage crop approaches $5,000. We haven’t calculated the value of enjoyment you’ll have watching bass grow year to year and one day seeing a double digit number on the scale. It would be big! That’s a short-term payback on pond construction.
Sound like a daunting task? Growing a 10-pound bass is a six to eight year process, depending on your level of COMMITMENT. As mentioned earlier, there are no compromises–no casual plan to be the best. It’s more attainable than you think. Patience may be the hardest phase. We can share successful management strategy from folks who have experienced the moment. We can share progress of others in various stages of their memorable journey to the summit. Contact us for a plan to join this elite club!