Find out how to maintain Largemouth Bass with Bob Lusk, the Pond Boss, as he explains with the catch and release and slot limit methods.

You know, it may look like we’re fishing. We’re not. We’re sampling. Welcome. Today we’re going to talk about fisheries management. I’m going to give you some courses on how to take care of your fish.

Now of course look at that bass, doesn’t need a lot of care, but what we’re going to talk about is how to best maintain your Largemouth Bass fishery Bass and Bluegill. That’s a feed trained Largemouth Bass. Here we are at Richmond Mill Lake in North Carolina, and my helper David Bueller and I are going to do some scientific sampling.

You know one of the things, I want to keep this fish moist, keep him wet. We’re going to weigh the fish, and we’re going to measure it. I’m going to take a few notes and then release it unharmed. So, let’s see what we got here. This bass is a little bit less than sixteen inches long. So let’s see what it weighs. The fish that length should weigh about two and a quarter, this Bass weighs one ounce under three pounds, not quite sixteen inches. That is a fat healthy Bass. So that right there is a perfect example of a fish that you should catch and release. It’s heavy, bigger than it should be, that fish deserves to stay out there, it’s got plenty of food.

Now, how do you know whether to choose catch and release or maybe some kind of a slot limit? Well, that’s what I’m going to teach you about. Anytime your fish are growing at acceptable rates and your fishery is balanced, catch and release is a great tool.

Now let me tell you what balanced means. A balanced fishery is where you have different sizes of the different species of fish, different size Bass, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, and minnows, whatever fish you have coming in at a wide variety of sizes, and they’re all at least the weight they should be, the standard weight.

For example, as twelve inch Bass should weigh twelve ounces. A fourteen inch Bass should weigh one pound seven ounces. Take those standards and compare your fish to that. Now over time, keep some records. It’s okay to catch a few fish like we’re doing today to take a look at their health. Weigh them, measure them, write that down. Then over a spam of months, you can compare three months, you can compare next May’s fish to last May’s fish, and you can see whether or not your fish are growing.

At some point the fish will catch up with the food chain. When that happens it’s time to start taking a few fish out, to go to what’s called a slot limit. What does that mean? Well, that means if you’re catching a bunch of ten to fourteen inch fish, and they’re beginning to be underweight, it’s time to take out some of those fish in that size range.

Let me give you this point. A fourteen inch Bass has to weigh one pound and seven ounces to get to be fourteen inches long. If your fourteen inch Bass weigh less than that, they’ve lost weight. If they’re consistently underweight like that, then it’s time to look at a slot limit.

Now there’s several kinds of slot limits. I like to use an inside out slot limit, where you’re catching certain fish in between size ranges. If your Bass, yellow perch, walleye, whatever they are, are between a certain slot size or underweight, that’s the fish you need to harvest. If you catch a fish that’s fat and healthy, turn it loose. That’s slot limits and that’s catch and release.

If you’re tracking the lengths and weights of your fish, at some point you’re going to see that the fish weight begins to decline. When that happens you have two choices. You can either start taking some fish out or you can bridge that food chain gap with a supplemental feed program. There’s different sizes of AquaMax feeds that you can feed the different sizes of baitfish to help the baitfish catch back up with your Bass. That’s a good way to do it.

You know, one other thing that’s really important, pay really close attention to the fish that you add to your pond. Sometimes we think we should add more fish to get more bait fish. Not a bad idea, some people do that and it works really well, but be sure to use fish that are native to your area. If you live in Wisconsin, don’t go to Florida to get fish, and conversely if you live in Texas, don’t go to New York to get fish. Use fish that are close to you in your region.

You know this fishery management thing is a lot of fun. It does look like we’re fishing, but we’re sampling. This is all science. Keep good records. This is what I want you to take home. If you keep good records, the fish will tell you when it’s time to make a change.

Fisheries are dynamic. They change all the time, and if you can stay with the dynamics, at some point you’ll begin to see when there’s a bounty. Nature will supply a bounty, and when that happens it’s your job to bring some of those fish out so the remaining fish can grow. And if you’ll manage your fish, and make sure you got the right kinds of fish at the right rates, that fishery will last a long long time, and you’ll have fun for years to come.