Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Selective Harvest Pond Fishing

For the past few years I've wanted to try harvesting some fish from my pond to help promote growth rates. I've measured every bass caught since 2011 and the current average is about 10.5 inches. In the last seven year the biggest largemouth caught has been about 3lbs (~17-18 inches). The largest since 2011 has been a 16.25 inch. I would like to see that average increase to 12 inches with an occasional 21 inch trophy.

I haven't harvested any fish from the pond in many years. At one point I thought that if I didn't harvest the bass, they would grow larger given time. This is false statement. I have since learned that thinning out the smaller fish such that there is more food for the remaining population is key to growing trophies. I now believe that this is the primary reason why the ponds average bass size has been so low in recent years.

So Sunday I went to my pond with the intent to keep some bluegill to eat. Not only do you need to thin out the bass but the bluegill also. ODNR has great information on pond management posted on their website including selective harvest plans which can be found here. According to the trophy largemouth selective harvesting plan you should harvest about 300 5-7 inch bluegill, 3-5 15-20 inch largemouth, and 10 8-12 inch largemouth per acre to sustain a trophy largemouth fishery. Since my pond is about two thirds of an acre by my closest calculations, I plan to harvest 150-200 5-7 inch bluegill and 5-6 8-12 inch largemouth. Since a 15-20 inch largemouth is all but non existent in the pond I plan to release those. I'd also like to note that I wanted to wait until all fish were done spawning for the year to do any harvesting, that way the fish have already produced the maximum amount of minnows for the bigger fish to eat.

I fished for 5 hours using nightcrawler under a float set about 1-2ft deep exclusively. I ended up catching 70 bluegill and 5 largemouth on the day. Of the 70 bluegill I kept 32. Many of the bluegill were very skinny. I am unsure if this is due to an overpopulation. The average size for bluegill was about 6 inches with the largest being 8 inches.
32 Bluegill
It is a slow process filleting bluegill but it is worth it in the end as they are one of my favorite fish to eat. It was definitely a successful day of bluegill fishing but it will take several more trips to meet my 150-200 harvested bluegill goal.
Bluegill fillets

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