Ohio Pond Management
Management Options Based on Selective Harvest
Sustaining a type of fishing and harvest for preferred sizes and kinds of fishes is easiest by selectively harvesting the catch. In the past, pond owners were told that the best ponds were “balanced” ponds. Fish populations in balanced ponds tend to offer moderate fishing quality that provides anglers with consistent catches of 10 to 15 inch largemouth bass and five to seven inch bluegills. However, this kind of fishing may not be for everyone. Many pond owners are not satisfied with average largemouth bass and bluegill fishing. Instead, they may prefer to manage their ponds for either bigger bluegill or trophy largemouth bass. Although it is nearly impossible to have an abundance of both in the same pond, tipping the traditional balance toward one type of fishery is rather easy.
Five primary management options
1) no restrictions on harvest
2) all-purpose fishing (balanced pond)
3) large bluegill fishing
4) trophy largemouth bass fishing
5) channel catfish fishing
The average annual sustained harvest that can be expected from a pond under each management option is described in above table.
After the three-year waiting period, a pond owner should decide what type of fishing he desires and how much effort will be committed to achieve good results. If fishing is not a high priority, then only a minimal amount of effort is required to ensure that the pond produces average fishing. On the other hand, very high quality fishing for a particular kind of fish requires a bit more effort. Management practices can begin immediately in a new or renovated pond, but population assessment will first be necessary in an established pond.
Management Option 1: No Restrictions on Harvest. Harvest without restriction requires no management effort on the part of the pond owner, but will rarely provide more than a year or two of good fishing. With this approach, anglers may keep as many bluegills and largemouth bass as they catch unless the pond is located on public land where state fishing regulations apply. During the first few years of fishing, anglers may catch several nice largemouth bass and bluegills, but the catch in succeeding years usually consists of a few small largemouth bass and an abundance of small bluegills. When bluegills become too abundant, their growth slows and few reach the sizes that fishermen like to catch and harvest. This approach is the best choice for pond owners who find that simply catching fish is more important than the size of each fish caught. However, it is usually not desirable for anglers who want to enjoy and maintain catches of larger fish for sport and the table.
Management Option 2: All-Purpose Fishing (Balanced Pond). The all-purpose approach allows anglers to catch fishes in a variety of sizes. Most of the catch and the harvest will be five to seven inch bluegills and 8 to 12 inch largemouth bass, although an occasional trophy largemouth bass may be harvested. A few 8 to 12 inch largemouth bass should be removed each year to allow for good growth of those that remain. Careful harvest will enable some largemouth bass to reach larger sizes. Largemouth bass 12 to 15 inches long should be protected by a “slot length limit.” This special regulation permits anglers to only harvest largemouth bass less than 12 inches or more than 15 inches long. Protecting largemouth bass in the 12- to 15-inch “slot” ensures adequate predation on small bluegills. Bluegills are very prolific and can easily become overabundant if too many largemouth bass are harvested, or if too much vegetation covers the pond and prevents the largemouth bass from capturing bluegills. In both cases, this happens because largemouth bass cannot eat enough bluegills to control their abundance. The best solutions to bluegill overpopulation are to maintain an abundance of 12 to 15 inch largemouth bass and control aquatic vegetation. Anglers are free to harvest many of the bluegills and channel catfish they catch under this all-purpose management option. Manage your farm pond using our table of with management options.
Management Option 3: Large Bluegill Fishing. Managing a pond for quality bluegill fishing is a matter of limiting the harvest of largemouth bass. A dense population of largemouth bass will directly control bluegill abundance by eating them. Bluegills that escape being eaten by largemouth bass will have the food and space they need to grow more quickly to large sizes. This management option works best if largemouth bass less than 15 inches long are not removed from the pond, although anglers can still fish for them by practicing catch and release. If largemouth bass become skinny, or appear to be “all head” and a decline in catches of 12 to 15inch fish results, then selective removal of some 8 to 12inch largemouth bass may be necessary. Annual harvest of only 10 largemouth bass per acre that range from 8 to 12 inches long is generally sufficient. Under this management option, anglers may harvest moderate numbers of larger bluegills and as many channel catfish as desired. Bluegills in these ponds should weigh two or three times more than bluegills of the same length in ponds managed for all-purpose fishing. Manage your farm pond using our table of with management options.
Management Option 4: Trophy Largemouth Bass Fishing. Managing a pond to produce many trophy largemouth bass is more difficult than managing for big bluegills. Harvest must be carefully restricted because the number of largemouth bass produced in the pond is relatively low. Selective harvest of small largemouth bass will improve the growth of those that remain and eventually increase the number of trophy fish available. Under this management option, largemouth bass are managed similarly to the all-purpose option, which limits harvest of largemouth bass under 12 inches and prohibits harvest of 12 to 15 inch largemouth bass, except for those larger than 15 inches. Expect to harvest only three to five largemouth bass over 15 inches per acre each year in most Ohio ponds. Although the harvest is not much higher with this approach than with the other management options, the number of big fish caught and released should be noticeably higher. As with the all-purpose option, anglers can harvest many of the bluegills and channel catfish that they catch. Manage your farm pond using our table of with management options.
Management Option 5: Channel Catfish Fishing Only. As described above, the number of channel catfish harvested from a pond does not have much of an affect on bluegills or largemouth bass in the other four management options. With this management option channel catfish are stocked alone in ponds, and artificially fed in order to maximize growth and harvest. Since channel catfish do not reproduce naturally in most ponds, fish that are removed will need to be restocked. Once an adult population of channel catfish is established, annual or biannual stocking is necessary to offset harvest and maintain quality fishing.
Manage your farm pond using our table of with management options.
Increase fish production using feeding, fertilization, & habitat structures.