Chapter 7: Assessment and Harvest of Largemouth Bass–Bluegill Ponds
Harold L. Schramm, Jr. and David W. Willis
A pond can provide a variety of fishing benefits, so it is important that the pond owner determine the specific benefit or management goal for the pond. Angler preferences for recreational fisheries and suitability of fish species for ponds differ along with the variety of climatic conditions found throughout North America. These differences have prompted investigations of the suitability of different fishes, alone or in combination, for producing satisfying and sustainable recreational fishing opportunities in ponds. The combination of largemouth bass and bluegill (or bluegill and redear sunfish1) has been found suitable for producing sustainable fishing opportunities in ponds throughout most of temperate and subtropical North America. Other predator–prey combinations for ponds have been considered, but have either proven ineffective (northern pike–yellow perch), or are not sufficiently studied (e.g., smallmouth bass-redear sunfish) to predict responses to population alteration or other management strategies. Nonreproducing (e.g., rainbow trout) or purposely nonrecruiting (e.g., channel catfish in ponds with no structures to provide cavities for nesting) fisheries are successfully used in some ponds, particularly smaller ponds. Management of these fisheries is frequently accomplished by initial and replacement stockings, with supplemental feeding often used to increase fish growth and production. Pond management is ripe for new ideas, especially for producing unique or exceptional fishing opportunities. One such example is the experimental use of all female largemouth bass to produce trophy bass opportunities as recently implemented by private pond managers in the southern USA (Willis et al. 2010). Although seemingly a typical predator–prey system, the bass do not reproduce, and the prey base, which often includes threadfin shad as well as bluegill, may not be self-sustaining in the long term due to shad vulnerability to winter temperatures. The ponds thus are managed by stocking.