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Harvesting and Record Keeping is part five of seven in the Management of Recreational Fish Ponds series.

Ponds should not be fished for at least 1 year after bass are stocked to let the bass reproduce. Once fishing begins, harvest the bass and bream to maintain growth and manage to meet your goals: balanced ponds with good-quality bass and bream fish, trophy bass, or trophy bream.  Tables 4a and 4b provide the harvest rates needed to help meet these goals.

Table 4a. Recommended Harvest Rates for Fertile Alabama Ponds (lb per acre)

FishBalancedTrophy BassTrophy Bluegill
Bass25 to 303010
BluegillUp to 200Up to 200Up to 50

Table 4b. Recommended Harvest Rates for Infertile Alabama Ponds (lb per acre)

FishBalancedTrophy BassTrophy Bluegill
Bass10155
BluegillUp to 100Up to 100Up to 25

Bass harvest must be carefully controlled but encouraged to have quality fishing. After initial stocking, bass are often easy to catch. It is possible to catch more than 70 percent of the bass population in a few days of intensive angling, especially in small ponds. Bluegill will quickly over-populate and stunt if bass are over-harvested. If this happens, regaining a balanced population will be difficult, and the pond may require renovating for a fresh start. Harvest should begin about 1 year after stocking. If the bass were stocked in June, harvest can begin the following June. During that first 6 months of harvest , take no more than 10 pounds of bass per acre in a fertile pond and 5 pounds per acre in an infertile pond. As a general rule, in the following years, a fertile pond requires the harvest of about 25 to possibly 35 pounds of bass per acre per year. If the pond is infertile, only 10 pounds per acre per year should be harvested to manage for balanced conditions.

In ponds managed for trophy bass, 30-35 pounds of bass per acre should be removed. The majority of the harvest should be of bass 14 inches long and under. If the goal is trophy bream, harvest 10 pounds of bass per acre primarily of fish larger than 14 inches. The more numerous bass eat more bream, and bream that survive grow faster because there is more food or less competition per fish. Both trophy bass and trophy bream pond should be fertile. Other enhancements such as stocking alternative forage for bass or adding pelleted feeds for bream can be part of trophy management.

Plump bass (top) is in good condition, while skinny bass (bottom) is in poor condition and suggests bass-crowded pond.

Plump bass (top) is in good condition, while skinny bass (bottom) is in poor condition and suggests bass-crowded pond.

A problem that can occur is the underharvest of bass that causes a “bass-crowded” condition. In a bass-crowded pond too many bass are present and few bream reach maturity. The few bream that do escape grow rapidly to a large size but are too few for a good catch. The bass do not have enough food (small bream), become stunted, and are in poor physical condition. Many times this condition can be corrected by heavily harvesting the bass (see Evaluation of Pond Balance).

Over- or underharvest of bream appears to have little effect on the population balance in the pond. Heavy fishing, however, will reduce the average size of bream harvested. A good rule of thumb is to harvest 4 to 6 pounds of bream for each pound of bass. Research has never shown that heavy angling is effective at countering bream over-population; however, larger bream result when bass harvest is restricted.

Quality bream fishing can be managed by regulating the harvest of bass. If fewer than 10 pounds of bass are harvested per acre per year, the average size of bream will increase. The more numerous bass eat more bream, and bream that survive grow faster because there is more food or less competition per fish. Remember, however, that if no bass are harvested, a bass-crowded condition may occur.

Catfish reach eating size 6 to 12 months after stocking. Catfish stocked with bass and bluegill are generally unable to reproduce successfully because their fry are eaten. Therefore, catfish must be restocked periodically. An 8-inch or larger catfish fingerling should be stocked into ponds that have adult bass.

Do not rely on your memory. Keep records of numbers and sizes of fish caught, so that total pounds of harvested fish can be evaluated. Pond balance can be evaluated from catch records plus seine data.

Management of Recreational Fish Ponds Series

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