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Rebuilding Food Chains

While evaluating receding pond levels last summer, you probably observed brush piles, withering vegetation, small bushes, and related cover on bare ground.  Baitfish, like bluegill, use that cover as safe havens to grow up and become valuable members of the food chain.  Without it, they’re easy prey.  During our drought, bass enjoyed a windfall, but it dealt forage populations a big blow.

After assessing many similar conditions, our theme for 2012 is “rebuilding food chains”.  Three steps for success are fertilizing, stocking supplemental forage, and aggressively fulfilling harvest quotas.

Fertilization grows plankton, the first stage of a pond’s food chain.  Newly spawned fry are hatched with a yolk sac to nourish them only a few days.  When depleted, they must feed on microscopic plankton.  Without this vital nutrition, fry survival rates decline.  If present, survival rates dramatically increase.  Greater bluegill recruitment means more forage for sportfish.  Biologists estimate healthy plankton blooms can triple the productivity of a pond.  Lakes with heavy vegetation should not be fertilized.  Call to discuss if your pond is a candidate for fertilization.

Supplemental stocking includes threadfin shad, tilapia, and/or adult bluegill.  All are prolific spawners.  Threadfin and tilapia are stocked around April as water temps reach safe levels.  Threadfin stocking rates are contingent on the lake owner’s management goals.  Our minimum threadfin order is 5,000 fish at $200 per 1,000, plus delivery fuel costs.  They survive four out of five North Texas winters.  If you prefer tilapia, we suggest 10 to 15 pounds per surface acre at $10 per pound, plus fuel costs.  Tilapia don’t tolerate water temps below 52 degrees, but contribute lots of forage until December 1.  If your choice is bluegill, consider 250 adults per surface acre in ponds with mature bass.  Less than adult sizes will be vulnerable to predation.  Large, four to six inchers average $1.35 each. Jumbos over six inches average $2.25 each.

Achieve harvest quotas early.  Less competition means more food for remaining fish.  Remove bass 14 inches and under.  Annual harvest should be 20 pounds per surface acre.  If fishing opportunities limit meeting goals, we can expedite results with electrofishing.  Ask for rates. Please remember, the only thing limiting your fish from reaching their potential is availability of food.  When bass populations exceed the carry capacity of a lake, they quickly damage food chains. It can take several seasons to correct.  Don’t let your fishery slip into this category.  We can help design a forage program that will have you spooling stronger line on your reel.

Bob soon begins his annual seminar tour among Purina dealers.  Monitor our events calendar for a program near you.  Don’t forget the Pond Boss fall conference at Bass Pro Shop’s Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, MO, Oct. 11-14. Before you leave this meeting, you’ll want to sign up for the next event.  Register at www.pondboss.com.

Thanks for your business,

Bob Lusk – Chad Fikes – Walter Bassano

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