There are folks who live to grow trophy bass. Now, there’s a new fraternity passionately growing GIANT bluegill. Heck, they even have their own website www.bigbluegill.com. Catch a one to two pounder on light tackle and you’ll see why.
Arm wrestle 30 or 40 of these scrappy critters and your wrist will be sore. Their girths are so broad; it’s difficult to get your hand around one. When handling, it’s easier to lip them like a bass. This is no exaggeration, trophy bluegill cover a dinner plate. See a photo of Bob with one on our home page www.texomahatchery.com.
If you have beginner anglers or kids who like a lot of action, dedicate a one-half to one-acre pond for this memorable experience. According to Bob and our buddy Bill Cody on the POND BOSS forum, www.pondboss.com, here’s how to create a successful program.
Six to 12-inch bass that eat one to three-inch bluegill should dominate the pond. A few bass may reach 14 to 16-inches, but not many due to a limited food chain. If you catch a larger one, move it to your bass lake. Those 16-inchers eat three to six inch bluegill. Creative managers use small bluegill to catch big bass that become lure shy. They clip tails and/or fins to impair swimming ability. The sporadic swimming motion is a temptation bass usually can’t resist.
Thanks to the development of scientifically blended fish foods, supplemental feeding is “the secret to success”. The hawg you saw Bob holding was grown on a steady diet of Purina Aquamax Carnivore formulated with 41 percent protein. Use fresh pellets no more than one year old. During long storage, food can loose nutrient, vitamin, and flavor qualities. Don’t expect comparable results with generic catfish food. The diet “must” include Aquamax. You won’t achieve accelerated progress if the pond has catfish, hybrid sunfish, green sunfish or other species that aggressively compete for floating food. If you’re serious, rotenone the pond before starting to insure a pure bluegill environment.
While angling, study each fish. Learn to recognize males and females. Mature males will have a noticeably larger black earflap behind the gills. Harvest predominately females. Release big males. Once males reach seven to eight inches, they’re usually sexually mature. Examine body condition for thin, medium, or plump appearance. Remove thin fish. Selectively return plump classes for brood stock. In trophy programs, 10 to 20 mature females per acre can lay enough eggs to produce more than enough recruitment to repopulate a normal annual bluegill harvest.
Vegetation in trophy bluegill ponds must be managed closely. Too many weeds provide too many hiding places for small fish to avoid bass predation. Bill emphasizes that large populations of small fish tie up valuable biomass space that could be occupied by behemoth bluegill. Vegetation should not cover more than 15 percent of surface acreage. Limit plants to open growing emergent varieties such as American pondweed that allow efficient bass feeding. Monitor and regularly treat dense types like water milfoil, Elodea, or curly leaf pondweed.
Invest time feeding fish; harvesting three to five-inch bluegill, and bigger bass. Keep records for lengths and weights. Growth trends will become clear with several years data. Sounding fun? We’ll bet youth anglers will be eager helpers.
For more expert tips, review 2006 POND BOSS issues from March/April, May/June, and July/August. When you join the bluegill fraternity, enjoy more advice from the Pond Boss forum at: http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=189988. The off-season would be a great opportunity to meet with Chad and start planning a “bluegill super pond”.
Thanks for the privilege to consult with your management program. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and healthy, prosperous New Year!
Bob Lusk – Chad Fikes – Walter Bassano