After an electrofishing survey, if the live well is full of only 8 to 12-inch bass–your bass are overcrowded.
If you land a bass with a head that looks like a bowling ball and a body that resembles a pretzel–your bass are overcrowded.
If you make 10 casts and catch 10 bass 10-inches long–your bass are overcrowded.
If you see a small bass leap from the lake attempting to catch a dragon fly for its next meal, the food chain is likely stressed–your bass are overcrowded.
If your goal is catching quality bass, but all you land is cookie-cutter sizes, the condition typically developed from lack of harvest. The smaller the pond, the more common the problem. As reminded, lakes resemble a garden. You plant fish. They thrive and reproduce. Now you have a large crop that must be harvested to maintain a balanced food chain so each has sufficient forage to reach its potential.
Over population can occur among any species. When stocking bluegill in a small pond, without a predator such as bass, multiple spawning cycles soon create thousands of bluegill. They stunt at 2 to 4-inches because there’s not enough food for healthy growth. Add bass or hybrid striper to forage on excess numbers. Start feeding Purina AquaMax MVP twice a day from March 15 to December 1. Remaining fish will have more feeding opportunities. In a few years, you’ll catch 1 to 2-pound bluegill.
There are remedies to correct bass overcrowding, but the period required to fix it costs valuable time achieving original goals. When stocking a new lake, harvest begins the third year. By years four and five, you should be catching quality fish. If you fail to harvest in years three and four, it could take through years five and six to rebalance the predator/prey population so bass resume healthy growth. Meanwhile, original stocker bass lost almost two seasons development in years three and four. That first generation now is almost six-years-old into an average 10-12 year life expectancy. Correcting the problem lets them resume growth, but they won’t attain full potential because nutritional needs were not met for two seasons. Consistently meeting future, annual harvest quotas can spare on-coming generations of the unfortunate problem.
If above scenarios resemble your lake, conduct an electrofishing survey, evaluate relative weights, profile the population mix, then implement an aggressive harvest plan to dramatically cull overcrowded, underperforming sizes. Implement a supplemental forage program to rebuild the food chain. It may require stocking more bluegill and/or tilapia. Go the extra mile by adding threadfin shad and crawfish. Bass must eat 10-pounds of forage to gain one-pound. That’s the baseline for nutrition.
Let’s review your harvest plan. You built the lake to enjoy fishing. Don’t miss the opportunity to land a lunker of a lifetime–just because you didn’t harvest.