There are folks who live to grow big bass. Now, there’s a 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 bass. This is no exaggeration, trophy bluegill cover a dinner plate.
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.
If starting with an existing pond, we recommend rotenoning to remove potential catfish, hybrid sunfish, or green sunfish that would rob bluegill of important feed. When confident you have a pure bluegill environment, stock 50 adult coppernose. Coppernose have the genetic potential to grow much larger than our native species. As you harvest eight to 12-inch bass from other ponds, move 25+ to the bluegill haven.
Eventually, six to 12-inch bass should dominate the pond. But wait, you always tell us to harvest small bass. When managing for quality bass, that’s true. To raise big bluegill, we want numerous small bass eradicating one to three-inch bluegill. Surviving adults will grow bigger and faster with less competition for feed. 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. Clip tails and/or fins to impair swimming ability. Bass can’t resist the sporadic swimming motion.
Thanks to scientifically blended fish foods, supplemental feeding is the secret to success. Don’t use generic catfish food. The hawg you see Bob holding was grown on a steady diet of Purina AquaMax MVP carnivore feed formulated with 41-percent protein. Use fresh pellets. During long storage, food can loose nutrient, vitamin, and flavor qualities. Feed three times daily from mid-March through June. Cut back to morning and late afternoon in July and August. Resume three times September through November. Amounts vary with populations. Provide generous offerings. Just be sure there are no food pellets on the surface when they get full and stop eating. Stop feeding December to March unless you experience an extended warm spell and want to give them a treat.
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 five to six-inch 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 ones. 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. If three to five-inchers become too numerous, trap and move to a bass lake so small sizes remain low. We’ll bet youth anglers will be eager helpers.
Keep vegetation thin. Too many weeds provide hiding places for small fish to avoid bass predation. Bill emphasizes large populations of small fish tie up valuable biomass space that could be occupied by behemoth bluegill. 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.
Let’s visit about a plan to build your bluegill super pond!