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GameKeeper Quick Tip: Managing Your Bass Pond

For a recreational bass fishing pond to reach its full potential and maintain that peak, it must be managed throughout the year. One major component of managing a fish pond is controlling the fish population. If a pond gets overpopulated, there becomes a lack of food and there will be a corresponding decrease in fish size and health.

Controlling the fish population in a pond requires it to be fished enough to take out the right number of fish per year as well as keeping the right size. This process also needs to be organized and kept up with, instead of just “ball-parking” how many fish are taken out of the pond. One great way GameKeepers can keep a detailed track record of their ponds is to have a mailbox by every one of the main docks. In each mailbox is a notebook that everyone fills out when they are finished fishing for the day. This keeps a record of the date, exactly how many fish were caught, the size of each fish and how many were taken out.

For fertilized ponds, try to keep about 20 to 35 pounds of bass per acre per year depending on how bad the overpopulation problem is. If the population in one of your lakes or ponds is balanced, you need to keep about 10 to 20 pounds per acre per year. The sizes of the bass that are generally kept are 14 inches and smaller.

Letting family members and close friends fish these ponds on a regular basis is a great way for all to enjoy and have a part in managing its success. It would not be possible to keep an accurate record of the amount of fish taken out of our ponds without these mailboxes that we put at every dock. Since we have started keeping up with the number and size of the fish caught as well as culling the proper size, there has been a very noticeable increase in the size of the fish in our ponds.

For more info on pond management, read “Habitat Structure for Producing and Holding More Fish”. Some fish species relate to bait more than structure. But even when that’s the case, the bait they’re after usually relates to structure of some kind. So giving your fish something to relate to in the form of structure is a huge step forward to producing and holding more fish.

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Farm ponds offer bass, bluegill action By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal
HARTINGTON, Neb. | One thing I like about farm pond fishing is that ponds are generally loaded with fish.
And the one Gary Howey and I were fishing just southwest of town was proving that it was no exception.
When it comes to bluegill fishing in ponds, there is no more effective method than using a fly rod. And I was proving that fact today. Seven-inch bluegills were taken on practically every cast.
The tiny black ant that I designed for bluegill fishing more than 40 years ago had not lost its charm. While the ‘gills weren’t monsters, they were giving a good account of themselves on my light tackle.

Howey, meanwhile, was casting a spinnerbait for bass. He had caught and released three before I decided to tie on a bass fly. I chose a black wooly bugger in size 6. The black marabou tail behind the black chenille body made the fly nearly 2 inches long.

Wouldn’t you know it: The first cast produced a nearly 2-pound largemouth. After several airborne leaps I brought the bass to hand and then released it.
We weren’t keeping any fish, but if we were, we still would have released the bass. Bluegills, on the other hand, would have been fair game. They are very prolific, and if there are not enough bass in the pond to keep their numbers down, they will overpopulate and become stunted.

If that happens, any largemouth still in the pond will find it difficult to bring off a spawn. The tiny ‘gills will attack the nest in an effort to eat the eggs, and the male guarding the nest doesn’t stand a chance against hundreds of hungry mouths.

In fact, the old rule of removing 10 pounds of bluegills for every pound of bass from a farm pond is still pretty good advice.
I’m not sure how many farm ponds there are in Nebraska, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says there are about 110,000 in Iowa providing about 1.6 million fishing trips annually. The local economic impact is estimated at $7.5 million.

That’s pretty good considering farm ponds are on private property and the angler must get permission to fish from the landowner.

Farm ponds also produce big fish. [Read more…]

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West River stock dams yield big bluegills By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

PIERRE, S.D. | The prairie swept away to the west like an endless sea of waving grass. It was shortly after dawn and antelope and deer scampered away from our vehicles as Gary Howey and Steve Nelson guided their trucks down the gravel roadway.

We were on our way to fish one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of stock dams which dot these grasslands. The ponds are built to provide water for cattle, an industry which anchors the incomes of most who live in this region.

Steve Nelson, Pierre, S.D., has been a friend of mine since we attended the University of South Dakota a generation ago. After graduation, our paths went separate ways until we made contact about 10 years later. Pierre, Steve told me, was an outdoorsman’s paradise. I needed to come visit. Of course I knew that, but my tunnel vision was fishing. It was hard to drive farther than Lake Frances Case, a Missouri River reservoir a lot closer than Lake Oahe. Oahe had bigger fish, but Case had the numbers. Decisions, decisions.

But, I needed to see an old friend.

And ever since then, Pierre has drawn me like a moth to a flame.

No one has a better handle on stock-dam fishing than my friend, Steve. He’s guided me on many memorable trips to these dams for bass, bluegills and perch. And I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill fish. I’m talking about pound-plus ‘gills, perch and bass of nearly state record proportions.

So when Steve called and said we should come out and seek big bluegills, we went.

The pond we were intending to fish is on private land. And that’s the case of many West River stock dams. You must have permission of the landowner to fish them, but that’s not difficult to obtain.

But, there are also a lot of ponds and small reservoirs on public land. More about that later. [Read more…]