Recreational Fishpond Management

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1 Recreational Fishpond Management Enhancements to basic approaches Rusty Wright, Extension Fisheries Specialist Auburn University

2

3 Alabama Extension Pond Management

4 Why are ponds important? Huge numbers of ponds More than 2.6 million on private land in the U.S. More than 200,000 in AL More than 50,000 in stocked by AL DWFF Potentially influence many species and landscapes New habitat Altering hydrology Altering microclimates Recreation and Economic Impacts

5 The Basic Principles Build it right. Eliminate wild fish. Stock it by the numbers. Maintain fertility. Keep out the weeds. Harvest, harvest, harvest!

6 Managing for balance Sustainable harvest of bass and bluegill Good fish growth Good quality fishing

7 Stock it by the numbers

8 Keep it simple! Stock only largemouth bass, bluegill, and redear sunfish.

9 Largemouth Bass Bluegill Juvenile Largemouth Bass Zooplankton & Insects Nutrients (N,P) Algae Sunlight

10 To fertilize or not to fertilize that is the question? pros A fertilized pond will support lb/acre (kg/ha) of fish vs 100 lb/acre (kg/ha) for an unfertilized pond Fertilization can help control weeds

11 Nutrients fuel the food web. Largemouth Bass Bluegill Juvenile Largemouth Bass Zooplankton & Insects Algae Nutrients (N,P) Sunlight

12 To fertilize or not to fertilize that is the question? cons A fertilized pond requires lb/acre (kg/ha) of bass be harvested per year vs 10 lb/acre (kg/ha) for an unfertilized pond Fertilization can cause weed problems Expense

13 Beyond Balance Taking a pond to the next level

14 Privately-owned small impoundments of central Alabama: a survey and evaluation of management techniques and enhancements Norm Haley 1, Rusty Wright 1, Dennis DeVries 1, and Mike Allen 2 North American Journal of Fisheries Management 32: , November Auburn University, 2 University of Florida

15 Alabama s Black Belt 17 counties Fertile prairie soils Meager economy Small impoundments >200,000 in Alabama Multiple uses Alabama anglers ~ 850,000 Over $1 billion of economic impact

16 Pond management Basic management techniques Fertilization Liming Balanced harvest Weed control Enhancements Pellet feeding Supplemental forage Genetic strains Harvest extremes Exceptional ponds Trophy size fish, enhanced catch rates, or instances of both Pay-to-fish or leased properties Sport fishing resorts

17 Survey Methods Pond owner survey 23 counties 12 ponds per county randomly selected using map sources Owner information gathered from county courthouses Owners contacted by telephone

18 Pond Use (111) 100 Frequency (#) (32) (25) recreational fishing (9) livestock aesthetics no uses irrigation (7) (6) (4) (3) (3) (2) leased fire fighting aquaculture wildlife pay-to-fish

19 Species Stocked (111) (97) Frequency (#) (56) (35) largemouth bass (24) (23) bream redear bluegill coppernose (8) catfish grass carp crappie (13) (10) (8) other no fish stocked threadfin shad (5) (3) minnows

20 Management Strategy Aquaculture Enhanced catch rates Trophy bass & bream General balance Trophy bass No management 76% of owners are satisfied with the condition of their pond

21 Pond Management Information Sources Primary Sources Friends and Family 27 County / Regional Extension 25 No information used 21 ADCNR 15 Auburn University 14 Private Pond Consultant 8 Local Feed Store 5 Extension / University Website 4 Other Internet Sites 4 Other 4 Personal Knowledge 3 Outdoor Magazines 2

22 Additional Survey Results 51% never checked for balance or water quality 93% did not keep harvest records Slow LMB growth most commonly reported problem

23 Techniques and Enhancements 48% Fertilized (66% by clarity) 45% Applied supplemental pellet feed 12% Stocked supplemental forage 33% reported stocking threadfin shad

24 Field Assessment Sample ponds that are currently managed with different approaches

25 Assessment Methods ponds were selected based on the following minimum qualifications: Stocked for 5yrs acres Contain largemouth bass and bream

26 Management Strategies Assessed Ponds were classified by management strategy Unmanaged Fertilized Fertilized & Feed: 1 pellet feeder for every 5 acres Fertilized & Threadfin Shad Fertilized, Threadfin Shad, & Feed

27 Assessment Methods Three 15 minute pulsed DC electrofishing transects Four quadrat seine hauls Primary Production Chlorophyll a & zooplankton Abiotic Collection Alkalinity & hardness Secchi transparency Turbidity Temperature & DO profiles

28 Assessment Results

29 Proportional Size Distribution PSD = Number of fish >= quality length Number of fish >= stock length For largemouth bass stock length = 8 in (200 mm) and quality length = 12 in (300 mm) For bluegill stock length = 3 in (80 mm) and quality length = 6 in (150 mm)

30 PSD- Preferred PSD-P= Number of fish >= Preferred Number of fish >= stock length For largemouth bass stock length = 8 in (200 mm) and preferred length = 15 in (380 mm)

31 Ranges for PSD and PSD-P,M in Balanced Ponds Species PSD PSD-P PSD-M Bluegill LMB

32 Largemouth Bass PSD vs. PSD-P PSD did not accurately convey largemouth bass population states General over estimation of population states Quality length (300 mm) - too small to predict bass crowded systems PSD-P Preferred length (380 mm) - a better predictor of largemouth bass population state

33 Stock Density Indices (PSD/PSD-P) Largemouth Bass PSD-P Bluegill Crowded Balanced Transitional State Trophy State Artificially Maintained 10 Low Fertility Competing Species Foraging Difficulty Bluegill PSD Largemouth Bass Crowded

34 Unmanaged Stock Indices Unmanaged 2007 Unmanaged Largemouth Bass PSD-P Bluegill PSD

35 Fertilized Stock Indices Fertilized 2007 Fertilized Largemouth Bass PSD-P Bluegill PSD

36 Fertilized & Feeder Stock Indices Fertilized and Feeder 2007 Fertilized and Feeder 2008 Largemouth Bass PSD-P Bluegill PSD

37 Fertilized & Shad Stock Indices Fertilized and Shad 2007 Fertilized and Shad 2008 Largemouth Bass PSD-P Bluegill PSD

38 Fertilized, Shad, & Feeder Stock Indices Fertilized, Shad, and Feeder 2007 Fertilized, Shad, and Feeder 2008 Largemouth Bass PSD-P Bluegill PSD

39 Electrofishing catch rate of bluegill Log CPUE (#/hr) Stock Quality Preferred Memorable BC C A A B B A AB A A A A A A AB A A A A Bluegill 0.0 Unmanaged B Fertilized Fertilized & Feed Fertilized & Shad Fert., Shad, & Feed

40 Electrofishing catch rate of bass Log CPUE (#/hr) Stock Quality Preferred Memorable B D C A BC B AB DC BC AB Largemouth Bass A AB AB A A A A A 0.3 B B 0.0 Unmanaged Fertilized Fertilized & Feed Fertilized & Shad Fert., Shad, & Feed

41 Relative weight Bluegill Largemouth Bass A Mean Relative Weight (Wr) C BC C AB Unmanaged Fertilized Fertilized & Feeder Fertilized & Shad Fert., Shad, & Feed Unmanaged Fertilized Fertilized & Feeder Fertilized & Shad Fert., Shad, & Feed

42 Conclusions - Pond Owner Survey Majority of ponds served as recreational fishing for largemouth bass and bream Only 7% of ponds were fee fishing / leased Fertilizer, pellet feed, and threadfin shad were popular enhancements General balance was a strong focus Majority of owners were satisfied with their ponds Slow largemouth bass growth biggest obstacle Very few owners (7%) are keeping harvest records

43 Conclusions Field Assessment Population characteristics varied greatly among and within management types PSD-P was more sensitive to largemouth bass population states than PSD Owner management goals were rarely attained

44 Conclusions Field Assessment Threadfin shad Positive effect on largemouth bass: Length-freq. dist., stock indices, CPUE, condition, growth May help to prolong or maintain balanced or quality largemouth bass populations Little evidence of neg. impact on bluegill pop. characteristics Supplemental pellet feed Variation within treatment (amount and rate) limits assessment

45 Management Implications Education remains important Stocking threadfin shad can improve the largemouth bass population characteristics without strong negative impacts on bluegill Pellet feeding may hold potential for increasing the number of quality and larger sized bream

46 Management Implications NO MAGIC BULLETT!!! Ecosystems have limits Ponds could still be bass-crowded with shad

47 On-going research Recently completed feeding experiments Currently using a combination of feeding experiments, field survey, and stable isotope analysis to determine foodweb effects of pellet feeding

48 Funding: Acknowledgements Alabama Agricultural Initiative Alabama Cooperative Extension System Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station Dr. Michael Allen The University of Florida Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

49 My current recommendations for forage enhancement

50 Forage enhancement for bream Feed 1 to 10 lb. of floating pelleted catfish feed per acre per day during the growing season. Be careful not to overfertilize in combination with the feed. Feeding will reduce the effectiveness of grass carp.

51 Will pellet-feeding the bluegill enhance growth and reproduction in largemouth bass? STAY TUNED!

52 What NOT to use as a forage enhancement for redear sunfish (shellcrackers)

53 Corbicula

54 Forage enhancement for bass Temporary Sustainable based on production Trophy only

55 Temporary Forage

56 Fathead minnows Red swamp crayfish

57 Partially Sustainable

58 Tilapia only where it is legal: check with your local natural resource agency. Must be restocked annually in areas where Nile Tilapia, winter Oreochromis water niloticus Temp < 50 F

59 Sustainable

60 Threadfin shad, good for ponds 7 8 acres (3-4 ha) or larger. Will winterkill at water temp. <40 F. Does compete with bream but may not cause serious reduction.

61 Golden Shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas

62 1. Golden shiners are difficult to maintain without weeds. Bass tend to eliminate them through time. 2. Golden shiners are egg and larvae predators at high density

63 Trophy only

64

65 Forage enhancement for bass Stock threadfin shad in larger ponds. Shad will compete with bream, so expect reduced bream catches. MAYBE NOT!

66 A well-managed pond will provide many years of enjoyment with catch rates unequaled in our public reservoirs! Russell Wright, Extension Fisheries Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work in agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, and other related acts, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) offers educational programs, materials, and equal opportunity employment to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.

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