Hi all. I didn't join the forum right away because...
...I don't have any bluegill!
I've always loved BG and someday I'll have them, but for now I'm trying an experiment with my new pond. I'm managing this pond for trophy Redear Sunfish (RES). Besides RES the only fish I've stocked are Fathead minnows (FH). The idea is to keep a balance of the two species so that there is a constant supply of FH forage for the RES.
The Pond -
Built January 2008
8 feet at deepest
Average depth about 5 feet
6" siphon system
Structure is several submerged stumps.
It's got a fairly large watershed and I've had water go over the emergency spillway 4 or 5 times already. Once the water was 4" from the top of the dam and that was only a few weeks after it was built. I'll be replacing the 6" pipe with 8" pipe. There is a 12 year old pond upstream about 1000 feet and I think that has helped give my pond a more "aged" quality to the water. Visibility is 12-18".
The Fish -
300 - 400 large Fathead minnows that were trapped from a nearby pond and added at the end of January 08, a few weeks after the pond was finished.
100 RES @ 1.25" stocked March 20, 2008 followed a few weeks later by 10 more that had been held in an aquarium for observation.
24 RES adults ranging from 5-7" transferred from a neighbor's pond from late April - early May.
I saw FH spawning behavior in early March and I first noticed FH fry at the same time I stocked the fingerling RES, on March 20. I didn't track the spawn exactly but it seemed like they continued for several weeks. The few hundred adult FH produced many thousands of fry. A pellet thrown anywhere in the pond will normally attract a FH in less than 20 seconds.
The 24 adult RES were added in late April and at the time local reports had the RES on spawning beds. I'm not sure if mine were spawning at that time but I'm still seeing my RES on beds. In fact I observed the most concentrated bedding activity beginning a few weeks ago (mid July) and they are still at it. I've tried trapping to observe the RES year-of-young but the trap has always filled up with FH quickly and there haven't been any RES in it. It's been several weeks since I tried this and I'm due to try again.
Some of the 1.25" RES stocked this spring are now almost 4" long and a few are also on beds. I can't say I've seen eggs and milt, but I've seen obvious spawning behavior from these small ones complete with a female on her side under a male. In one case an 8" RES was charging into the mix every time the female would lay over. It looked pretty rude actually. :)
As mentioned above I want to raise large RES. I hope to have a good population of 1-2 pound fish in a few years. RES around 5 lbs have be caught in my area and I believe that by focusing on them as the target gamefish it shouldn't be too hard to grow them to 2 lbs.
I hope to maintain a steady population of FH to serve as the main forage for the RES. I'm feeding about 1 lb. of Grower 500 by hand every day. I've seen great growth all year and I hope for a big spawn this fall. It's likely that the RES won't control the FH enough and I'm prepared to trap out the excess. If the population declines I'll increase the feed. I have the impression that I can control the FH to a fair degree by trapping/feeding to adjust for whatever impact the RES have on them.
With RES as the top predator I will eventually need to harvest which I'll do by angling or possibly by trapping. My pond isn't set up for seining so I might have to get creative. Most likely I will end up keeping all but the largest RES that are caught. I might even be more aggressive about it and keep all hooked fish. It shouldn't be hard to enlist help with angling if I let people keep the big ones too. :)
Besides the FH I've also stocked a few dozen native crayfish, and I supplement with black soldier fly larvae (BSFL). I'm currently feeding about one cup of larvae each day to the 24 adults which are all concentrated in a small area of the pond on spawning beds. There are also a few dozen of the 3-4" RES on beds and they're also eating the BSFL. As the small fish grow I hope to increase the larvae to 2 lbs per day. As it stands now the fish eat the larvae until their bellies bulge and the feeding slows down. I haven't noticed snails in this pond or any of my neighbors ponds.
At some point in the future I will probably add many more species to this pond, primarily indigenous fish. LMB are native to my area but I doubt I'll stock them because of the small size of the pond. Larger predators will most likely be chain pickerel and Florida or spotted gar. I like those fish because they don't get as large as LMB and they don't spawn as heavily. I will also collect every species of small sunfish and minnow that I can.
Birds, nonvenomous snakes, and turtles are all welcomed in the pond.