Do you love big bluegill?
I had the great good fortune to catch and release the kind of sunfish that I had been dreaming about for a long time. Yes, the fish was a Green Sunfish X Bluegill hybrid and true, it was at a private venue. But many factors still make this what I consider to be my lifetime best panfish achievement.
First, a little background...for about 8 years I have been fishing this 2 acre pond in northern Maryland that is owned by a classmate I grew up with back in the 1970's. As luck would have it, his son eventually worked for me at a local park in the mid 2000's. We became fast friends, and I was invited to fish the 'hybrid pond'. Both my wife and son would eventually fish there and catch enormous hybrids that ran from 10-12 inches long. These fish made up two different stockings, but I thought that they would never pass the 12 inch mark.Finally, in October of 2012, I caught a 12 inch hybrid there. Since that time I have identifies 9 different individuals that were in excess of 12 inches. Not all of them looked alike, some darker, some more bluegill dominant...
I had used Bill Musky Modicas spoon methods there when ever the bite got tough, and could usually scrap up a few on a tough bite. The 11.5 incher above clobbered a 1/8 oz Gold KastMaster with a pink plastic on it. I used the same lure today to catch the fish below, which measured 13 inches and weighed in at 2.255 pounds...a new personal best for me...
This amazing fish was caught about 11:30 AM today. I made a long cast with the lure and allowed it to sink to the bottom. Snapping it up off the bottom, I made about two cranks then had a smashing strike that doubled over the 5.5 ft UL rod. I knew it was one of the bigger hybs in the pond...we had caught and released some individuals several times over the years and had documented their increased growth. The fish fought long and hard on 2-pound test SOS Green Mono, and it took several minutes, including back-reeling, to tame the fish. When I saw this one come into view, I thought it might just be that coveted '2-pounder'. However, only one small hook of the treble was in the lip of the fish. I thought this fish could easily tear off or come unbuttoned, so I backed my drag off a little to accomodate those power surges.
When the fish finally tired I had to step down a steep bank, into the water and 'scoop' the fish with my left hand, pitching it up on higher ground. It was then when the spoon came out.
I already had my camera set up on the tri-pod and in timer-mode in case I needed to get a few quick shots of a trophy fish. So, I quickly weighed and measured the fish, got 5-6 photos and got her back in before the strong winds and sunlight caused her any more damage. I believe the fish was a bluegill dominant/female hybrid. Most of the biggest fish here are similar in coloration with fin edging being the only characteristic we could utilize to positively identify individual fish, along with a few scars here and there.
I have since found out that the pond owner had stocked 'feeder minnows' of some sort to give the larger adult hybrids something to eat besides insects and snails. Both last fall and this spring recieved supplemental forage plantings...and I believe it had something to do with increased weight gain on these fish. My previous best here were a 1-14 and a 1-13 at the 12.5 inch range.
These huge, old, geriatric hybs won't live forever. And I don't exactly know why they grow so big in this small, un-managed and un-fed pond. The pond owner found a dead 'floater at 13 1/8 inches last fall and I caught and released a 12 3/4 incher in 2013 that I didn't weigh. Amazingly, it was the only hybrid, along with 30 dink bass, that I caught today. I theorize that the increase of forage baitfish from those recent stockings may have the rest of the fish full and not as eager to bite. This is the largest sunfish, of any specie, I have caught in my lifetime, to include fish that I have caught at powerhouse Richmond Mill Lake in NC. I am both shocked and very pleased with this 'home body' fish caught not far from home. I'm a lucky man!
Congratulations Jim and great Report!
EXCELLENT FISH JIM!!!... congrats on that personal best!
Hey Jim whats the estimated age on that brute?
does the owner keep up on annual stockings to replenish?
Slip...the oldest this fish could possibly be would be around 12-13 years old...one of the original stockings...or it could be 8-9 years old...one of the second stocking efforts. It could well be that the second stocking around 2007 grew faster than the original fish due to some biological dynamic that the first fish never benifited from.
The owner has only had these two stockings up until this spring. This April he had another 100 hybrids stocked at 3 inch average size. Additionally, he put in a high amount of minnows to supplement the feeding options for the hybrids. I theorize that the remaining adult hybrids experienced weight gain and growth due to additional forage. The pond has a few big channel catfish and a few nice crappies in the foot-long range that friends of his just dumped in. The majority of the fish in the pond are juvenile largemouth bass from 5 to 11 inches long.
Other than that, there has been no 'management plan' for this pond, Very few fish were ever kept, other than some channel cats. The owner found, and photographed, a dead 'floater' hybrid that was 13 1/8 inches, last fall. Over the past 6-7 years, we have caught and released several individual hybrids here that were inching up in size as the years went by. We had released numerous individuals from 12 to 12 3/4 inches, and figured it was a matter of time before one of us would land a 13 incher.
What really tickled me was the 2 plus pound weight of this fish...a benchmark we had yet to achieve until now.
Good for you Jim. May you catch many more!
Congrats, Jim! I was lucky enuff to get an invite to fish a 'Hybrid" pond a couple yrs ago. My host told me to cast my popper rite at the end of the dock an let it set. after nearly 2 minutes one sucked it under, it was 12 inches an 1.5 lbs. I landed it on a 2 weight flyrod! it circled the small pond before it gave up! he feeds his fathead minnows every yr. yur really lucky to have access to such a fishery, enjoy!
Thanks, Kieth! Yes I am indeed blessed to have found this gem, and to have been friends with the family many years prior to even knowing they had the resource.
I can see you now hanging on to one of those powerhouse hybrids...great fish!
Thanks for posting this up for us. wow, what a fish of a lifetime