Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

Bill Cody and Theo Gallus have a forum discussion in regards to controlling bluegill numbers.

Comment by Theo Gallus

You know, I'd like to run another BG pond someday without LMB, but with darn near every other kind of predator that will live in my climate - SMB, walleyes, HSB, and maybe YP as an in-between-predator-and-forage-base fish. I guess since I likely won't be able to swing it until I'm older, with no kids at home and retirement looming, I could figure on being able to apply lots of angling pressure to help control the BG.

Bruce, can you think of any way to selectively breed BG so as to lower fecundity?

Comment by Bruce Condello

That's never crossed my mind. How would you do it? Even if females could be bred to have half as many eggs, it would still be way more than enough to have abundant year classes every year. I suspect it would have to be accomplised on a molecular level with the DNA. Probably through pressurizing the eggs as is done with grass carp? Hmmm.

Comment by Bill Cody

Let's discuss this. Why go to all the effort to genetically develop a low fecundity BG when we have the option of using male BG for stocking into ponds where low numbers of pure strain BG are wanted. If that pond needed appropriate sized forage fish to feed some sort of 'special' predator then why not stock a species that would meet those needs. What is needed in a scenarios such as this is a good knowledge or homework of biology of species. 1./ What am I missing in this need for low fecundity BG? 2. Don't we already have the low fecundity feature in RES and HBG? 3. Are those individuals so bad compared to pure stain BG? 4. What are their negatives compared to BG in our scenario?

Comment by Bruce Condello

The point is well taken. I'd first want to list all of the ways that we can control reproduction.

1. All male bluegill ponds
2. High density predators, such as low Wr, mid-sized largemouth bass
3. Triploidy (not currently available in bluegill)
4. Angler harvest (not practical in a lot of situations)
5. Trapping
6. Seining
7. Use of a similar species, with lower reproductive potential such as redear sunfish. The foremost disadvantage to this species is the fact that it is less likely to feed train. They also don't thrive as well in cooler waters.

Any others we can think of? These would seem to be all we've got to keep bluegill numbers down so we can grow big bluegill.

Comment by Bill Cody

Additional ways to reduce or control reproduction.
8. Building the pond with very steep sides to reduce spawning sites. Limited size of spawning area for BG results in fewer nests. Fewer nests = fewer fry produced per yr. Isolated nests or low numbers of nests comprising a nesting colony results in more natural predation of eggs and fry thus reducing numbers recruited. BG nesting behavior has evolved to favor recruitment of fry that are produced from the center of the colony. It has been proven that isolated BG nests and those at the periphery of the colony are much more vulneable to nest predation. Important predators of BG eggs are other BG, crayfish, snails, and for fry YOY bass and other common small fish, predacious insect larvae, and Hydra.
9. Periodic manual destruction of nests by dragging a rake or homemade drag through the nesting area. this should be done every week esp during the height of the spawning season.

Comment by Bill Cody

One topic that hasen't been discussed or utilized much is alternative forms of BG hybrids (HBG). Typically the standard HBG is the BG green sunfish cross (BGxGSF). Since the GSF has the largest mouth of all the Lepomis species the resulting F1 HBG posess aggressiveness, a relatively large mouth and relatively rapid growth. This can be detrimental or a positive for some fish management philosophies. Other features of the standard HBG also make this fish sometimes undesirable.

Not a whole lot has been done with alternative parental crosses of the sunfishes for specialized applications. In specialized types of fisheries where a low fecundity HBG with a smaller mouth or other beneficial traits would desired then other genetic crosses of sunfish would maybe in order. An example would be a BG redear sunfish cross - BGxRES which failed to produce abundant F2 generations. Another good potential cross would be BG pumpkinseed cross which usually produces an abundance of F1 young. These fish are intermediat between a PS and BG, have a small mouth, are predominately male and colorful good growers. A reported disadvantage was its ability to reproduce in later post F1 generations. Specialized demand for "odd" hybrid BG is low thus they are primarily for the popnd boss experimenter.

To produce your own hybrid sunfish it can be done in a very small pond less than 0.1 ac.

Comment by Theo Gallus


I like this thread - just toss out an idea and watch two Lepomis geniuses (or is that genuses?) go crazy brainstorming.

To make some comments on specific entries:

1. All male bluegill ponds
-Labor AND knowledge intensive to DIY. Question: How feasible/expensive/realiable would commercial sexing of BG for male-only sales be? Need it be as expensive as triploidy testing to be 100% accurate? Overton sells sexed LMB, IIRC.

2. High density predators, such as low Wr, mid-sized largemouth bass
-Ahh, the classic approach and one that's dear to my heart. But how feasible is it and how reproducible are the results if LMB are NOT used? Recall HSB are considered a poor substitute if much structure/plant life is in pond. Will be interesting to see Bruce's Dad's results.

3. Triploidy (not currently available in bluegill)
-Is it not possible or not economically feasible?

4. Angler harvest (not practical in a lot of situations)
-especially in ponds of larger size.

5. Trapping
6. Seining
-too labor intensive in larger ponds, probably.

7. Use of a similar species, with lower reproductive potential such as redear sunfish. The foremost disadvantage to this species is the fact that it is less likely to feed train. They also don't thrive as well in cooler waters.
-Are there any Lepomis options besides RES? In addition to the drawbacks Bruce listed, many anglers have a tougher time catching RES in numbers like BG can be caught.

8. HBG, especially not GSFxBG
-Bill, I wish BGxRES were commercially available. I wonder if (and assume that) this cross would be less cold temperature sensitive than straight RES are.

9. BG Nest Disturbance:
An option that I may have seen mentioned 1-2 times before - not discussed often enough IMHO. IIRC BG will spawn in darn near any substrate material - is there any substance that could be put on potential BG nesting areas to deny them from nesting use? (doubtful).

Where possible, I prefer self-contained, true breeding populations. With the current state of the art, I believe this necessititates BG/LMB with bass stunting (preferrably with upper size bass removal to max out on small and middlin' LMB).

I cannot even foresee a way to slectively breed BG for lower fecundity, but then, that's why I asked Dr. Perca and Dr. Condello.

Comment by Bill Cody


1. "All male bluegill ponds -Labor AND knowledge intensive to DIY. Question: How feasible/expensive/realiable would commercial sexing of BG for male-only sales be? Need it be as expensive as triploidy testing to be 100% accurate? Overton sells sexed LMB, IIRC."

How many BG are you talking about Theo? Several hundred. Yes, then that could be labor intensive. But if one wants this many BG then what you need is mixed sex BG. Single sex stocking of BG is primarily for limited numbers of male BG in smaller ponds (0.25-1ac) that have an emphasis on other species. OR for use in very small ponds (0.05-0.1 ac) where one wants BG, but no spawning. If one wants numerous BG (hundreds) for a significant annual harvest then is it not practical to stock just males. The method is not for that purpose. The best practice in this situation is to stock the mixed sex BG and manage and feed them on a production crop basis. If one is harvesting 10-30% of the population each year then one needs the good annual recruitment from normal reproducing BG. Low fecundity BG in a setting like this will not meet or keep up to the demand of those harvest goals.

Too "Labor AND knowledge intensive to DIY." I'm not sure where the rationale of this statement comes into play with this topic. Since when is fishing laborious? At least not for me under normal conditions. Occassionally I considered fishing work, but that was when I was not catching anything out in a boat for hrs in the hot sun. I have never encountered fishing for BG work, at least not where I fish for BG. Now I typically only fish in high protential waters. I don't consider hauling a few male BG home in a transport tank much work because I have to return home anyway. Dipping out the fish and placing them in my pond is not a lot of extra work unless it is raining and I am tromping through mud carrying fish in buckets - rare but been there done that. So going out and catching several (5-10) male BG on each of several trips a year, I don't define as work.

"..knowledge intensive " granted it takes a little homework to master the art of acurately sexing BG, but so does mastering algerbra or passing a drivers test. I think probably where most beginners have difficulty in sexing BG is they try to sex too small of BG and they do it when BG are out of spawning season. For beginners the easiest way go gather some male BG is to get them off the nest when spawning.

" How feasible/expensive/realiable would commercial sexing of BG for male-only sales be? Need it be as expensive as triploidy testing to be 100% accurate? Overton sells sexed LMB, IIRC."
Comment - It is feasable to commercially do this but there is essentially no demand thus far for this thus no one does it. Heck very, very few hatcheries even sell BG large enough to be sex using dimorphic characters. I challenge you to go out and buy some 8" BG. I know of only one place in all of OH to even do that let alone get them sexed. The hatchery has offered me the opportunity to come pick out my own. IMO - Can't beat that. IMO Requesting only fish of one sex should double the price -due to what it take to satisfy the special request. Many people want fish for low cost because they do not realize what it takes to grow a fish.

Tomorrow -#2. Classic high density predators.

Comment by Theo Gallus


By "labor-intensive" Bill, I meant it takes time. That doesn't mean it's objectionable.
Maybe we should call it "labor of love-intensive"?

Male-only BG are indeed currently only feasible in small numbers, as you noted. But if a "Big Bluegill" enthusiast ("BBE"s) wanted them in large numbers, like for stocking 500 initially with annual replenishment for losses, removals, and morts, he'd be SOL. Now, could a bunch of BBEs create a demand that could be commercially satsfied - that's the question (OK, only one of many questions) I'm trying to answer.

I see no reason why most or all of the people who buy HBG for situations where they want low fecundity wouldn't be better served with an equal quantity of male-only BG instead, if the latter were available at a comparable cost (higher cost would be OK, but no more difference than we see between, say, the cost of LMB and SMB fingerlings).

What would a fair price be, covering production costs and time, to commercially raise BG to a size where they could be sexed with 100% certainty (assuming there was enough demand to justify)? And what if there was a way (IS there a way?) to accurately, non-destructively sex them at a smaller size - would that lower the cost per fish in volume?

One last off the wall thought - what would fish guys do with a bunch of left over females BG?

Looking forward to your discussin on #2.

-Theo

Comment by Bill Cody


Theo, Okay, I'm getting a clearer picture of what you ment to say in #1. Currently teh market for male BG would be at best a niche market. It would take quite a bit of extra "marketing" to make the philosophy known and popular among pond owners to where several hatcheries in the US made male BG available. On this topic my question is, realistically how many big BBE (big BG entheusiasts) do you think are out there that own a pond. My guess is there may be a lot of BBE but most of them do not own a pond they are anglers who do not buy hatchery fish.

Point of using male only BG vs HBG is well taken, but it think additional cost of male only vs HGB would not be very acceptable to most. Currently extra cost comes from having to raise BG to a larger usable or stocking size compared to the fingerling HBG. Some day academia may develop a feasable way to produce single sex BG.

"What would a fair price be,.." It would have to be around what the going rate is for large BG ($2.50-4.00 ea). Innovative fish farms would sell females to the food market. Let's take a moment and look at this price of adult male BG a little closer.

If we had a "fish ranch" and were selling BG, we could probably raise 35,000 fingerlings per acre where ave fingerling was 25mm (1.0") and 10 g (0.022lb). With fertilization / feeding should be able to raise 800 lbs per acre thus 35000. We can sell them retail $0.60 ea x 35000 = $21,000/yr. Now if we raise regular BG (not Condello strain) to the large size of 8" it will probably take 3 yrs. We can MAYBE raise 2000 lbs of these (7.4 oz fish) per ac which is abt 4000 adult BG. Typically half will be male = 2000 males x $4.00 ea retail = $8000. Females will wholesale at maybe $1.00 ea food market. $2,000 females + $8000 males = $10,000.00. Question is who will take $10,000 if $21,000 is also available?

Comment by Bill Cody

I need to edit my post above and cannot figure out how to do it. thus this addition. In my fish cost production example above, I forgot to include the cost factor of having to raise these large BG for 3 yrs instead of the one yr to produce the 1" fish. For exaggeration lets say we produced the 8" BG in 2 yrs. If we then divide our gross $8,000 of raising large BG by 2 yrs then the gross becomes just $4,000 vs a gross of $21,000. WOW. Who will raise large male BG vs 1" fingerlings? The difference in gross income becomes even greater if we were able to raise 1,200 pounds/ac of fingerling 1" BG instead the 800 lbs per ac.

Comment by Theo Gallus


"On this topic my question is, realistically how many big BBE (big BG entheusiasts) do you think are out there that own a pond. My guess is there may be a lot of BBE but most of them do not own a pond they are anglers who do not buy hatchery fish."

Point taken, I'm so dam proud of my 1 acre hammer, I forget that every problem isn't a nail.

Comment by Theo Gallus



I think they'd have to be (somehow, as yet undeveloped) sexed at an early age. Then you could market them for a slight premium over HBG or unsexed BG, and you'd only have to cover your sexing costs. Production costs would be the same as selling other fingerlings.

Maybe the big bass boys would get the "female-enhanced" leftovers, sold has "hyper-spawning super forage BG". That sounds like a bad Japanese translation, doesn't it

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Comment by Bill Cody on April 7, 2008 at 11:25am
Yes Theo, When larger fish are grouped in the shallows (esp during spawning or when feeding) and one is careful and lucky in setting the seine, quite a larger fish can be captured in a seine even as short as 15ft long. Although longer seines will usually capture more fish than shorter seines.

Here are two links to pdf files of two good Pond Management 'Booklets' that have guidelines for interpreting the data collected from seining the shallow areas of a pond . Note it is imporant to record on paper what is caught in the seine hauls. These records provide information for the present fish community and info for later years of how the fishery is changing.
Mississippi Manual http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p1428.pdf
Texas Manual http://www.sdafs.org/tcafs/manuals/tcafs_pond_manual_2005.pdf
Comment by Theo Gallus on April 6, 2008 at 7:39pm
I am continually amazed by the fairly large fish, wrt fingerlings, (6"-8" BG & RES) that can be caught in a 4'x20' seine operated by one middle-aged clutz and an impressed (read "I'm stuck doing this" rather than "Wow, this is neat!") 16 year old.
Comment by Bill Cody on April 6, 2008 at 1:55pm
Seining
The simplest form of seine is the beach or haul seine which consists of a piece of rectangular netting of uniform mesh size. Floats are attached along the top margin (float line) whereas lead weights or a lead core rope is attached to the bottom margin to keep the lower margin of the seine held close to the pond bottom. Poles or ropes are attached to the ends for pulling the seine. Some sophisticated beach seines have a bunt (or enlarged into a bag) that concentrate and hold the fish in a central area. Some seines can have tapered ends that form wings.

Many fish hatcheries use seines with mud lines as the weighted bottom line to help the seine perform better. When seines are not able to drag directly on the bottom fish are able to escape under the seine. A mud line is a series or group of heavy corded lines that are attached to the bottom margin to help the seine hug muddy bottoms and prevent the seine from gathering lots of soft mud in the bag. High amounts of mud with fish cause undue stress to fish when being gathered from a seine.

Advantages of sampling fish with a seine are: A. easy to set or install, B. sampling is rapid, C. a relatively large area can be sampled providing it is relatively flat and smooth bottomed, D. a specific area can be sampled, E. comparatively low stress to the fish, F. can be operated by one person, G. high percentages of fish can be removed fairly quickly from shallow ponds.
Disadvantages: A. large seines are fairly costly, B. gear must be used over smooth, snag free bottoms, C. typically not real effective in water as deep or deeper than the height of the seine, D. not effective in deep ponds with irregular bottoms where seining is limited to small areas of shallows and flats.

Seining the shallows of a pond can be very effecively used to sample the smaller fish in the pond to assess the overall balance. Several pond management booklets from the various state agencies describe how to tell what the catch from seine hauls mean.

Since small BG frequent the shallows to aviod predation, seining these areas can catch lots of smaller sized BG that can be removed from the pond to lower their overall density and hopefully improve the growth rate of remaining BG. Research has shown that too many BG on one age group can easaily over graze the zooplankton and small invertebrates to the point that the growth rate is less than optimum. In certain fishery combinations regular manual thinning of the BG can optimize growth of each year class.
Comment by Bill Cody on April 1, 2008 at 7:47pm
5. Trapping
IMO there is not much to say about removing BG by trapping other than it works well in most instances. I routinely use fish traps to catch and remove BG from ponds. I used two forms of fish traps two years ago for my sampling study that I presented at the 1st Pond Boss Conference. Just about all forms of fish traps from cylinders, to boxes to trap nets to heart shaped traps will catch BG. BG readily enter fish traps that are baited and unbaited, however IMO traps catch more BG if the trap is baited with bread, fish food or other attractant food. I have found that all sizes of BG from 3/8" to 9" can be caught in traps. The primariy factor in how big of a BG a trap will catch is how big the entry opening is on the trap. The smaller mesh (0.125"-0.25") traps work best for small BG 0.7"-4" whereas larger BG of 4"-9" can be captured in traps with 1/2" to 1" mesh openings.

As a general rule traps tend to catch smaller BG than angling with small baited hooks.

I have two good examples.
Two years ago, I checked the relative numbers of small BG to monitor the fishery in a 0.75 acre pond. I set two 1/4" mesh traps one cylinder style, one box style, for four days in July. All total, the traps collected 1560 BG ranging from 1.3"-4.4". Thus I think traps can be a very good way to collect, monitor or remove excess BG from a pond.

I have also used 1/2 mesh cylinder traps to catch over abundant intermediate sized BG. In a 0.5 acre pond, two sizes of 1/2" mesh traps, baited with bread were fished twice a day for 5 days. A total of 663 BG were caught and sizes ranged from 2.75 to 6.7".

Thus I have found that traps can be very effective in sampling and removing BG from a pond.
Comment by Bill Cody on April 1, 2008 at 11:36am
Theo the Lake is La Su An and is located in NW OH on the La SuAn Wildlife area of 1,161 acres. The Area includes a total of 13 fishable lakes and ponds from 1/4 ac to 82 ac (total 130 ac of fishable waters). The lakes provide an angler harvest of 8" to 11" BG that make up 40-50% of the total BG catch that ranges from 12,000-20,000 annually; 98% are larger than 6". Numbers to be harvested are determined each year from data collected from DNR annual sampling studies. There is a daily bag limit and numbers of anglers are restricted on each water body. The is a slot limit for LMB and it is common for an angler to catch 30 LMB in one day. Fishing is 5 days per week by reservation permit only to regulate angling pressure. When annual harvest quota is reached then only the largest BG can be removed since they would likely die within a yr or two. When I get more time I want to create an article for Pond Boss mag about this fishery and how it is managed.

http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/FishingSubhomePage/where_to_fishplaceholder/fishingllsawafrllsawafr/tabid/6111/Default.aspx
Comment by Theo Gallus on April 1, 2008 at 9:00am
You are of course correct, Bill, that if you have the angler-hours needed for a certain number of acres, you can have a huge impact on BG numbers.

The guy who scrapes up a couple of hours a week for fishing will trouble impacting ponds of much size, as I'm sure you would agree after we negotiated a minimum pond size. :D

BTW, what kind of BG (slot) limit codes ODNR have on that lake? I am an infrequent license purchaser since getting my own pond; the only lake I can remember off the top of my head having a site-specific limit was for Crappie at Caeser Creek.
Comment by Bill Cody on March 31, 2008 at 7:46pm
4. Angler harvest (not practical in a lot of situations)
-especially in ponds of larger size.
Well, this depends on how many anglers there are per acre of water and how often they fish for BG. Many anglers do not fish for BG but when skilled anglers target BG I think they can have a big impact on the number and size structure of BG/panfish especially in waters of one acre and less. IMO even on waters of 5 acre a couple adept anglers frequently targeting BG can significently affect BG numbers. Numerous studies have shown that anglers, especially adept anglers, targeting harvestable sized BG during spawning season can have a big impact on the number of larger sized BG present. Significient numbers of harvestable BG/panfish can be removed in a few weeks or over the course of a year to a point the BG fishery is seriously depleated or reduced. Definately various studies in northern states have shown the population of large BG can be significiantly reduced if angling pressure focuses on harvest that contributes to overall mortality. I can cite several studies if desired. Of course most all these studies were performed on public lakes where angling pressure was high to moderate.

There is an 82 ac lake near me that the ODNR closely manages for producing large BG. There are two fishing seasons of open water and ice fishing where harvest is allowed and monitored. When the harvest quota of BG has been met additional harvest is prohibited until the next angling season. The lake commonly produces 9" & 10" BG utilizing an all natural food chain. Unlimited harvest would quickly ruin this notable BG fishery. Thus Ohio DNR has learned that intensively angling for BG can have a big impact on the numbers of larger sized BG. The regional fishery bilogist in charge of this fishery was an author of one of the above referenced research projects in Wisconsin.

Light fishing pressure and limited harvest obviously will not have a big impact of numbers of BG. But if a significant amount of adept angling pressure is applied to a per unit of water IMO it can have a significant impact or reduction in the numbers of BG in the 5"-10" range.

The normal size structure of a balanced BG population usually posesses lower numbers of individuals in each increasing size category or class. Thus if one was trying to achieve some sort of "balance" by decreasing numbers of smaller fish one would usually have to remove more numers of fish in the smaller size classes compared to the larger sizes.

I think one of the reasons that "Angler harvest (not practical in a lot of situations)" is because anglers often target larger predator fish and ignore intensive angling for the panfish. OR if panfish/BG are caught they are often released and not harvested. In numerous ponds with normal to above normal BG I have caught up to 1 BG per each 1-3 minutes of fishing time.

In my sampling study (presented at 1st Pond Boss Conference), my novice angling partner and I were able to catch 61 BG (4.5"-8.75) in one hour from a BG crowded pond. Five hrs of fishing would have produced 300 BG; a significant number from this 1/3 acre pond. Thus fishing can amount to 30 to 50 BG per angler hour of fishing. Thus 5 hrs of fishing can harvest 150 to 350 BG of various sizes. If one did this twice or three times per year in a one acre pond we are talking about randomly removing 400 to 600 BG that were 4"-8" long. I think that is a significant number of fish to remove from those size classes in 1 ac of water. Of course if BG are not abundant in a pond the catch reates will be less than 30 per angler hr. But in these ponds obviously BG are not over abundant and in not need of significant thinning.
In conclusion, I think angling can harvest a large percentage of BG from a pond, someone just has to take the time to do it. Maybe this is the part that is not practical.
Comment by Bill Cody on March 31, 2008 at 6:34pm
I'm finally back from an unexpected delay.

No 3. Triploidy (not currently available in bluegill)
-Is it not possible or not economically feasible?
Triploidy or polyploidy results when a fish has three or more sets of full chromosomes instead of the usual to sets that are found in normal fish (aka diploids). Normally the triploid fish are produced in the lab by a temperature shock or hydrostatic pressure (better method) shocking the freshly fertilized eggs. The shock causes a unusual splitting or paring of the chromosomes during very early egg development where extra chromosomes are added to the newly developing egg. As the "embryo" continues to grow the genetic aboration is replicated or peroduced in each subsequent cell division.

Triploid /polyploid fish usually posess reduced testes and ovaries and delayed sexual maturity. Few if any triploid fish produce sviable perm or eggs (gametes). Fertilized gametes rarely produce fish that hatch from the fertilized egg/embryo. Although some triploid fish have been crossed with normal fish but the viable offspring are usually greatly reduced in number. The benefit of triploid fish typically does ot expend energy or food reserves for spawning, thus growth rate is better. A population of triploid BG would not likely reproduce and their growth would be the best it can be for the productivity of the water body. A lot of the interest in polyploid fish has come from those in the aquaculture industry. Faster growing equals higher income. That is where the source of future polypoid fish will originate. If successful in the aquacultrue venue, the pond stocking industry would soon follow the trend. As far as I know most polyploid research has been performed with trout and to a limited extent tilapia, BG sunfish and some bass.
Comment by Bruce Condello on March 27, 2008 at 7:32pm
Monster 'Gills and monster smallmouth may be conflicting goals. I have some ideas on how to accomplish this. As a matter of fact I am starting such a project, however we might want to move this to a separate blog. I'd like to keep these blogs kind of "on track", whatever that means, and this blog we'll try to continue to talk about efforts to keep bluegill number suppressed. ;-)
Comment by Mike Penrose on March 27, 2008 at 10:02am
This is actually only the fifth year for the pond and my own approach to stocking what I want for "trophy fish" and trying to regulate and manage it accordingly. I would really like to have a seperate pond exclusively for "Monster-'Gills", Redears, and Smallmouth, but at the moment I am concentrating my efforts in my original pond. Any futher questions, comments, or concerns would be greatly appreciated.

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