Bluegill - Big Bluegill

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Thoughts on smallmouth predation to keep bluegill numbers in check.

I spoke with my Dad yesterday, and he's very much on board with the idea of acquiring smallmouth bass as a predator to keep bluegill numbers under control in his pond. Conventional wisdom says that smallmouth, with their smaller mouth gape, and smaller general size will have trouble keeping up with reproduction. I believe this to be true, but in my Dad's pond we will be able to run a seine at least once, and maybe twice a year to cull out slower growing bluegill and to thin their numbers. I've become rather adept at identifying fish that are thriving, and I think I could take out and relocate slower growers. This "two-pronged" approach should allow us to keep bluegill numbers in check so we can grow as big a bluegill as possible. I'm not really excited about ever adding largemouth bass, because they will be almost TOO good at eating bigger bluegill as they reach sizes that we could eat. My Dad would like to harvest fish from the pond, and we think that heavy harvest pressure on female fish will be an ideal scenario. We get the best of both worlds. Bluegill to eat, and bluegill to grow to trophy proportions. One other advantage to smallmouth is that they are maybe a little more likely than largemouth to utilize some of the pelleted feed.

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Comment by Bill Cody on April 6, 2008 at 2:32pm
Bruce - Another possibility. Jones (OH) has SMB (4"-6"?) for delivery now. I assume those to be VHS tested since they were offered to Breskii (IN). Ask Jones to ship overnight to you two boxes of SMB with 6-10 in each box. That should not be all that difficult and not that overly expensive considering you were trying to get smallies from SD and that you cannot locate them. If you consider your time and effort to raise your own few SMB for your dads pond the cost of a few overnighted from Jones, would in the end, be cheap.
Comment by Bill Cody on April 6, 2008 at 2:21pm
Bruce - You have several small ponds. You are even working on a small flow through raceway pond that will overflow into your dad's pond. From my experience you shold ber able to produce your own 5"-6" smallies by this fall. Use one of your small ponds to hatch some SMB. I would suggest the small round pond that has in the past had water quality problems. Drain it down, and if necessary kill off to remove any resident fish. Add 1-2 tubs of coarse gravel with an adjacent large rock or pieces of broken cement. Also use of the traditional overhead cement half slab wood would be good. Refill pond and get a bloom going. Then go fishing. You are good and experienced at that part. SMB will be spawning in our latitude late April early May. Catch a couple pair of adult smallies. Males will be nesting soon so they should be easy to catch and recognize. Then work on getting 1-2 females. Add a few pounds of FH. Once SMB have spawned then you can remove the adults by seining the pond. SMB fry will school and be black like frog tadpoles. You can split some fry out into a pond with your breeder BG. Fry will grow fast. As fry get to 1"-1.5" feed train some of them and or put some in a pond with FH fry. You should have 4"-6" smallies by October.
Comment by Bruce Condello on April 5, 2008 at 8:10am
I thought I had a good line on some smallmouth bass from South Dakota. I did my duty and called our Nebraska Game and Parks commission to find out if there were any legal hoops I would have to jump through to get the fish to my Dad's pond. I talked with Dean Rosenthal. He was extremely professional and courteous. He informed me that the fish would have to be tested for VHS before I could transport them across state lines. I did a little research into this process and found that it would be way to expensive. So now it's back to the drawing board to get some smallies to control bluegill numbers. I'll post something on Pond Boss website, and maybe contact some of our Nebraska suppliers to procure some smallmouth bass. It looks like this is going to be an expensive proposition.
Comment by Theo Gallus on March 25, 2008 at 1:54pm
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
Comment by Theo Gallus on March 25, 2008 at 1:51pm
"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 Bill Cody on March 25, 2008 at 1:17pm
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 Bill Cody on March 25, 2008 at 1:05pm
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 Theo Gallus on March 25, 2008 at 5:59am
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 on March 24, 2008 at 6:24pm
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 on March 24, 2008 at 8:48am
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.

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