The selective harvest of bass in a private fishery is one of the most important management practices you can implement if you are trying to raise trophy-class bass in your fishery.
Why a bass harvest is so important
It is a common misconception that if you harvest or remove any Bass from your fishery, there is no way to ever have any fish reach trophy size. While this theory is correct for those individuals that are harvested (cannot get big if you aren't in the pond), it does not hold true for the rest of the fishery. When you remove competition for resources, the remaining fish have a better chance to flourish.
The other widely held belief about removing Bass is that if you don’t remove any, then there will be more fish available for successful fishing experiences. This is true. Well, sort of true. If you don’t harvest any Bass, there will become a buildup of stock and eventually you will reach a density that your forage species cannot keep up with. When this happens, yes, fishing success will go through the roof. The opportunity to catch a fish every cast or every-other-cast is very possible. But here's the kicker to that situation: the reason you are able to catch these fish so rapidly is because they are basically starving. The vast majority of these Bass will be about 10-14 inches and weigh less than a pound. These fish are extremely unhealthy and if left in this state for too long, will become stunted (see photo left) and will never grow much larger than their current state.
Selective bass harvest ... just do it
Harvesting fish in a private fishery is one of the MOST important management aspects of that body of water. The reason harvesting Bass is such an important management aspect is when you remove select individuals from your pond you are better allocating resources to your non-culled Bass. This includes increasing the density of forage available to your fish, as well as ensuring that the resources will not be depleted to the point of detriment for future season.
Bass need on average around 10 pounds of forage resources to put on a pound of weight. A Bluegill is by far the most abundant and widely utilized forage resource in most pond settings. The size class that offers the most bang for your buck when it comes to providing resources to your Bass are those Bluegill in the 3-5 inch range. They are large enough in size to provide ample nutrition, while still being of a size that the majority of Bass can consume them. Now think about the weight of that 3-5 inch Bluegill. On average, a Bluegill that size only weighs about 1-1.5 ounces. That means a Bass will need to consume 11-16 individual Bluegill to grow just 1 pound. When you start doing the math on how many Bluegill that is per season, it begins to be very apparent the necessity of predator removal. For more information about creating a broodstock of Bluegill, visit How to Create a Steady Supply of Bluegill.
And do it again
If you want to raise trophy-class bass, then harvesting Bass needs to be a yearly practice. If the pond has been well managed, then more than likely you already have a harvest plan in place. The quantity and size range of fish may change from year to year depending on your goals. In a fishery that has been neglected or recently purchased, then the best way to determine the correct quantity and size range to harvest would be to have a fishery survey conducted. Hopefully, you won't find any fish in your fishery like the one pictured to the left.
Here at Pond King, this process is done by trained professionals. If you have a small stock pond (under 2 acres) or your pond is outside of our servicing area, then consider using our Pond King App. This App will perform a similar service without the need of an on-site visit. Depending on the goals you have for your fishery, either option will provide you with the information necessary to begin harvesting. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you live outside our regular service area, but you're trying to raise trophy-class bass, consider checking out our DIY Pond Management App.
Until next time, we'll see y’all down at the pond.