When it comes to pond management for growing big bass, these three factors have the greatest impact on the condition of your bass population; Forage Supply, Competition, and Habitat/Cover.
The task of gathering all the necessary information to make informed decisions for bass fisheries management can seem pretty daunting. To facilitate the process, in this blog I'll cover the key topics you should know to reach your fishery goals successfully and provide links to other posts where you can find even more details. As always, feel free to email or call, and I will be happy to answer your questions and/or point you towards a specific blog to make your search easier. Now, getting into the management aspect, the first question you might want to be answered is, "why do I need to manage my lake in the first place?"
Why Should I Manage My Lake or Pond?
Let's start by saying how intensely you choose to manage your pond is dependent on the goals you had in mind when you built it. Also, it is worth saying that not all ponds are created equal; some ponds require very little management while others require much more to achieve the same goals. While most pond or lake management plans are specific to your goals, there is one thing every pond or lake will experience: Pond Succession. Managing pond succession is very important despite your goals because it extends the natural lifecycle of that body of water. Once you build your pond or lake, it begins its aging process. This process starts with 5-8 years of high productivity as many nutrients are readily available. As time progresses, productivity slowly decreases, and the once-thriving lake or pond ultimately reverts to a bog due to sedimentation throughout the years. The length of time over which this process takes place varies greatly depending on pond size, geographic location, and watershed. However, there are ways you can mitigate the aging process and prolong the life of your fishery. Managing to reduce sedimentation rates and lake fertilization to increase productivity can be effective techniques to slow pond succession, extending the productivity of your favorite lake or pond. For more detailed information about implementing these techniques on your own, see our blog about Managing Pond Succession.
As mentioned, pond management is often dependent upon your goal for that body of water. For example, if you manage a swimming hole, you may not employ the same practices as you would if you manage a trophy-class bass fishery. These ecosystems have different needs, and developing goal-specific management is crucial to ensure the management techniques you use will be the most beneficial for your lake or pond to meet your goals. For recommendations specific to common lake/pond goals, please see the following blogs:
- Managing a Pond for Aesthetics or Swimming
- Management Techniques for Different Fishery Goals
- Pond Management for Livestock and Irrigation
By far, the most popular goal we see is the desire to create a trophy bass fishery. To help you get started, let's take a look at some management tips to consider when managing for bass.
Top Pond Management Tips for Bass Fisheries
When it comes to managing successful and sustainable bass fisheries, three primary factors impact the condition of your bass population; Forage Supply, Competition, and Habitat/Coverall. Each of these pond management techniques will directly impact the bass population in your lake or pond.
Maintaining sufficient forage is vital in promoting the improved condition and growth of all species. Increasing forage for bass can be done in various ways, including supplemental stockings of existing forage species, stocking alternative forage, and feeding the ecosystem from the bottom up through fertilization. While all of these methods can effectively accomplish this goal, there is a time and place for each one. Check out Increasing Forage Production for more in-depth information to help you determine which method or combination of methods is best for your situation. To ensure a sustainable broodstock, you'll also want to monitor the forage population in your fishery.
Intraspecific competition (within the same species) and interspecific competition (between different species) affect individual bass condition. Within an ecosystem, there is a maximum number of individuals (bass or predators in general) that ecosystem is capable of supporting. This maximum number of individuals is referred to as the carrying capacity. When a population is at or above carrying capacity, population growth and individual growth significantly decrease. As the competition for available resources increases, individuals must expend more energy to obtain fewer resources. The increased competition results in a lower net energy gain and reduced growth rates for the individuals. While natural mortality does help control population density, it is seldom enough to impact population size significantly. Instead, an annual selective or targeted harvest is often employed to ensure populations remain at sufficient densities to promote optimal growth. To determine why and how to perform a harvest of your own check out our blog post: Trying to Raise Trophy-Class Bass? Consider A Selective Harvest.
The density and diversity of available habitat significantly impact the ecological interactions and the predator-prey dynamics within a fishery. Cover that is too dense or not dense enough can both have adverse effects on bass condition. Maintaining a balance of cover where a bass can effectively navigate its surroundings yet remain hidden from prey is essential to optimizing a bass' ambush feeding strategy. While available habitat plays a vital role in predator-prey dynamics, it is also critical for the recruitment and survivorship of juvenile fish of all species. Maintaining sufficient recruitment and survivorship is essential to the sustainability of any species. It is even more critical for forage fish populations since recruitment rates must be greater than or equal to the predation rate to be sustainable. To learn more about habitat enhancement and habitat needs of bass, check out the blogs linked below.
- Fish Habitat Basics
- How To Choose The Right Habitat For Your Bass Fishery
- Fish Attractors and Artificial Habitat
When beginning to manage your lake or pond for bass, it can feel a little overwhelming. However, using the information compiled in these blogs, you will be able to make educated and informed management decisions for your lake confidently. If you have any more questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll be more than happy to help you out with your bass management.
See y'all down at the pond!