Early this spring, I met Richard May on a Facebook panfish site. We friended each other, and he invited me to fish a private lake near Vincennes. He had caught some whopper bluegill there last year and thought we could do pretty well. The trip turned into a 160-mile wild goose chase.
Richard was a fine fellow, but the pier — over deep water — was under water and the surface covered with muck. There were only a few places — in shallow water — to toss my jig. We could only catch small bluegills and didn’t fish an hour. Round trip: 327 miles
I arrived home in time to till a spot to plant tomatoes and do some yard work. My boat trailer lights would not work Sunday evening, but when I put the rig back in the barn, everything worked. A good thing because it was too wet around Richard’s lake to launch a boat without four-wheel drive.
Last weekend, I helped a box turtle cross the road just north of my house. Brian Frazier did the same thing with one on 38th Street. It has been 23 years since I have seen one alive in Madison County. It is good to get them off the road, but don’t relocate them except to the other side.
I know a man who built a pond. He stocked it with bass, hybrid bluegill and regular bluegill. A friend who used to fish it told me a 6-pound bass would often attack a 10-inch bluegill you were trying to land. The fishing was fabulous.
The pond owner introduced himself to me recently.
He said, “I wish I would have kept every one of those big bluegills. One spring, they were all gone.”
This fellow thought these fish lived a long time.
“I wish someone had told me they only live five years. We could have had many fish fries and prevented overpopulation.”
A pond owner’s worst enemy is himself. Many want those prolific spawners returned. They would not plant 100 acres of corn and not harvest but essentially do the same with their pond.
My aunt Marry Alice had an acre pond that consistently produced big bluegill. She directed anyone who fished to throw the small ones over their shoulder.
“The cats or coons will get them,” she said.
Hybrid bluegill are a cross between a green sunfish and a bluegill with 96% of the offspring being male. Stocked alone, they are pretty much gone in six years without supplemental stocking. However, if they share the habitat with regular bluegill, the two will spawn together. Soon, all you have is regular bluegill that lay 30,000 to 100,000 eggs each.
Now, this fellow has stunted bass and bluegill. This is a much harder problem to fix.
Pond owners can call fisheries biologists at the DNR Cikana Fish Hatchery (342-7098) or Jones Fish Hatchery (513-561-2615). A fisheries biologist once advised a friend to remove 7,000 stunted bass from his one-acre pond.
A pond will only support so many pounds of fish. Do you want 50,000 small ones or 5,000 mostly large ones? Most ponds are not managed correctly.
Pond overpopulation brings on another danger. When heavy snow covers an iced-over pond, oxygen levels can drop to a level that will not sustain life. The same can occur with an algae bloom in the summer.