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Selecting Species

A healthy pond has a balance between predator and prey populations. In ponds of at least 1 acre, largemouth bass and bluegill provide this balance better than any other species. In smaller ponds, managing a single species is more effective.

Largemouth bass are predatory and eat a variety of foods, especially fish. There are two subspecies of largemouth bass to choose from, and a hybrid of the two. Although some research has been conducted to determine which, if any, of these largemouth bass strains are best for stocking farm ponds and small lakes, no conclusive answer has been found. A few observations, based partly on science and partly on field experience, are described below to help you decide which largemouth bass strain to stock. Your ultimate success in managing your bass depends more on the quality of your management program (including bass harvest strategy) than on strain selection.

  • Northern, Florida, and hybrid largemouth bass have all been used with success in Mississippi. The Florida strain and hybrid have slightly greater potential to attain trophy size. Evidence exists that the Florida strain may be, on average, harder to catch than northern or hybrid bass.
  • Many hatcheries no longer maintain pure Florida strains but rather hybrids with varying percentages of mixed northern/Florida genes.
  • It is not known at this time whether all hybrids are equivalent in growth and catchability. For example, a hybrid that is 50 percent Florida and 50 percent northern may perform differently from a hybrid that is 25:75.
  • F1 hybrid bass are first generation hybrids (50:50) and may experience enhanced growth. The offspring, though, are likely to experience reduced growth as compared to their parents and possibly lower than the pure strains.
  • The strains usually have no cost difference.

Bluegill (commonly called bream) are also well adapted to ponds and eat a variety of foods. When small, they eat microscopic plants and animals. As they grow, their diet changes to include insects, snails, crawfish, and small fish.

The two strains of bluegill commonly stocked in Mississippi are native bluegill and a Florida strain called coppernose bluegill. Biologically, the two are very similar, as are general growth rates and other characteristics. Ultimate performance of the bluegill depends more on the quality of your management program than on the strain stocked.

You can add a few other species, specifically redear sunfish (shellcracker or chinquapin), channel catfish, triploid, grass carp, and fathead minnows, to provide a variety of fishing opportunities. These species, when stocked at recommended rates and managed properly, can provide years of good fishing.

Do not stock other species of catfish in ponds. Crappie are not recommended for small lakes and ponds fewer than 50 acres because they tend to overpopulate, resulting in a pond full of small, skinny crappie, bream, and bass. Crappie compete with bass for food and should not be stocked into lakes fewer than 500 acres if trophy bass fishing is the desired objective.

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Portrait of Dr. Wes Neal
Extension/Research Professor
Fisheries Extension