|Black Crappie Pond Management|
The Black Crappie Option is best suited for ponds bigger than 5 acres, although there are always exceptions to the rule. Successful black crappie ponds require healthy populations of 8 to 15" largemouth bass and lots of submerged habitat. Black crappie ponds can be difficult to manage and should be monitored closely to continue good fishing.
Well managed ponds not fed, fertilized or aerated should support 300 to 500 pounds of fish per acre. Fed, fertilized or aerated ponds can support 800 to 1000 pounds of fish per acre.
If you decide to feed your fish, feeding should begin when water temperatures warm in the spring and should continue through the fall until water temperatures cool. Fish should be fed daily all they will eat in 10 to 15 minutes. Ponds without aeration should be fed no more than 10-15 pounds of feed per acre per day. Aerated ponds can be fed 20 to 30 pounds per acre per day. Excessive feeding can lead to oxygen depletion and should be avoided. Black crappie ponds should be fed with a feed that has at least 38-40% protein and 8-10% fat. Fish feed should be 1/8-1/4" pellets.
Fertilization increases productivity of a pond and can help control aquatic vegetation. Water chemistry determines how effective a fertilization program will be. Ponds must have a total alkalinity of 20 ppm in order to benefit from fertilizer. If alkalinity is less than 20 ppm agricultural limestone can be added periodically to increase alkalinity. Contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service Agent for assistance when measuring alkalinity and determining how much limestone to add. Fertilization should begin when weather warms in spring and can continue until water temperatures cool in the fall. Fertilizer should be added every 2 weeks until visibility is less than 2 feet, then as needed only when visibility increases beyond 2 feet. Excessive fertilization can cause oxygen depletion and fish kills and should be avoided. Ponds with muddy water or aquatic vegetation should not be fertilized. Fed ponds will require less fertilizer.
Aeration improves the carrying capacity of ponds and helps mix pond water to prevent turnovers and fish kills. A variety of aerators are available ranging from ornamental fountains and windmills to air compressors and paddlewheels. The most important aspect of aeration for fishing ponds is mixing of pond water, which can be accomplished with fountains or air compressors, to prevent turnovers . Pond owners wanting serious fish production may consider paddlewheels. Solar powered systems are available for remote locations without electricity.
Fish Habitat Improvement
Stake beds, brush piles, and Christmas trees can be sunk throughout the pond to provide submerged habitat. To avoid overpopulation of channel catfish, old tires, milk cans and buckets should not be added to encourage spawning.
Largemouth bass and black crappie require protection during their fish two years in the pond to ensure they successfully spawn and produce the next generation of fish. For the first 2 years after stocking a minimum length limit of 15 inches on bass and 12 inches on crappie should be enforced and the harvest of bass bigger than 15 inches and crappie bigger than 12 inches should be limited. This ensures bass grow to 15 inches and smaller bass are present to control crappie and bluegill populations. After the second year, the 15" minimum should remain for bass and a slot limit should be enforced for crappie, harvesting crappie between 10 and 12" while releasing crappie less than 10" and greater than 12".
Bluegill and redear sunfish will reach catchable sizes after 2 years and a reverse slot limit should be enforced to maintain a healthy population. Bluegill and redear smaller than 6 inches and bigger than 8 inches should be returned to the pond and only 6 to 8 inch fish should be harvested. This slot limit ensures that bluegill and redear populations continue to grow into catchable sizes and trophy bream are present to maintain a spawning population.
After 2 years fish can be harvested as follows:
Channel catfish can be harvested when they reach eatable size. Because spawning is not encouraged, catfish will need to be restocked every 2 years.
Monitoring Fish Populations
Fish populations are always in a state of flux requiring constant monitoring to maintain quality fishing. Two common methods are shoreline seining and angler catch records. Seining is done June through September with a small mesh minnow seine along the shoreline. Several samples should be made and the number and kind of baby fish caught recorded. Angler catch records should be maintained year round keeping track of how many, what size and what kind of fish are being caught. Anglers should record every fish they catch even if they release them.
Based on the results of this sampling you should be able to determine the health of your fish population and if any corrective management is necessary.
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