The Hybrid Bream option is well suited for small ponds less than two acres in size. Hybrid bream have a large mouth and readily take artificial feed. They are very aggressive making them easy to catch, even on a bare hook. Populations of hybrid bream are composed of 80 to 95% male fish. Therefore reproduction is limited and more of the stocked fish reach a catchable size. For every 100 hybrid bream stocked you can expect to catch 80 eating size bream. While they are capable of reaching 1 to 2 pounds, most average 1/2 to 3/4 pounds.
New hybrid bream ponds should be free of other bream species to prevent reproduction. All of the fish should be of similar size and stocked at the same time to prevent predation. Small 1 to 3 inch fingerlings will grow rapidly reaching 4 to 5 inches in their first summer and can gain 1/4 pound per year every year thereafter.
Although reproduction is limited, some reproduction will occur. The offspring from this reproduction are inferior fish, resembling green sunfish, that will not grow very large and will breed readily, resulting in thousands of small fish rather than eating size fish. Once hybrid bream have reproduced the only way to correct the problem is to drain the pond and start over.
To eliminate reproduction altogether you must stock either channel catfish or largemouth bass with the hybrid bream to eat any offspring produced. Channel catfish will eat the inbred fish and can be grown to large sizes with feed. Largemouth bass will also eat the inbred fish but will not grow very large (1/2-1 pound) because there are simply not enough offspring produced to grow big bass.
To sustain quality fishing new hybrid bream will need to be restocked periodically. Larger (5-6") fish will need to be stocked to prevent them being eaten by the channel catfish or largemouth bass present in the pond. Larger (1 pound+) catfish and bass can be removed to improve the success of the restocking effort. Smaller (10-12") catfish and bass should be left in the pond.
Hybrid bream should not be mixed with bluegill (coppernose or native). Bluegill will breed with the hybrid bream producing more inferior offspring. Fathead minnows should be stocked as forage for hybrid bream in the spring and fall. Redear sunfish may also be stocked with hybrid bream to control grubs, however there is a chance that the redear sunfish will breed with the hybrid bream. Grass carp should also be stocked in fall or spring to control aquatic vegetation before it becomes a big problem. Hybrid bream will grow faster and larger if fed daily with a feed that has at least 38-40% protein and 8-10% fat. 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.
To overcome some of the shortcomings of Hybrid Bream, J.M. Malone and Son, Inc. is proud to offer Southern Specklebelly Bream. Specklebelly Bream can be substituted for Hybrid Bream in Bream Ponds and can be safely added to Bass Ponds and Fishing Ponds.
The Hybrid Bream Option is best suited for ponds 1/4 acre to 2 acres. Larger ponds can be used, however if hybrid bream are allowed to spawn and the pond must be drained, larger ponds can be expensive to drain and refill.
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. Hybrid bream 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.
Hybrid bream can be harvested when they reach eatable size. However, the longer fish are left in the pond the larger they will grow. Hybrid bream are easily over fished and will require protection in order to optimize growth. A minimum harvest size may be enforced to allow all fish to reach target sizes. Trophy management can be achieved with a reverse slot limit, releasing the largest and smallest fish caught and only harvesting a designated medium sized fish. This ensures large fish get bigger and small fish grow into eatable sizes. Because spawning is not encouraged, 3-4" hybrid bream will need to be restocked every year to maintain fishing.
Largemouth bass stocked to eliminate hybrid bream reproduction require protection to ensure they are not eliminated from the pond. A minimum length limit of 12 inches should be enforced allowing only the limited harvest of bass. This limit ensures smaller bass are released and present to control hybrid bream reproduction. Additional bass harvest may be needed if bass become a nuisance when fishing or bass are large enough to eat hybrid bream being restocked to maintain fishing.
Channel catfish stocked to eliminate hybrid bream reproduction can be harvested when they reach eatable size. Because spawning is not encouraged, 4-8" catfish will need to be restocked every year to ensure catfish are present to control hybrid bream reproduction.
Monitoring Fish Populations
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.
The presence of skinny hybrid bream indicates that there may be to many fish in the pond or the fish are not being fed enough. This can be corrected by increasing daily feedings. If fish continue not to grow, fish must be harvested until improvements in growth occur.
The presence of many small 1-3" fish indicates that hybrid bream are spawning and may overpopulate. This can be corrected by stocking more largemouth bass or catfish fingerlings. Additional restrictions may need to be enforced to protect bass and catfish. If to many hybrid bream reproduce and the inferior offspring become established the pond may need to be drained and started over.
A decline in fishing or general lack of fish indicates that there may not be many fish left in the pond. This can be corrected by restocking periodically with new fingerlings. If bass or catfish are constantly being caught instead of hybrid bream there may be to many bass or catfish in the pond. This can be corrected by removing some bass or catfish until the situation improves.