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kiteman

Fish are smart? Or just not there?

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I've posted similar questions before so if you have read those and feel I'm redundant I do apologize!  There is a place I fish with two ponds.  The smaller one feeds the larger one and the smaller one is fed by a nearby river.  The small one probably 6 acres and 30ft deep, the large one probably 12 acres and 60ft deep. I first fished in the small one many years ago.  I caught a lot of perch and a lot of bass, but all the bass were pretty much under 2lbs.  I started fishing the large one a year or two later and I have caught some over 5lbs, and most days I always catch some over 2lbs.  

 

I know about 2 years ago they had a poaching issue, and this is a private pond so there is no limit or game warden, they just had some locals come over and take home a lot of fish.  I know one guy took home 60 bass in a day from the large pond, and I also can tell you I could catch 10+ perch a day with bass lures and now there are NO perch in the water as far as I know.  So overfishing was definitely an issue, but to what end I can't quantify.

 

They have mostly controlled the poaching issue for nearly a year now, at least as much as they can (maybe still are people coming late at night when nobody is there, hard to know), but recently they had someone taking 20+ bass a day from the small pond.  Well, I have not caught much in the large pond the last year or two.  I remember a time I could throw a crank bait and catch five 3lb bass in about an hour, whereas now it rarely happens.  Yesterday just for kicks I fished the big and little pond, and I caught a 3lb from the big one, but after an hour I had nothing so went to the small pond.  I literally was there 15 minutes and caught 8 bass, all from 1-1.5lbs in about 20 casts. 

 

I know this small pond was the most recently poached so I would assume it had fewer fish, but I was catching them?  So now I don't know if the large pond has smarter fish or less fish?  Just logically if both were being poached, you would expect both to either have fewer fish or both would have smarter fish, so it struck me as unusual that I caught so many so fast in the small pond.  No kidding though, there was a time I was catching 2-4lb bass that quickly in the larger pond in an hour, and these days I'm lucky if I snag one once every 4-5 outings.  It's sad :(  I'd like to think they are still there and just smarter than they were, but I really doubt that's true.

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They gone....Ponds can't handle 20 to 60 fish a day being removed. And thats just the ones you know about.

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I have a pond in a large cow pasture near me full of bass and bluegill. They were used to cows walking into the water and would come right up to you waiting for something to get stirred up to eat. I could only catch two, maybe three on a particular lure and they would learn from seeing their buddies getting caught and no longer hit. Come back later with a different type of lure and they would hit again until they learned about that lure. Wasn't long before you couldn't catch any of them. They would race up to it and then stop and swim away. They do learn and remember. (I always catch and release and pond is fed by an ortesian well and is clear enough to see they are still there)

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See, that's just terrible.... why even keep most bass? I've eaten bass before, they aren't the tastiest thing to eat. Frankly, I'd prefer catfish, perch, flounder, redfish, and carp over bass if I want to actually eat fish. Bass for me is just more of a challenge because I'm not too well versed in the types of finesse fishing required to catch them. Plus, my rod set-ups are not exactly the best for finessing: good backbones, but since most of my rods are more for inshore/meaty fighting fish like carp and catfish, they lack the tip softness to really work cranks, spoons, and whatnot to effectively catch bass. Sometimes I can get lucky though and find a rhythm that works.

 

Poaching is the reason I haven't opened up my pond publicly. I have a pond that's around an acre in size, oval, always holds water well, and is very open without much bottom debris to get tangled on. It is primarily a catfish pond, but there are some perch in there as well as a small population of asian silver carp that I can't catch that help to keep the water clean. It wouldn't be too hard to get the pond stocked by TP&W but unless someone could sit there all the time and watch people, poaching would pretty quickly wipe out my little pond. People need to learn some respect for nature and self control... keep enough to feed your family for that night, but yeah... wiping out a pond intentionally is just.... gah that bugs me lol. I know of several places around here that has been stocked with adult fish by TW&P, but I also know that people go overboard and go catch-crazy. Which is partly why most people can't catch any nice fish there anymore. So I hear you on that front!

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:(

 

I didn't want to say this before, but it's not the richest neighborhood surrounding this pond if you get my drift. This is probably food for people for weeks on end that live in this area. I feel bad for them for that, but hate them for the obvious reasons we anglers do. 

 

Sad to say if nothing here then I just can't fish. I live in too big of a city and can really only fish on trips otherwise. It's been my spot for years and it's also sad to think maybe people on the road seeing me out there during this time led to the issue. I'm so sad :(

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What does decimating a ponds fish population by over harvesting a pond have to do with the title of this thread? I suggest you look up the Pond Boss and read his pond management suggestions and determine based on the pond size what the population density per acre should be.

Tom

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I doubt the big pond (especially with how deep it is) has been completely wiped out.  They will eventually recover, but be mostly smaller for a while.  You can definitely overfish a pond that size, but you won't completely wipe it out unless you drain or poison it.  Seriously, 60 ft deep is really deep for a 12 acre pond, is it a quarry pond?

 

I help manage our ponds of 9, 12, and 53 acres and have to actively remove (and yes, I eat them) bass between 10-15 inches to keep the population under control so they don't become stunted.  Trust me, they will recover.  It is good to remove some fish over the span of the year, just not all at once.  I need to remove around a 1,000 lbs of bass per year from the 53 acre pond to keep it from overpopulating.  The cormorants and other predators help with that a little bit though.  

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I thought WRB was kind of rude. Maybe I just didn't get it? It ain't my pond either, so I have no idea how that calculation would help me except as a blind guess. 

 

Yes, Hog, quarry. Good to know also. I hope they recover. And I hope people aren't taking 60 a day ever again! 

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They probably aren't completely gone. But consider this. If they were overharvested, the ones that wouldn't bite are the ones left. And they're the ones that can discern between real food and a lure. Now there are fewer fish for the same amount or more of bait. They don't need to bite a fake lure.

 

I used to know a man who ran a nearby state DNR hatchery. He said you can't fish a pond out. Some of them just won't bite. Even if you put a major dent in the population, they would get bigger on average and eventually rebound. But them getting bigger on average might mean there were more experienced fish. It might just mean they had more forage. Also, if the small pond feeds the big pond, some fish will probably take a ride to the big pond after a really big rain.

 

Fish also aren't smart. They don't think much. Everything they do is from instinct. 

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I don't have any input as far as your ponds are concerned (bass ponds are no where near as common in Canada).

 

However, to answer the question posed in the title of your thread, I think bass (particularly big ones) are smart. As far as fish are concerned bass are known to be a smart fish (along with trout).  I say this based on my observations of their behavior.  Sure much of it is instinct but I do believe they are far smarter than most people give them cedit for.

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1 hour ago, kiteman said:

I thought WRB was kind of rude. Maybe I just didn't get it? It ain't my pond either, so I have no idea how that calculation would help me except as a blind guess. 

 

Yes, Hog, quarry. Good to know also. I hope they recover. And I hope people aren't taking 60 a day ever again! 

Sorry if my post sounds rude, it was met to educate yourself regarding pond bass populations. The term pond means different things to different people, so what size in acres are these ponds and about how deep? To me a 50 acre pond is a small lake. You mentioned perch, are they perch or green sun fish, bluegill or crappie? Note; a football field is about 1 acre.

Regarding over harvesting depends on the quality of the eccosystem, the prey to predator ratio, sustainable bass population etc. Over Harvesting can depend on the skill levels of the anglers that catch and kill. Bass memory isn't based on the ability to remember a specific lure, it's thier ability to avoid lures to servive. The most aggressive bass are the first to be caught, the less aggressive are likely to survive and in time these genes get passed on. It's nearly impossible for a hungry bass to pass up a lively live bait it naturally eats regularly that poachers tend to use.

2 lb LMB could be an old adult male bass a young adult female bass, with rare exception only females get over 4 lbs. 

Cormorants can decimate a ponds fish population depending on the number of birds working the pond and it's size, depth, cover and structure. You get 20 Cormorants workin a 5 acre pond for a few weeks, they will do some serious harm.

Will the pond recover from over harvesting? Yes it can if the reasons the fish population collapsed is resolved.

Tom

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Catch and kill rates like that are definitely a problem, esp so for large fish bc they simply take time to grow. I don't know where you are, but up here in the N a 4lb bass is 8-10 yrs old. This makes the math pretty simple.

 

Almost assuredly, all the bass -even larger ones- weren't entirely caught out. There's plenty of good research showing that some bass in a population are more difficult to catch than others; Some have even been labeled "immune to angling". So, you likely have fewer fish and of those, the population is likely skewed towards more difficult to catch fish. One scary thing is, these "personality" traits have been found to be heritable. Difficult to catch bass are now known to produce difficult to catch offspring. 

 

There's also plenty of research showing that differential individual personality is not the only thing at work. Nearly all bass tend to become more difficult to catch after they've been exposed to angling.

 

Does this all mean that bass are "smart"? To really address such a question we would have to define what "smart" means. Short story in my mind is that bass have done pretty darn well for themselves in such a variety of waters around the globe and with a well documented ability to survive fishing pressure, both as individuals and as populations (as per above), that I'm pretty comfortable saying that they are pretty darn "smart" for a fish.

 

Does this mean your bass are uncatchable? No. You will just have to get better and smarter yourself. Is that body of water worth your time? That remains to be seen in terms of an acceptable catch rate. So far that pond has spoiled you. That was a nice, and rare, space to be in. It isn't likely to be the same for some time. However, the fact that that water was able to produce such quality fish suggests it will again in the future, if given a chance to recover.

 

I've "policed" really good waters in the past, befriended and talked with other anglers (best tact), confronted poachers, and had a few busted. Once I and some buddies got together and bought our local CO (Conservation Officer) a cell phone. Some waters are real gems and worth some effort.

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good discussion.  i didn't know what a cormorant was until i looked it up.  this pond has quite a few.  can they really take big bass or small perch?  if so i am OK with the environment doing it's thing, it's just people that take too many that irk me.  i think this pond is about 3 football fields long and 1 wide.  so maybe it is not 12 acres as i guessed?  but if i could shoot those dang birds and that would help, i would.  i can't hunt duck or geese or dove on this pond, but boy it would be a field day if i could.

 

also i agree smart is a strange term...they aren't smart in that they can add 1+6, but smart in that they know lures that are fake and get used to not biting them, and also if 3-4 of their school go missing they understand not to eat the garlic plastic crawfish, etc.

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I own a 10 acre lake/pond and I started tagging certain bass a year ago.  In that time, of the 20 fish I've tagged one has been caught 3 times since.  

 

Also, there was a 20+ pound State record somewhere, maybe TX or CA, that had been caught and verified something like five times before she recently died of natural causes.

 

They're easily spooked, not necessarily smart as in they can process information.  They react.  They are instinctual.  A lot of pressure on a small pond can spook them into not biting.  I've seen Zona temporarily live-well schooling bass on a big lake because he has found that releasing  them right away may cause them to spook the rest of the school into not biting.

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Doing the math it's about 11 acres, but that's just a guess on the dimensions. I think 10 is pretty close. 450 yards long and 125 yards wide. I will mention half is very shallow comparatively and I used to drop jerk baits on that side near submerged trees and catch fish all the time. I have not caught much of anything worth speaking about on the shallow side in well over a year, and jerks in general aren't working out there anymore. Again, back to the original discussion, these fish are either gone or not interested in fake lures anymore? 

 

FYI how do you tag them and how much does that cost? Could I see if one is removed from the pond? If so that might both educate and irritate me. Ha

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If you are referring to Dottie at Dixon lake she was never caught 51 weeks out of the year and only caught during the 1 week of the spawn off beds. I wouldn't say Dottie was susceptible to lures, she was susceptible to critters in her bed.

So we have an average size 10  acre pond with bass and perch population. Perch are very aggressive minnow eats and get to be 1 to 2 pounds, they compete with bass for forage and not a good mix to have in a pond.

Cormorants are a protected bird unfortunitly, you can't kill them if you want to. Cormorants can easily swallow a 1 to 1 1/2 lb bass or perch whichever is easier for them to catch, they swim underwater using thier wings and very fast.

Keep in mind it's now the cold water period most locations and everything is in slow motion under water.

Good luck with your pond.

Tom

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3 hours ago, WRB said:

If you are referring to Dottie at Dixon lake she was never caught 51 weeks out of the year and only caught during the 1 week of the spawn off beds. I wouldn't say Dottie was susceptible to lures, she was susceptible to critters in her bed.

 

I'm not sure it matters when, just the fact that she was caught on multiple occasions. It kind of proves my point, they are reactive and bite on instinct. They don't analyze.  That particular fish was obviously a very aggressive bed protector.

3 hours ago, kiteman said:

 

 

FYI how do you tag them and how much does that cost? Could I see if one is removed from the pond? If so that might both educate and irritate me. Ha

They are tagged using a specific fish tagging gun with numbered tags that I log by hand into a journal after weighing, measuring and making other notes at to what part of the lake, what date and lured used.  I'm just trying to chart their growth, health and movements.  It is by no means a GPS device to help you track a poacher.

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Dottie was hunted by some of the top trophy bass anglers on the planet, I wouldn't jump to a conclusion she was aggressive and she snagged the last time.

Tom

 

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20 hours ago, WRB said:

What does decimating a ponds fish population by over harvesting a pond have to do with the title of this thread? I suggest you look up the Pond Boss and read his pond management suggestions and determine based on the pond size what the population density per acre should be.

Tom

I was thinking the same thing.

 

Maybe it is a good idea to cull out some of the smaller bass to allow the ones remaining to grow larger.

 

Of course, if the locals decimate the fish population by not understanding pond management techniques there is nothing you can do.

 

Lake Locinvar, a local pond in my neighborhood, was crushed by people taking the bass home. Since these individuals ruined the pond for fishing, they don't come around anymore.

 

We also had a problem with the poachers catching and killing the beautiful flathead catfish at the Pony Pasture area in the Historic James River. The one City of Richmond park manager could not keep up with them so he finally called in the police.

 

The police asked everyone fishing for their licenses for about a month and for some unknown reason, the poachers disappeared. Still can't figure that one out.  Glad they are gone.

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On 1/23/2018 at 3:19 PM, WRB said:

 

Cormorants can decimate a ponds fish population depending on the number of birds working the pond and it's size, depth, cover and structure. You get 20 Cormorants workin a 5 acre pond for a few weeks, they will do some serious harm.

Will the pond recover from over harvesting? Yes it can if the reasons the fish population collapsed is resolved.

Tom

Something else that will decimate a body of water is pelicans. We have a resident cormorant population. We also get ice out visitors for 2-3 weeks every spring. This is one of many many flocks that stops by for a healthy snack. 

pelicans.JPG.b2fe67d9eddd87eec6894080c7af0e0c.JPG

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Well guys I wanted to tell you I went out today for the first time since this original post and caught a 3.9 and a 4.2 (I have a pretty good scale so they were both in the 4lb range). They were both in about a 20 minute span and I only fished for an hour total and just caught those two in total. Admittedly after those two it was cold and I wasn't really trying hard to catch more I was so excited I caught two in the 4lb range. They were two of the bigger I've caught out there before, and I've definitely never caught two near that size in the same day. So for now my fear the fish are gone is at bay, so to speak. 

 

I thought at first it was the same fish since I caught both in the same spot, but I noticed they had not only different weights but also spots in difference places. It was a really cool experience! 

 

For some reason I moved off of that spot after the fact. I didn't want to catch another 4lb at the risk of catching one of the same ones I just caught and stress it out more than it needed to be. I might be being overly cautious, but at least I know they are there, hopefully for another day. But maybe had I kept fishing that spot I could have caught a 5+? Bank fishing in the wind and weeds is hard though, you have a limited surface area you can cover and I just assumed I had a better chance of catching the same fish than another one bigger. Silly logic? 

 

In other news I counted 7 comerants at the 10 acre pond today, so it is entirely valid the smaller ones have been somewhat taken out by those hideous birds. 

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You found a group of females. Definitely stay on them. You wont hurt them, unless maybe you're particularly bad at unhooking and handling. You most probably wont catch the same one again, at least right away.

 

Cormorants wont likely be much of a problem. They sure aren't here. They can do the culling of small bass for you.

 

 

On 1/24/2018 at 5:54 PM, slonezp said:

Something else that will decimate a body of water is pelicans. We have a resident cormorant population. We also get ice out visitors for 2-3 weeks every spring. This is one of many many flocks that stops by for a healthy snack. 

pelicans.JPG.b2fe67d9eddd87eec6894080c7af0e0c.JPG

We have pelicans too, and it can be almost scary to see a big group converge on a pond. A few years ago released pet goldfish exploded in numbers at a local pond. There were hordes of them. The managers were getting ready to apply rotenone. But before they could the pelicans found them and cleaned the pond of goldfish in just a few days.

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On ‎1‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 1:13 PM, FishDewd said:

See, that's just terrible.... why even keep most bass? I've eaten bass before, they aren't the tastiest thing to eat. Frankly, I'd prefer catfish, perch, flounder, redfish, and carp over bass if I want to actually eat fish. Bass for me is just more of a challenge because I'm not too well versed in the types of finesse fishing required to catch them. Plus, my rod set-ups are not exactly the best for finessing: good backbones, but since most of my rods are more for inshore/meaty fighting fish like carp and catfish, they lack the tip softness to really work cranks, spoons, and whatnot to effectively catch bass. Sometimes I can get lucky though and find a rhythm that works.

 

Poaching is the reason I haven't opened up my pond publicly. I have a pond that's around an acre in size, oval, always holds water well, and is very open without much bottom debris to get tangled on. It is primarily a catfish pond, but there are some perch in there as well as a small population of asian silver carp that I can't catch that help to keep the water clean. It wouldn't be too hard to get the pond stocked by TP&W but unless someone could sit there all the time and watch people, poaching would pretty quickly wipe out my little pond. People need to learn some respect for nature and self control... keep enough to feed your family for that night, but yeah... wiping out a pond intentionally is just.... gah that bugs me lol. I know of several places around here that has been stocked with adult fish by TW&P, but I also know that people go overboard and go catch-crazy. Which is partly why most people can't catch any nice fish there anymore. So I hear you on that front!

Please tell me a good recipe for Carp because I love eating a fried bass, but don't know anyone around here that would even eat a carp.  So for me, it sounds crazy

On ‎1‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 2:45 PM, WRB said:

What does decimating a ponds fish population by over harvesting a pond have to do with the title of this thread? I suggest you look up the Pond Boss and read his pond management suggestions and determine based on the pond size what the population density per acre should be.

Tom

I agree Tom!

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2 hours ago, Paul Roberts said:

You found a group of females. Definitely stay on them. You wont hurt them, unless maybe you're particularly bad at unhooking and handling. You most probably wont catch the same one again, at least right away.

 

Cormorants wont likely be much of a problem. They sure aren't here. They can do the culling of small bass for you.

 

 

We have pelicans too, and it can be almost scary to see a big group converge on a pond. A few years ago released pet goldfish exploded in numbers at a local pond. There were hordes of them. The managers were getting ready to apply rotenone. But before they could the pelicans found them and cleaned the pond of goldfish in just a few days.

Great hookset, it was on a crank so not too much work. It was out of water less than a minute for a couple of pictures. I did not put it on the ground and I only touched it outside of its lip when I set it in the water and held it underwater by the belly to hold it upright while it caught its breath and swam away. 

 

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1 hour ago, Ben Miller said:

Please tell me a good recipe for Carp because I love eating a fried bass, but don't know anyone around here that would even eat a carp.  So for me, it sounds crazy

I agree Tom!

Fried bass huh? Well, I haven't tried that. I've had them baked and broiled and they weren't very good... then again, I also didn't cook it myself either. I actually have a background as a cook. What size is good for eating? Could make a difference.

 

As far as carp, I should've specified more. I've only ever eaten silver carp, which I don't think are actually true carp at all. I've caught grass and other carp, but meh, I wouldn't eat those, although they are fun to catch. Not sure about frying, but they accept flavor very well and lack a fishy taste. I've had them baked like a flounder and it was pretty good, but never actually cooked one myself. Also heard of people grilling them too. If I ever catch any of the ones in my pond I will experiment and let you know. I know for sure that they don't bite traditional carp bait. I've tried dozens of formulas and have never hooked one. I have heard of angler success with spoons, so when the season comes I will try that and see if it works, despite never having caught any fish on a spoon before. 

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