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John Boat

Is it possible to release too many fish?

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I've got a private 10-12 acre pond (in Oklahoma) that i've only been fishing for about a year. The pond was built in the late 70's and was stocked with bass at the time. Most of the pond is about 5-15 ft deep with the deepest area off the dam being about 30-35 feet with stained to muddy water. It is completely covered with old stumps and standing dead trees. The fishing here has been amazing. I've caught TONS of bass in the 4-6 lb range and several over 7 lbs. The Crappie i've been catching are big too, averging 12-14 inches length and 2 lbs. I've been releasing all the fish I catch.

My question is, should I keep some of the bigger fish or should I keep releasing them? Every weekend I catch at least a half dozen 4-6 lb bass (and lots in the 1-3 lb range) and several big 2 lb crappie. I'd like to keep it this way but I'm concerned that there may be too many fish for the pond. All the fish have great color and give a good fight so i'm assuming they are very healthy. Can a pond have too many big fish or am I just getting lucky all the time?

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I would not keep any bass over 4lbs. For every bass you keep you need to take out 7 bluegill to balance the food chain.

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It depends on how many other fishermen are fishing your pond and the health of the overall fishery. From what you describe, it sounds very balanced. I would keep the crappie if you want fish to eat, crappie spawn before the bass and eat the basses fry.

If the 1 to 2 lb bass are in good shape, not big head with skinny bodies, then everything should be good.

The big bass are going to die off regardless if you keep them or not. You can't have too many big bass and still have healthy young bass. As long as all the year classes are in good shape, continue what you are doing. The girth should be about 75-80% of the length for healthy bass.

WRB

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I don't know if this is your case but I read a story once of a guy that maintained an awesome big fish pond. double digits were regular. Over time the pond turned off and quit producing big fish and rarely produced any fish at all. The pond has managed for just big fish. The small fish were taken out so that the big uns had more to eat so when the big guys died there wasn't that many bass left to be caught.

  Now I doubt that this is your case cause that would take some insane managing to do that. I can say this though. There is an limit to the amount of pounds a lake can maintain. So if you took a big guy out it would free up space for a few other fish to grow in the system. But if you are like me and nearly everyone on this site, I'd say leave em. I'm sure that you have a healthy population of all sizes and you have been on fire as of late. keep it up and leave em for another person to catch another day. You never know when a kid could get hooked on fishing with one of those pigs that you caughtand released.

Mottfia

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If the lake you are fishing has a lot of skinny dinks in it, I would say yes. Some probably need to be thinned out to allow the rest to grow. I would check with the local conservation dept. and tell them about the lake and your concerns.  They may start a slot limit.

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Hey John Boat, if you could post a photo or two, of the typical 4 to 6 lb'er from your pond, I could tell you at a glance whether you should be keeping any of those fish or not.

The Crappie ? Sure... a meal or two here and there. Even so, I'd keep 1 to 1 1/2lb'ers, letting the 2's go, to try and produce a 3 ;-)

And back to the bass... You asked, Should you keep a few bigger ones ? Never ! "If" any bass need to be removed, remove the smaller, better eating ones, and let the big ones get even bigger ;-)

Peace,

Fish

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Thanks for all the good information guys, I really appreciate it! I'll take your advice Fish and see if i can get a 3lb crappie out of there!

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Talk to your state agency and get their thoughts on this lake. They may need to do a study before they can give you a correct decision. They are the ones with the training and their rules are set with their educated surveys. Everything else is just conjecture.

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Good advise so far. Ponds are unique from inland lakes because the proper balance is so fragile. Friends of mine have been fishig four farm ponds in southern Georgia. They caught bass up to 9lb+. They hired a biologist who electroshocked the two best ponds. He interpolated the shock sample, 10-20% of the pond population, to make his recommendations. Add so many bluegills per acre and remove all small bass caught until the remaining bass caught look super healthy. Unfortunately after the bluegill fry were added southern Georgia went into a two year drought  & decimated the big bass. One of the ponds was additionally drawn down to irrigate crops. Now they have to remove all stunted bass under 15 inches to help restore a healthy balance. On a side note I heard large crappie are big time predators of bass fry.

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My stepfather has his 12 acre pond surveyed every year or so (for free) by Auburn University's Wildlife Dept.  They come in and seine it, and take water samples.  They advised him to harvest 20 lbs per acre per year of bass and 80 lbs per year per acre of panfish.  This pond is is in South Alabama so it stays warm pretty much year round.  I'm sure your situation would be much different because of water type and location.  You should try contacting one of your local universities and see if they have a similar program.  

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