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Small ponds support hybrid sunfish well
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Many Mississippi landowners have tiny ponds that are not ideal for traditional largemouth bass/bluegill management. In ponds less than an acre in size, other species, either by themselves or in combination, can usually provide higher quality fishing opportunities than the traditional bass and bluegill approach.
A great choice for small ponds is to create a hybrid sunfish pond. Hybrid sunfish, sometimes called hybrid bream, are a good option for small ponds because they grow quickly, especially when fed, and they are easy to catch.
Research has demonstrated excellent growth by stocking 750 hybrid sunfish per acre along with 25 largemouth bass per acre. Always stock hybrid sunfish in combination with largemouth bass to prevent reproduction. Hybrid sunfish offspring do not share the same qualities as their parents and are not ideal for small ponds.
Feeding a commercially prepared feed of at least 28 percent protein will ensure rapid growth. Commercial catfish pellets are the most economical feed. It is best to give the fish no more food than they will eat in 5 to 10 minutes, and adjust the amount as fish grow. A demand-type or automatic fish feeder is a good investment. One problem with hand-feeding is that someone has to be there to do it. Most people tire of the novelty of feeding fish within the first season, and then the fish may become neglected.
Never stock hybrid sunfish into ponds containing other fish, and never stock them in combination with other sunfish species. Hybrid bream will not produce enough offspring to yield good bass growth rates, and they will cross-breed with other sunfish species and create undesirable offspring. Hybrid sunfish should only be stocked in small ponds following the exact recommendations of a fisheries management professional.
Remember that the largemouth bass are there to serve only as a population control. Your goal should be to create a hungry, slow-growing bass population. Return all bass that are caught to the pond to maintain high predator numbers. This may create high catch rates for bass, but don’t expect to catch many trophy fish using this pond stocking option.
Harvest of sunfish will reduce the fishable population over time, and it will become necessary to restock when about half of the original fish have been removed. It is a good idea to keep accurate harvest records. When it is time to restock, you’ll need to restock larger sunfish (2-4 inches) to avoid having your bass eat the stocked sunfish. If larger fish are not available in your area, the other option will be to drain or poison the pond and start over when fishing quality declines.
Small pond owners often feel that they can’t have a great fishing pond because their pond is too small, but small waters can provide excellent fishing opportunities using the pond stocking scenarios described in this article. The key is to follow recommendations and keep good records.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.