In a drought, sport fish in ponds can be concentrated to the point at which predator (largemouth bass) and prey (bream) are literally side-by-side one another. Throughout this process, bluegill and other prey fish populations are often decimated by bass.
Drought can leave a pond in an immediate state of imbalance and poor fishing. Angler catch rates and calculation of the body condition of bass (relative weight) will help to guide management decisions.
Low bream catch rates and skinny bass are indicators that supplemental bream may need to be stocked and bass will require higher harvest rates. In general, 500 3-5” bream stocked per acre prior to their spawn in early April will help towards rebuilding their numbers and 14”. Smaller bass harvested at an increased rate of 20-25 lbs. per acre in unfertilized ponds and 25-30 lbs. per acre in fertilized ponds will help towards regaining a balanced fishery.
After a crowding event, it is recommended to have the fishery assessed either through an electrofishing survey via a private lake management consultant or by a seine assessment that can be conducted by your region’s Alabama Extension Forestry, Wildlife, & Natural Resource Management Agent. Electrofishing assessments are best conducted in the spring and fall of the year, while seine assessments are best conducted during the month of June.
Norm Haley, Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resource Management Regional Agent