We utilize state-of-the-art Smith-Root electrofishing equipment to provide the best electrofishing surveys to our clients. The new 2023 APEX electrofishing control box allows for enhanced data tracking, dual output, and the widest range of electrical output, making it safe for fish in any water body. Our electrofishing surveys also come with a free base water chemistry test, high-quality data reporting, recommendations, and future management strategies. We also provide removal of problematic fish, fish stocking services, fish feeders, habitat enhancement, and any other fisheries service you might need!
Forage Fish Species
The bluegill sunfish, commonly referred to in the south as perch or bream, is a member of the Centrarchidae family along with bass, crappie, and other sunfish. Bluegill are native to many of the southern states and are often stocked as a forage species. Once sexually mature, bluegill are capable of spawning numerous times throughout the spring, summer, and early fall. These fish are nest spawners and will seek shallow areas with a sand or gravel bottom to build their nest. Bluegill nests are often found together in colonies of up to 50 or more. Adult bluegill are capable of reaching sizes greater than 1 pound when adequate forage is available. Natural food sources for bluegill include zooplankton, insects, aquatic invertebrates, and occasionally
small fish. Ponds that grow large bluegill typically supplement natural forage with a high quality fish feed to increase growth rates. Coppernose bluegill are often stocked in ponds where large bluegill are desired due to their propensity to reach larger sizes than native strain bluegill.
The redear sunfish, commonly referred to as “shellcracker,” is another member of the Centrarchidae family. These sunfish get their name from the red margin on their operculum flap (ear flap). Unlike bluegill, redear will only spawn once per season and often have to be restocked every few years. They are typically stocked as an additional forage fish in largemouth bass ponds due to their unique diet. Redear consume snails and small mollusks as their primary forage, which prevents competition with bluegill and allows for more forage production per acre for growing big bass. A redear’s diet also plays a role in parasite control. Aquatic snails serve as an intermediate host for many different parasites including fish grubs.
By stocking redear to control snail populations the parasites can no longer complete their life cycle, reducing their presence in ponds. Redear are also one of the largest sunfish species. They are capable of exceeding 1lb and often serve as an additional sportfish for anglers.
The hybrid sunfish is a cross between a bluegill and a green sunfish. The resulting hybrid inherits a larger mouth than bluegill and a much deeper body than the green sunfish. Hybrid sunfish are very aggressive, grow rapidly, and readily consume floating fish food. Hybrid sunfish are not a recommended forage fish for largemouth bass due to their reduced reproductive potential. A majority of the offspring of these fish are male and they often have reduced growth and survivability. Hybrid sunfish fare well when stocked with catfish or on their own.
Fathead Minnow/ Rosie Red
The fathead minnow is a small silvery fish that is stocked in almost every pond. Fatheads are slow swimming and do not exceed 3 inches in length, making them the perfect starting forage base for juvenile sportfish. Fathead minnows will spawn up to 12 times per summer with up to 12,000 eggs per nest. Despite having high reproductive potential their slow movement usually leads to limited survival in ponds. Generally, fatheads will be entirely eliminated after 2-3 years. As a result, fathead minnows should only be stocked into new ponds as a starter forage for sportfish and should not be restocked or added into mature ponds.
Golden shiners are the number one selling baitfish in the United States, yet their role in pond systems is complex. Golden shiners are capable of exceeding 8 inches in length and weighing 0.25lbs. They will spawn a few times per year, laying adhesive eggs on aquatic vegetation. Shiners are known egg predators and often raid nests of bluegill and largemouth bass. They will also consume insects, plant material, plankton, and small crustaceans. The broad diet of a golden shiner often results in competition with bluegill for food and reduced bluegill production.
Monitoring and intensive management is recommended if golden shiners are stocked into ponds.
Threadfin shad are small, lanced shaped silver fish with yellow colored fins. Threadfin are open water fish that filter feed on plankton. They will spawn early in the spring when water temperatures reach 70 degrees and may continue through summer. They lay their eggs on structure in shallow water and can increase in population very quickly. Threadfin shad will rarely exceed 6 inches making them an easy prey option for most largemouth bass. Due to their planktonic diet, threadfin do not compete with bluegill and are an excellent choice for additional forage depending on pond structure. Threadfin shad are temperature sensitive and die offs may occur if water temperatures drop below 45 degrees. As a result, shad often need to be
restocked when winters are not mild. Availability is also limited as many fish are seined from the wild in early spring.
Gizzard shad are in the same family as threadfin shad but are considerably different. At small sizes gizzard shad feed on plankton but as they grow their diet broadens to include detritus, fish eggs, and large zooplankton. They are commonly found feeding on the bottom and may disrupt water clarity if present in high numbers. Unlike threadfin shad, gizzard shad are capable of growing to large sizes of 9-15 inches and reaching over one pound. These fish are exceptionally hardy and are not impacted by cold temperatures. Gizzard shad will spawn in the spring when
water temperatures reach 70 degrees. They lay adhesive eggs to submerged objects that hatch approximately 4 days later. Due to their potential to reach large sizes and cause food chain issues, gizzard shad are not often stocked into ponds.
Tilapia are a tropical species of fish native to Africa. These fish were brought to the United States for aquaculture food production and have since made their way into the private pond industry. Tilapia are commonly stocked into ponds as part of an IPM strategy to help control filamentous algae and certain floating vegetation species. They may also be stocked into ponds or lakes as a supplemental bass forage. Tilapia have a broad diet, consisting of detritus, plankton, and some algae. Due to little dietary overlap, tilapia do not often compete with bluegill or other forage fish present in the pond. Tilapia are capable of spawning every 17 days in good conditions and are
mouth brooders which results in high survivability of offspring. These fish can increase in population very quickly, providing abundant forage for largemouth bass in the summer months. In the fall, tilapia begin to slow down due to cold intolerance. Once water temperatures dip below 55 degrees tilapia begin to die, meaning they must be supplementally stocked each year. When considering stocking tilapia into a pond be sure to check state regulations to ensure that a permit is not needed prior to purchase.
Largemouth bass are one of the most sought-after sportfish for stocking in private waters in the United States. Many different strains of largemouth have been developed to promote trophy genetics and aggressive behavior. The two parent strains are Northern bass, which are native to most of the United States, and Florida bass, which are native to a small region of South Florida and Georgia. The key differences are size and aggression. Northern strain largemouth bass tend to be smaller, with the potential to reach just over double digits. Florida strain largemouth bass
get much larger with some fish exceeding 20lbs. However, Florida largemouth bass tend to have much lower catch rates and are less aggressive, especially when artificial lures are used. Hybrids of both strains have been noted to outgrow Northerns and express more aggression than pure Floridas, however, they do not get as large. Selecting the appropriate genetics for your goals can be complicated and consulting with a fisheries professional is often recommended. Regardless of the strain chosen, all largemouth bass spawn once water temperatures exceed 60 degrees. Juvenile largemouth bass feed primarily on zooplankton and aquatic insects until they are large enough to begin consuming other fish. Largemouth bass consume large quantities of food and grow quickly. The other key component to producing quality largemouth bass aside from abundant forage and genetics is adequate harvest. Having too many bass present in a pond will suppress the food chain and reduce bass growth rates.
Channel catfish are a commonly produced food fish in the south but can also be stocked into private ponds. Channel catfish do well in all sizes of ponds but are excellent options for ponds smaller than one acre due to their inability to spawn without cave structures. The addition of catfish spawning structures is not recommended as they can quickly overpopulate. Channel catfish are a predatory fish that will compete with bass for food so they should not be stocked in ponds specifically designed for bass if catfish harvest is not intended. Channel catfish are
commonly stocked as a backyard food source due to their rapid growth and tasty fillets. On top of natural food sources (insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and fish), channel catfish will readily eat floating fish feed, making them an interactive “pet” for many pondowners.
Blue catfish are the largest catfish species in North America and have the ability to exceed 100 lbs. Blue catfish are commonly grown in the aquaculture industry due to their rapid growth rates, disease resistance, and flaky white filets. Similar to channel catfish, blue catfish may also be stocked into private impoundments. Blue catfish are considerably more predatory than channel catfish and will also compete with largemouth bass for food and at large sizes, may even consume small bass. In addition to their natural diet of invertebrates and fish, blue catfish will
readily consume floating fish feed. These catfish are commonly stocked into small ponds as a food source for individuals who prefer to consume blue catfish or for recreational fishermen looking to grow trophy catfish.
Hybrid Striped Bass
Hybrid striped bass are a cross between the freshwater white bass and the saltwater striped bass. Hybrid striped bass exhibit rapid growth rates and aggressive feeding behaviors. Their poor reproduction makes hybrids a great option for increasing fish diversity and for use in smaller impoundments. Hybrids are a pelagic species meaning they will occupy open water environments. As aggressive predators hybrids will consume large quantities of forage fish and often need to be supplementally fed floating fish feed in smaller impoundments. In larger
reservoirs, hybrid striped bass will be found schooling in open water chasing bait such as threadfin shad.
There are two species of crappie present in lakes and rivers in North America, the black and the white crappie. Both fish species can exhibit similar color patterns and behaviors so identification can often be difficult. The best way to identify crappie is by counting the spiny dorsal rays on each fish. Black crappie have 7-8 spines on their dorsal fins, while white crappie have 5-6. Proper identification can be important as white crappie should never be stocked into small private lakes. Black crappie and hybrids between black and white crappie are the only recommended species for stocking due to lower reproductive potential. Even with lower
reproduction, black crappie are not recommended for water bodies smaller than 30 acres. In smaller systems crappie tend to overpopulate and stunt, leaving landowners with thousands of small fish. Hybrid crappie are thought to be a better alternative due to even lower reproductive potential but overpopulation can still occur without proper management. Crappie are the first fish in the south to spawn each year, with spawning taking place once water temperatures reach 60 degrees. Crappie and their offspring will compete with largemouth bass and can have negative effects on bass growth and reproduction in small lakes. Crappie larvae hatch first, utilizing available food resources, and growing large enough to consume bass larvae after they hatch. Managing crappie in private impoundments often means not managing bass, as they directly compete, and having trophy-size fish of both species is unlikely in small lakes.
Undesireable/Problematic Fish Species
Bullhead catfish - Bullhead catfish compete with other sportfish for resources and may increase turbidity in ponds.
Flathead catfish - Flathead catfish are highly predatory and can reach large sizes. They are capable of consuming 30% of their body weight per night and will eat large meals including largemouth bass.
White crappie - White crappie compete with other sportfish for food, have large spawns and tend to overcrowd ponds quickly.
Common carp - Common carp can increase turbidity in ponds, compete with forage fish for resources, and take up space that would otherwise be sportfish or forage.
Green sunfish - Green sunfish have the largest mouth-to-body ratio of any sunfish species, meaning that they can consume and compete with small bass as well as the more desirable bluegill sunfish.
Gar - Gar are a long-lived predatory species that will compete with other sportfish for resources.
Buffalo - Buffalo are a long-lived species capable of exceeding 100 years old. These fish are similar to carp as they can increase turbidity and will take up biomass in pond systems.