To manage a pond for producing sustained good fishing, you need to know two things – the current make-up of the fish population and how you would like it changed. This chapter deals with the first question; subsequent chapters will deal with the second.
There are two main ways to check the status of a pond’s fish population – by seining the shoreline in early summer and by monitoring what is being caught by anglers. Several hauls along the shoreline with a four-foot deep, 15-foot minnow seine having six to eight mesh per inch will indicate the ratio of bass to bluegill in a pond. A typical seine haul should contain several fry and fewer intermediate sized bluegill (two to three inches) and a few bass fingerlings (one to three inches). For more detail on this technique, refer to the article “How Is Your Fish Pond Balance?” listed under Additional Information.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the use of angling results for fish population assessment. To effectively manage a pond for good fishing, you should keep a record of fish caught from the pond including the time it took to catch each one and the size and body condition of each. Other observations about the pond such as water color, aquatic plants, etc., also can be helpful.
For these records to be most useful, anglers should fish fairly regularly during the year and use a variety of lures and baits to seek different types and sizes of fish. For example, bass lures, worms, crickets, crappie jigs and dough baits might all be used at various times throughout the year.
Let’s look at a few examples of catches you might encounter in a typical Oklahoma pond managed for bass and bluegill but also containing catfish and other fish. We will then use this information to assess the fish population.