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Overcrowded Largemouth Bass in Alabama Farm Ponds:
A Problem More Common Than You Think

Dave Armstrong
Fisheries Biologist
District V, Spanish Fort, Alabama

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Pond owners in Alabama find that fishing for largemouth bass is an exciting pastime. On the other hand, managing a farm pond stocked with bass and bream can be quite a challenge. Too often, pond owners “under-fish” their pond or return too many fish to the pond. The effect on the fish population can be a big problem.

Fine bluegill fishing can be the result in a fertilized bass-crowded pond.Some anglers believe that returning all fish to a pond is a "good conservation" practice. Fisheries biologists know that this practice is often not a good idea. Returning all largemouth bass to a pond can create a problem. In a pond where bass are under-harvested, the bass population builds as each year passes. As the bass population increases, less food is available for each fish. This situation will cause poor growth and the average size of the bass will decrease. In short, the bass are starved. Eventually, bass predation on bream, the preferred food of bass in ponds, reduces the number of bream. The result is very few bream growing to adult size and poor bream fishing. This is especially common in ponds that are not adequately fertilized.

Fertilization of a pond increases the natural food supplies--plankton and insects--that bream require. In fact, proper fertilization of a pond can increase fish production by three to seven times that of unfertilized ponds. The increase in natural food increases the bream population and, in turn, provides more bream as food for the bass. Unfortunately, bass-crowding is a problem common to ponds that are under-fertilized and under-harvested for bass. In ponds over three acres, bass-crowding is very common when enough fish are not harvested.

Pond owners can prevent overcrowded bass populations by first attempting to adequately harvest bass. In a well-managed pond, where fertilization is done ten to twelve times per year, a pond owner can harvest 25 to 30 pounds of largemouth bass per acre per year. Adequate bass harvest reduces the population of bass, promotes good bass growth, and allows for adequate production of bream, their preferred food. In an unfertilized pond, there is much less bream production. Therefore, harvest should be about one-third the amount recommended for fertilized ponds. Remember, harvesting excess bass from your pond today may improve the bass and bream angling tomorrow.

Watch a video on the subject of ponds overcrowded with bass.  If you have questions about the proper management of farm ponds, please consult your local Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division biologist.

Josh de Bin caught a fine pond largemouth bass from an Autauga County pond.
Although this is a fine bass taken from a pond, harvest of more small bass
would have made more food available for this bass to grow even larger.