I have received a few e-mails from folks
on the board telling me that I am taking
too many fish out of the ponds. I think it
only fair to let you know what my philosophy
on catch and release is. I don't think that
it is very complex, but this is what works
for me in the ponds that I fish.
First let me state that I firmly believe
that each pond has to be treated individually.
No blanket statements about catch and release,
(C & R) can be made that will fit all the
ponds I go to. In fact, I think that every
body of water needs to be treated individually.
I also believe that different species must be
My first thing to do when I can fish ponds
is to get an agreement that I can fish in
them for five years. I feel that it will
take this long to get them into balance.
All I want is the landowner to let me fish
there and that I will not tear anything up.
I also put a statement in it that I will not
hold them responsible if something happens
to me while I am on their land. I am not
sure how binding this is legally, but most
of the landowners like to see it.
I also include a statement that I will
open and close gates as I go through
Now to the fishing part. I don't keep any
of the bass I catch, with a few exceptions.
Every once in a while I will catch a bass
that I tear the gill plates up in landing
it. If it is bleeding badly then I will
keep it. This happens two to three times
a year. The rest I leave in the pond to
control the pan fish. I also try to get
the landowner to put a slot limit on the
bass that can be taken out. I usually
look at from 12 to 16 inches can be
taken out, but they also have to take
7 lbs of panfish out for every pound
of bass they take.
I have several ponds where we have been
doing this for several years. All of these
ponds have nice sized panfish in them and
you have a good chance of catching a 4 to
6 lb bass anytime you are in the pond. The
biggest thing is that bass this size live
on eating small panfish. They help keep the
numbers down, so the rest of the fish can
I do not throw any bluegills or crappie back
into the pond, with a few exceptions. Any gill
I catch over 11 inches long goes back into the
pond. There is just too much research in print
that indicates that large gills keep small ones
from spawning. I want to keep the large genetics
in the pond. Also there is some research out
that there may be two strains of bluegills.
One will not grow over about 6 inches and the
other will grow much larger. By keeping the
smaller ones, and releasing the larger ones, I
think I am tipping the balance in favor of the
larger size gills. This seems to be happening
in the ponds that I have been following.
As an example, one of the ponds I fish had a
lot of a small panfish. This looked like a
gill but had emerald green sides and never got
over about 5 inches in length. When I started
fishing this pond, I caught several of these
fish every time. Now I rarely catch one of
them, but the size of the other gills in the
pond has increased about 4 inches on average.
It is my thinking that these could cross breed
with gills and the ones I am getting now are
the few that have survived or just come from
the mix that genetics can bring about. The main
thing is that the size of the fish has increased.
Many of the ponds that I fish are on very
fertile ground. There is good weed growth
on the bottom and around the shore. There
are huge insect hatches on these ponds. I
also only fish ponds that drain pasture land.
I don't fish where row crops drain into the
ponds, just to many chemicals for me. Most
of the ponds that I fish are about 1 to 2
football fields in size. A few are a little
larger. Most of the water is from 3 to 8 feet
deep. The water can go from 10 to 16 feet
deep near the dams of most of these, but
this is usually less than 1/4 of the area
of the pond.
Not all of the ponds can stand as much
fishing pressure as some of the others
can. I have some that I hit once every
other year and some that I can go to three
or four times a year. I pay attention to
the number of fish I catch and the size.
As soon as the size and number start to
drop I know I need to back off on the pond
some. Some ponds can have 50 fish taken
out of them and others can have 400 to
500 fish taken out of them. It all
comes back to knowing the body of water.
If you come and fish with me, I will
take you to one of the best ponds. I
save those for those times. Angler Dave,
Joe Hyde, Kevin Slater, Elmer Mueller and
Jason Tingling have all been on at least
one of my favorite ponds.
Get to know the ponds you fish.
Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick firstname.lastname@example.org