The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
One of the more common requests Missouri Department of Conservation personnel get is for someone to come and “shock” their pond so they have some idea what kind of a fish population is lurking beneath the surface. The problem is, there are around 500,000 private ponds in the state. It would take several pretty energetic fisheries biologists to get around to all those ponds and that's not giving them a chance to manage all the other lakes and streams in the state even if they could. The best course of action is to sample the pond yourself. Obviously, most of us don't have electro-fishing equipment available, so what can we do? The answer is, GO FISHING.
The second part of the answer is to keep track of what you catch. If you and your friends will record the species and the length of the fish you catch, whether you harvest them or not, you will have in short order a sample similar to what a fisheries biologist would collect.
If you pick up an MDC AQUAGUIDE called; How Many Fish Do I Have? You can record your information right on the form and figure out what kind of numbers you have per acre and proceed from there. You should ask for a MISSOURI POND HANDBOOK while you are in contact with MDC as well. To get started, get an old mailbox and put it up near the pond. Keep your clipboard and forms in the box for use when you or your guests are finished fishing each day.
Many pond owners complain that the large mouth bass in their pond are all small. This is normally caused by under harvest of bass. To get your bass under control and help increase their size, start harvesting the bass that are under 12” long at a rate of 35 bass/acre/year. If you are recording what’s caught in your pond, this is pretty simple. While you are doing this, protect your bluegill from harvest for a couple years, so they can spawn and provide more food for the bass. After a couple of years, reduce your bass harvest to 25 bass/acre/year and maintain it at that level. Keeping harvest records makes this job easier. Bass may also exhibit poor growth if there are too much dense aquatic plants in the pond and they cannot catch an adequate amount of food. If this is the case, take steps to decrease the amount of vegetation in the pond. There is more we could talk about here, but this will get you started. Good luck.