Population Size, Survival, and Growth of Largemouth Bass One Year After Stocking in Four Ponds

Juvenile largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides; approximately 50 mm total length) were stocked into four ponds (0.9 to 5.3 ha) at a rate of 248 fish ha−1 in late May 2003. Ponds were sampled the following spring to determine population characteristics. Largemouth bass survival ranged from 39% to 57% and appeared to be inversely related to pond size. Growth was rapid, with mean weight increasing from 1.8 g to 200-273 g in 300 days. Faster growing largemouth bass expressed greater relative weights. Catch rates of small (75 to 130 mm) bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) were highly correlated to pond size and bluegill may have reduced largemouth bass survival. Catch rates of large (130 to 150 mm total length) bluegills varied much less among ponds, but ponds with bluegill catch rates ≥100 fish/hour electrofishing were characterized by greater largemouth bass relative weights. Bioenergetic models predicted that largemouth bass in these ponds were consuming food (primarily bluegill) at extremely high rates (P-values [proportion of maximum consumption] 0.98 to 1.04) in order to maintain the observed fast growth. Estimated bluegill consumption by largemouth bass varied between 132 and 171 kg ha−1 among the four ponds. This study demonstrated the potential of initial year classes of largemouth bass to maintain high growth rates during their first growing season, which likely will produce trophy-sized fish in a relatively short time. Key words: largemouth bass, ponds, population density, survival, bioenergetics

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