Teach them to fish!

County Agent’s Corner

This is a keeper! Riley Green with her big bass.

This is a keeper! Riley Green with her big bass.

I have been a fisherman since I was big enough to walk, but I have never caught anything quite like this! Six-year-old Riley Green, of Blountsville, hauled in this farm pond monster back in April. I can’t claim the fish, but I can claim Riley; she’s my granddaughter. She and her dad were enjoying an afternoon of fishing when this bass inhaled her lime green artificial worm. I would have loved to have been there. You can see by the smile on her face that she is proud of her bass, and who wouldn’t be? I suspect it is in the 10-lb. or better class. Like I said, I haven’t caught a bass this big in 60 years!

I am glad Riley and her sisters like to fish. Fishing can be a family activity that is not only enjoyable but has many other attributes as well. Some folks fish just to relax and take a break from the stress of daily life. I forget about much of what’s bothering me when I am on the water, especially about dark thirty. That’s my favorite time to be out there, thinking about nothing, just enjoying the sunset.

To be successful, you need to know a little bit of biology about the fish you are trying to catch. As kids we had about as much fun catching bait as we did catching fish. Knocking wasp nests for grubs was very exciting, and sometimes stimulating. Those wasps would fly right down the cane pole, just like it was a laser directing a smart bomb. We would build grass piles for the black crickets to hide under. Crickets were some of our best bait for bream, a real trophy bait.

Depending on the fish we were after, I have used cheese, Ivory® soap, shrimp, fiddle worms, small bluegill, minnows, bacon fat, wieners, mussels, crawfish, caterpillars, chicken livers and hearts, and of course artificial baits. They all work when the fish are biting. They don’t work if they’re not! I love to fish and every now and then actually catch one or two. It’s enough for me to just be on the water.

Everybody does not have access to a lake or river, but most everybody knows someone that has a farm pond. Farm ponds are different from river systems when it comes to fishing. In a river system, such as the Locust Fork, fish have the opportunity to move from one location to another, up and down the river.

Oxygen levels in river systems are fairly stable due to moving water. The only time I have seen a fish kill in a stream or river is due to a manmade mistake, like dumping an organic product in the water. This depletes the oxygen and kills the fish. I like to think of river systems like an open range for fish.

Ponds are more like a pasture for fish. They are trapped in the enclosure and must adjust to the situation.

When watching bass fishing shows on television, we are taught to catch and release. This is a good thing if you are fishing a river system, especially if there is tremendous pressure on the resource like at Lake Guntersville.

However, catch and release in a pond may actually be detrimental to your fish. If bass aren’t removed from a pond they will become stunted over time. Catching bass with fairly large heads and small bodies is an indicator that your pond is “bass crowded.”

In unfertilized ponds, Extension recommends removing 10 pounds of bass per acre per year. You can take out 20 half-pound bass or 10 one-pounders. What you remove from the pond will depend on how you want to manage the pond. It can be managed for bigger bass, which would require keeping the smaller fish and releasing the larger ones, or you can manage for numbers of bass, which would require keeping the larger fish and releasing the smaller ones.

Keep in mind a few things. Ponds are living, dynamic, evolving environments. Anything that impacts one creature impacts all. Every living thing in the pond is food, except the larger fish at the top of the food chain. Fish are cold-blooded and do not have to eat. An overcrowded bass pond may have fish that are five years old and weigh only a pound. They won’t starve to death but neither will they grow.

If you would like to learn more about farm pond management, join the Natural Resources Planning Committee at Al & Mick’s BBQ, 88175 U.S. Hwy. 278, Snead, Ala., on Sept. 13. The program will be upstairs in the restaurant and begins at 5 p.m. Please RSVP to me at 205-274-2129 or porchdw@auburn.edu if you would like to attend.

Remember, get out of the virtual trophy fishing room, catch some crickets or gather up some wasp nests and take your kids and/or grandkids fishing. Leave the phones at home! It’s important for you and it’s important for them.

Dan Porch is County Extension Coordinator with the Blount County Extension Office. Dan lives in and loves Blount County and is available to answer your questions about conservation, agriculture, natural resources, and gardening. He can be reached at (205) 274-2129 or porchdw@aces.edu.