The Economics of pond/small lake/tank bass production

Mar 22 2023

Joshua Massoud

Keeper

Member Since :
2021
Number of Posts :
473

The Economics of pond/small lake/tank bass production

As someone who has to manage a lake community for other people, I’d like to share some tidbits on costs, if nothing else as a point of reference.  Perhaps you find it interesting or useful.  Pond misers may disagree with some of the numbers below.

Building a pond these days requires at a minimum $12,000 per acre, but often more depending on the site characteristics and watershed.  Most land can’t handle a 10acre plus pond (which is what most PWF lakes are). 

Bass Genetics: Top end Florida genetics cost $2 per fingerling – more for grow outs (4”, 6” 8”, 12”, etc) – the stocking rec is about 25-50 per acre on initial stocking, supplemental stocking (every 10 years for 3 years in arow varies). Even if you go for F-1’s (cross between Florida and Native/Northern), the price is about the same, just different benefits to both. 

It takes 500 class size bluegill to grow a bass a pound.  Example, 3” bluegill for a 1.5-2lb bass.  5” for a 6lb. etc.  Bluegill are the gas for bass production. 3-5” BG cost about $1 each. 

Farm raised shad cost $450-600 per $1000, less in the summer. Stocking rec for shad is 1000 per acre, and they often die in cold water temps, requiring restocking.  Shad often require fertilization to promote reproduction. 

Tilapia and golden shiners are $12-15 per pound and are an annual stocking as the former dies off and shiners are often eaten in early spring before bluegill start reproducing. 

Ponds rarely stay ‘in balance’ for long without ALOT of maintenance. Very few ponds absent stocking, shocking, harvest, and feeding programs stay in balance for long.

You can do nothing and achieve balance for a while and then it goes haywire at some point. 

You can also do everything right and still never get there. 

Feeding programs are $40 per day per 10 acres (for proper feeding).  Feeding is generally from 3/15-10/15.  

Average LMB lives 6 years.  35% of the bass in a lake turnover each year. That 8+lb fish you caught last year is most likely dead this year, but assuming there was forage in the right slot or class size and a fish on the bench that was in the class below should take its place. 

Otters are so prominent in NE TX these days, most ponds should have an otter trapping program.  They eat 7lbs per day.  Females travel in packs, males are solo.  Trapping is about 300-600 per month or more depending on the company/trapper.  They will target big fish sometimes.  They prefer catfish and also like big bluegill. 

Cormorants can eat 1lb of fish per day and a gulp (flock) of 500 can deplete a pond of forage in a week or so.  They also stab bass and injure them. There is a video on the internet of a cormorant eating a 3lb bass.  Pelicans can eat up to a 5lb bass.  

There is a tradeoff in almost everything you do on lake.  Fertilize?  Risk overdoing it and a fish kill in the summer. Spray weeds?  Risk Oxygen depletion while it dies off. Add crappie? Risk successive years of good spawns and depeletion of bass. Add tilapia – will push out some bluegill from spawning areas. Add shiners? They raid nests of other fish. Add shad? Take away some plankton from other smaller fish.  Harvest bass? Catch rates will go down a bit.

The top end factor for a balanced fishery is cover – either in the form of vegetation or wood based dense cover.  More than 35%-45% coverage however, and bass can’t feed effectively and you will get a log jam of small bass at the 1lb round range. 

Big bass do eat big meals and they don’t eat often.  They will sit in open water and suspend and not do anything for 20hours.  I’ve graphed on my home lake – sitting – and sitting – and sitting.  Growing and catching a big bass of 10-12lbs or more is an actual miracle of nature.  They used to be more common, but big bass are not efficient breeders in nature and not efficient in public waters – so the genetics for them have been depleted over time.  This is why living in TX is the greatest state in the U.S. for big bass potential – we maintain the genetics with the sharelunker program.  

Being able to hop onto a lake like AA or Pecan Gap for a couple hundred bucks and have it to yourself is insane – thank you PWF. 

Mar 23 2023

Steve Alexander

Admin

Member Since :
2002
Number of Posts :
1082

I’m glad you started this thread 24 hours ago and I’m glad 23 members have already viewed it. I was wondering if we had much viewership in our discussions page since we moved it to a less prominent area on the site.

You’re an obvious student and quick study on the subject. I don’t have a single disagreement with any of your data. I quote the same facts/averages/statistics. The average private lake fisherman is uneducated in what is involved to manage a fishery. Most probably don’t care, but you and I live it and love it. Now days, I enjoy helping grow bass more than the actual fishing. 

Lake management costs per acre vary wildly depending on so many factors. Is the lake in or out of balance, what part of the state, age, size. Once the lake is in balance costs range from $750 to $3000 an acre to do it right. We are fortunate to have several landowners who are committed to spending the money to do it right. And you’re right, the couple hundred bucks it costs to fish these places doesn’t begin to cover the management costs. So, when I hear “it costs $200 a day to fish, that’s crazy. I have to bite my tongue, as the person asking has simply not been educated on the subject. Actually your right its crazy, its crazy the other way around. If you knew what some landowners spent to build the lake, roads, stocking and maintenance you might feel different. We have some owners that have spent well over a million dollars on their lakes during their lifetime.

One thing I want to add to your equation is the costs of roads, docks, boat houses, boat ramps and their maintenance. Concrete ramps start at $10k, mini pontoon boats are now $7000-$10,000 and a new simple jon boat is $2000. A simple floating dock is $20,000.

I would love for some members to chime in on the subject. 

Mar 23 2023

Joshua Massoud

Keeper

Member Since :
2021
Number of Posts :
473

I hadn’t considered the docks, roads, gates, etc, drainage pipes/system – great point.

The emotional factor is something to consider as well.  I consider AFG my life’s opus, or at least one of them.  I’m battling otters, cormorants, members, TECQ, TXDOT, beavers, racoons, herons, droughts, floods, weeds (both having too much of some and not enough of others), boars, deer, geese, fisherman who don’t treat fish right (of which I’m guilty from time to time), and 100+ other things – all in the hope that I not only grow a 15lb+ bass, but that someone actually catches it.  
 

I had a committed owner who was apologetic after I had an ok but not great day on the water at some point – and I felt bad for him not for me.  First, I’m a very average fisherman.  I’ve an amazing days where the fish jump into the boat because the bite was good and days where I should have caught them but couldn’t → that’s on me. So second, I’m paying for the opportunity not the result, and I consder the payment way undervalued for what I know goes into many of the lakes. 

Anyhow, a round a’bout way of saying thank you to Steve and the land owners. 

Mar 27 2023

Mike Nicoloff

Slot Fish

Member Since :
2021
Number of Posts :
104

Well done and a good reminder of all the time, commitment and expense(s) that go into managing the property.  It definitely is a labor of love and every landowner that I have talked to is really proud and passionate about what they have created. It's a pretty cool thing, and it's pretty cool that we get to experience it.

I had a flashback from college after reading your comment about stocking crappie and risk depletion of bass.  In my fish biology & wildlife mgmt class, I remember vividly the teacher telling us to avoid stocking crappie and go with redear.  Crappie populate fast and have a huge appetite as their large mouths were made for consuming.  Also I didn't realize a flock of cormorants were called a gulp, good to know.   For what's it's worth I saw 3 massive gulps on Double A late Saturday, first time I saw that many birds at once.  I need to do some research but assume they are migratory and not classified as a nusuance species.  How the heck do you consistently keep those birds away? 

 

Mar 28 2023

Joshua Massoud

Keeper

Member Since :
2021
Number of Posts :
473

Redear are a must to prevent grubs which are grown by snails which redear eat.  Can’t grow good fish if they are sick.  

Crappie are a mixed bag – sometimes they spawn well, sometimes they don’t.  They always spawn earlier than bass so they tend to mess with LMB spawning.  Hybrid striped bass will control their numbers and are a good tool for that.  I prefer HSB over crappie because they can be pellet feed trained and they don’t reproduce. 

Some time ago, someone decided the cormorant should be protected and make a comeback ecologically.  Did the same with otters. Now we have both in high numbers which absolutely sucks.  You jsut have to harass cormorants and shoot them, I mean shoot at them.   Cormorants which will scout out water by sending 2 scouts out to report back to the gulp – if you can get them, you might save yourself trouble.  Otherwise, you will fight that gulp till they give up.  If you aren’t on your land (like Joe for example), you just take the hit and restock forage. 

Mar 31 2023

Ben Roberson

Fry

Member Since :
2022
Number of Posts :
9

Great to see this thread.  I mainly fish in a 6 acre pond that has bass, crappie, bluegill, redear, green sunfish, blue and channel cats and possibly a flathead or two.  Areas of it are 20’ deep.  I started trying to manage it about a year ago and have removed over 325 small/stunted bass in that time frame.  I plan to continue removing them as long as it takes to see improvement.  There are some big bass in this pond but they are nearly impossible to catch like said before.  I’m a complete rookie at pond management and can use all of the advice I can get.  In addition to removing bass, I have started fertilizing and feeding regularly.  I do have a Commorant bird that visits daily.  It’s usually by itself, thankfully, and leaves quickly when spotted.  Should I be removing bluegill and green sunfish as well?  There are endless numbers of them it seems.  I’m trying to catch the flathead and get him out of there too.  I haven’t seen him in a while.  I caught him once and was going to remove him but he cut my net and slipped away.  I had weighed him before I put him back in the net and he was right at 8#.  That was 6 months ago.

We’re building a dock right now and like said before, it’s very expensive.  We’re at $48K without the cover and it’s not real big.  20’ x 30’ or so.  It’ll be at least $75K when we’re done.  Finding someone to build them nowadays isn’t easy, at least not where I live in east Texas.

Any advice on the best fertilizer, food, etc to use would be greatly appreciated.

Apr 02 2023

Joshua Massoud

Keeper

Member Since :
2021
Number of Posts :
473

6 acres is a good size.  Some of your questions depend on your goals. What do you want to catch/grow/and how big?

I wouldn’t worry too much about 1 cormorant.  Water Quality/Cover/Forage/Genetics are the four things to focus on IMO.  

You are fertilizing – some are split on this – if your PH/Alkalinity are good, feel free – try to use one that doesn’t have much phosphorus in it otherwise you might build too much up in the soil.  On a lake that size, I’d shut the fertilization down around 6/1, depending on how hot it is (e.g last year was brutal). 

If you are feeding 4/lbs of food per acre and a high fat food (10% or >), then the big bluegill will die and turnover enough that you don’t need to harvest.  I’d pull the green sunfish though if you can. 

Triton/Optimal are the best foods – I’m still wary of Purina after they got sued by the fish farm which claimed their food killed their fish (who knows what happened).  I use Triton 45p/12f, but I’m trying to grow big bass, not big bluegill and I do get big bluegill that die a fair bit in the summer from fatty livers.

Crappie in a pond that size scares me a bit.  Harvest if you can unless you absolutely love crappie.  As your bass get bigger, they will cull them for you. 

Feel free to message me direct and I can help with directed questions. 

Apr 10 2023

Ben Roberson

Fry

Member Since :
2022
Number of Posts :
9

Thank you for the information.  Much appreciated.  I’ll be switching food for sure and messaging you.

Apr 11 2023

Bob Scheidemann

Slot Fish

Member Since :
2016
Number of Posts :
219

Thanks for the informative thread and subsequent discussion!

Really makes me feel how lucky we are to have the opportunity to fish these PWF tanks!

Apr 12 2023

Steve Alexander

Admin

Member Since :
2002
Number of Posts :
1082

Originally Posted by Mike Nicoloff

Well done and a good reminder of all the time, commitment and expense(s) that go into managing the property.  It definitely is a labor of love and every landowner that I have talked to is really proud and passionate about what they have created. It's a pretty cool thing, and it's pretty cool that we get to experience it.

I had a flashback from college after reading your comment about stocking crappie and risk depletion of bass.  In my fish biology & wildlife mgmt class, I remember vividly the teacher telling us to avoid stocking crappie and go with redear.  Crappie populate fast and have a huge appetite as their large mouths were made for consuming.  Also I didn't realize a flock of cormorants were called a gulp, good to know.   For what's it's worth I saw 3 massive gulps on Double A late Saturday, first time I saw that many birds at once.  I need to do some research but assume they are migratory and not classified as a nusuance species.  How the heck do you consistently keep those birds away? 

 

I did not know a group of Cormorants was called a gulp. I try and work that in my next lake conversation. 

There are 6 types of Cormorants in North America. Most around here are double crested cormorants and they are federally protected. They are migratory and their numbers are astounding in the winter. They can be lethal to a lake. They consume so much food. 

The only way to keep them away from your pond or lake is to disturb them. Hopefully, no one would accidentilly shoot one while they were taking target practice. But, if they did it might be a blessing to the owner and the fishing club who leases the lake. 😀