Selective Harvesting for Fish Populations

By: Kasco Staff | Originally Posted: Feb. 10, 2016 | Updated: April 12, 2022 ____________________________________________________________________________________________

The future of sport fishing is children. Nothing will get a kid hooked on fishing like going down to the pond and catching some bluegill for dinner. This is not only a fun way to bond with your kids, but it also teaches them a little about where food comes from. It is important to not lose site of the fact that your pond and the fish in it should be a source of enjoyment. Part of that enjoyment for some people is the occasional fish fry. So, don’t be afraid to harvest some fish in your pond. In most cases, harvesting fish in your pond is a good thing. It is important to keep your fish in balance. Selectively harvesting fish from your pond is a very effective way of maintaining this balance.

Types of Fish for Your Pond

In general, forage fish will reproduce much faster than predator fish. Therefore, harvesting fish like bluegills, sunfish, and crappie is a great way to keep their levels in check. You can harvest the occasional predator fish to eat or hang on the wall but try to limit these more than the forage fish. If your goal is to harvest the predator fish for the frying pan, try to keep them medium sized. These will taste better than the larger breeding stock of fish. The occasional harvest of predator fish will prevent the depletion of genetics in your pond as well as the new year class that are associated with the larger fish.

Monitor Your Fish

How often you harvest each year often depends on the numbers, size, and type of fish in your pond. Regular observation can help you determine the balance of fish in the pond. This can be done just by watching your fish as well as through fishing. Although neither of these options are as accurate as netting and electrofishing, they are much less expensive and provide plenty of entertainment. If you begin to see an imbalance, that is when you should start to harvest.


Something you should watch for is the visual counts of fish in your pond. If you take a boat out in your pond and have a school of bluegills following behind you or you can’t drop a line in the water without having 15 sunfish fighting to eat it, then you most likely have an overabundance of forage fish. The overabundance can lead to a “stunted” population that will be less than desirable in size. A thinning of the population is required.


Another thing to examine is the size of individual fish. If the predator fish are long and thin or look sickly, that can be an indication of too little forage fish in your pond ecosystem. A good thing to look at is the head of the fish. A fish that may not be finding enough to eat will have a large looking head compared to its body. Conversely, if the head of the fish looks normal or even small, you know you have good forage in your pond.

For those who do not like eating fish, you still need to find ways to bring the fish back into balance. One way to do this is by adding more prey or predator species with restocking efforts. Another way is by using fish traps to remove an overabundance of small fish.

Harvesting fish can be difficult after years of spending time, effort, and money on your pond. However, it is often the best thing you can do for it. Getting over this psychological hurdle is essential to keep and maintain a healthy pond ecosystem.

If you have any question, please email us or call 715-262-4488.


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