Panfishing's Future?

Discussion in 'Northeast Ohio Fishing Reports' started by mastercatman, Jan 25, 2008.

  1. I have an important subject that needs to be addressed. It is our panfisheries in the northeast ohio area. I have many theories and opinions on whats happening, who's to blame, what can be done to fix it, and how to maintain longterm harvestable populations. I am starting this thread to promote awareness and get input from other anglers on what they think should or shouldn't change to make things better.
    First, we'll start with the bluegill family. This will include Bluegills, Redears, Longears, and Pumpkinseeds. These fish require thoughtful management practices in heavily harvested areas like Northeast Ohio's lakes and reservoirs. There is a delicate balance between natural predation, angler harvest, available food sources for all year classes, and angler harvest. I am not a biologist and because of the many factors at work here I'm not sure if anything here will positively work. Bluegills are VERY prolific they are what you would call the perfect breeding/eating machine. There are a few general ratios for what the predator versus prey in a lake or pond should be. None of the ratios specify things like, weed growth, bottom compostion, depth structure, and water quality. The more weeds there are the more young fish that survive. The more young fish that survive will exhaust food sources quicker. Lakes that have more weeds should have higher ratios of predator fish to counteract the growth of preyfish populations. Lakes that have primarily sand, gravel, or rock bottoms produce few weeds and weeds are usually confined to smaller portions of the lake. Each bottom composition is composed of its own ability to produce unique forage bases. The depths that the bottom compostions exist in also plays a major role in this as well. From my experience I notice that lakes that are primarily hard bottomed produce fewer on average but bigger bluegills in public waters. Lakes that are half mud bottom and half sand or hard bottom produce more numbers of a variety of year classes.(portage lakes) Lakes that are primarily mud bottomed produce large numbers of smaller on average bluegills. Bluegills in shallower mud bottomed lakes need an extra heavy harvest from us anglers. The mud bottoms produce more weeds which leads to much higher nest success and then the weeds provide excellent cover and food for young fish. The bluegills then become overabundant exhausting hatches of insects very rapidly. This leads to stunting and long term genetic harm to a population. These lakes need our help to add more predators and increase our personal harvest. I know thats hard for some you die hard C/R guys but its the truth. Other lakes though need the exact opposite. Some lakes can naturally sustain populations of harvestable bluegills without our help and harvest should be limited on these waters. Those types of lakes are generally deeper with primarily hard bottom compositions. This decreases nest success by leaving spawning adults wide open for attack from predators. This also leads to increased mortality on young fish. The surviving fish have plenty to eat and grow unlimited by foodsource depletion. I know this has all gotten pretty deep. There is so much to cover and it's just not possible to cover all of the scenarios out there but I'm sure you guys all get the point. WE NEED TO PUSH FOR SITE SPECIFIC MANAGEMENT PRACTICES ON OUR LAKES. We all have to admit that stocking programs and harvest limits are too generalized. One way doesn't work for all. Crappies should have a 9" minimum length limit for ALL lakes(unless overpopulation is present) and harvest limits should vary according to factors such as a lakes size, available food sources, etc. Yellow perch on inland lakes is a lost science to me. I don't understand enough about them. I am asking the people of this website to become more proactive for the improvement of our panfishing. This means setting personal harvest limits (within the law) and start thinking about the future when you load up a bucket with 50 or 100 crappies or Big bluegills or Perch. Think to yourself "can this water support my harvest?" "If I take this many can I come back tommorrow or next year and catch as many?" If you're catching tons of small fish and the lake is known for small fish maybe you should ask: "Should I really keep throwing these back?" " By doing nothing to thin them out am I really helping anything?" I BELIEVE THE PANFISHING COULD BE BETTER AND WE ALL NEED TO DO OUR PART! I WANT TO RECIEVE INPUT ON THIS FROM ANYONE WHO WANTS MORE AND BIGGER PANFISH.
  2. I did not know Portage Lakes panfish is in peril? I have fished them for years for panfish and honestly, with the emergence of East Resevoir, it has gotten better, and the redears there rival in size to Mogadores or any where else. Perch? Ice fishing the last three years I have pulled some in that rivaled Lake Eries Perch, and in good numbers. I do release a number of my fish, including perch. I do agree that each and every fisherman should be aware of what he is doing to the populations, and a lot of people on here do, but your letter should be directed to the guys who keep bucketfuls of crappies two nights in a row, or the guys who keep undersized bass. Fishing pressure is great in the Portage Lakes, and fishing has changed. To catch nice sized panfish you have to find them, they are there, keep a few, and then release the others. Last year I managed to panfish all the lakes that are connected, and caught good panfish in all of them. Rex Lake is another one that gives up nice perch and crappie every year. West Reservoir was giving up good panfish last year, I drifted around and found schools of nice gills, I did release them, and they were nice ones.

    I think I met you ice fishing one year at Mosquito, I was fishing off of Rt305.


  3. Portage Lakes are all C & R for me. For years they have had "run off" problems and some of it still exists. Lots of homes, on the lakes, many still with septic, just does not make sense.
  4. I think portage lakes does well with its gills due to the heavy harvest.
  5. Maybe my opinion shouldn't count as I fly fish private ponds & streams/rivers 99% of the time. I practice C&R, but occasionally keep panfish for the table. Here are MY personally imposed rules:
    1) I NEVER keep a panfish 9" or larger.
    2) If stunted, I keep ALL panfish under 7", (which is probably all that's in
    there). One small pond we fished was LOADED with fish all 5" & one
    year, we took out (loose count) over 1,400 gills. The next year, there were
    a number of 7" gills on the beds. Unfortunately, the property was sold &
    permission to fish gone. It would have been interesting to see long term
    3) I ALWAYS C&R bass & other gamefish.
    4) During the bass spawn, I DO NOT even fish in the ponds. That way, I
    guarantee that I don't even accidentally catch and injure/kill a spawning
    bass or a bass recovering from the spawning process. When I was in my
    20's (I'm 61 now), I caught a number of bass while gill fishing during the
    bass spawn. Next trip, the pond owner came out & yelled at me for killing a
    number of bass. I don't know whether or not I did, but it lead me to impose
    this rule on myself.

    I do not profess to be an expert, but the ponds I fish consistently yield large gills, so I'm certainly not doing them any damage. In public waters, I would LOVE to see the bass spawn as "closed" to fishing. I have seen too many public lakes go from "hot" to "cold" & it's my opinion that is one of the reasons why.

  6. Ohiotuber is 100% correct in his harvest practices. The problem is people overharvesting mature bulls of any sunfish species. I could go into a lengthy biological dissertation as to why keeping large fish is terrible but I will spare everyone. The redear population in the Portage Lakes has crashed and will never return to the heyday of 4-5 years ago. There is alot of pressure on these lakes and even more harvest. While redears grow 2x as fast as a bluegill they are less fecund. A 9" bluegill in these parts is likely 9-10 years old. You can't slaughter fish of these ages for long without seriously denting the populations. Many anglers are grossly mis-informed about sunfish biology and make poor decisions. IMO it is terrible that the state does not put even a nominal limit to curb greedy overharvest. A reasonable limit might be 25. Personally I usually keep 6-12 fish in the 6-8" range a few times a each year. I can't imagine cleaning more than two dozen sunfish at a sitting. Trophy class panfish are more difficult to find and catch than most other species. One of my old neighbors on the PL used to brag about how many fish ohio redears he had caught and kept each day until he started complaining about not being able to find them. Go figure.
  7. Mastercat I live 2 minutes from nimisila and fish it quite often during
    the week for gills and bass. I have a 14' boat that I use sometimes.
    Most of the time I wade because Im getting lazy. I thought I knew
    where the fish were, when fishing from a boat, but I didnt really find
    out where they were untill I started wading. Most of the weedy looking
    areas are void of fish most of the year because they are mucky. You
    need a balance of sand, gravel and muck for Ideal conditions. These
    types of areas will hold fish year round. Weed clumps out on the main
    lake in summer deadly from a boat. Try wading and you will be surprised.
    I welcome anyone for some gill action and wading with a fly rod.
  8. Man, you are right on the money with what you're saying. I have a private pond which is publicly fished that I have managed for about 11 years now. When I started fishing it there was nothing but little gills in it. After a few years of selectively adding forage species like fathead minnows and shiners while removing the stunted gills it has become a trophy bull gill fishery. I believe this could be replicated on a larger scale if we all supported the same ideology!
  9. We have a decent fishery on the main portage lakes. It could be better! If you are happy catching a mess of 6-8" gills then you have no intentions of improving those numbers to 8-10"+ gills and redears. According to my research you can produce 8-10" panfish in a matter of only a couple years. It's all about eliminating some of the competition and not removing the larger breeding stock. The Portage Lakes has decent bluegill fishing because of the heavy harvest. The heavy harvest should continue but it should be conducted thoughtfully. If you go out and on average take home 30+ large gills and redears and throw back 100 little ones it creates a bit of an imbalance. Maybe consider taking only 20 or 25 big gills home and release a few for good measure. Then instead of throwing back 100 little ones take out 50 of them. Don't remove the little redears but good candidates would be the 4-6" gills that have adult coloration on them. These are generally stunted "satellite" males with nothing to offer but bad genetics and more hungry mouths to feed. Other good candidates would be the little females 3-6" we've all seen that are full of eggs before and during the spawn. These are things that we can do to to help improve the quality of our public fisheries. I know that there are many of you out there who don't care and there are many that do care. Like I said we should take a proactive position on this. Its all about selective harvest. We can have the trophy fishery that we all dream of right in our own backyards.
    Nimisila reservoir needs alot of work to get its gills back to where they were years ago. Maybe we should have a bluegill tournament. Have everyone go out and catch as many bluegills as they can 5" and under. Whoever has the most at the end of the day wins. We could charge $5 a person to enter and donate the proceeds to Eddies Bait for his Pike stocking fund. And provide the winner of the tournament with a new rod or gift certificate for somewhere. This is just a thought and maybe some of you may agree. Please feel free to speak your mind. I am curious to see if I can rally any kind of support here. I know the number of bluegills that need to be removed to make a difference is astronomical but a strong season with a few dozen anglers at it could maybe make a bit of difference. Who Knows....
  10. I too limit myself. I hate coming home from a good day of fishing and having to clean fish into the night. 12-20 pan fish and I'm all cleaned up and in the freezer with the carcasus buried in the back yard in less than an hour.

    When I have 12 -15 gills, I will turn to bass fishing for the rest of the evening. I can count on one hand how many bass I keep in a year.

    I enjoy fishing too much not to think about over harvesting. Deer hunting puts meat in the freezer for the year. If the same mentality is used for fishing then we would all be out of good fishing holes.


    I've seen guys fill large coolers (200 at least), then go back and get another cooler! RAPE, I say!........why?
  11. Depends on what water you are on. Some are overproductive for panfish, some are not. Use the state guidleines and catch limits to determine the right keep.
  12. One other thing to add. When I was a young guy...back in the 60s & 70s, I would keep those big gills & bass to show off or mount. Today, with digital cameras (my Pentax is waterproof) & folks who do gorgeous "replica mounts" from a picture, there really is no reason to keep those trophies. Release them & maintain, possibly even IMPROVE that trophy fishery for ourselves, our Children and, in my case, our Grandchildren.
  13. Thanks Mike, you're right! And King, part of the problem is the state regulations. Some of the lakes are overproductive but could be great with proper management. Walleyes and Bass get all the special regulations and thats why their success stories over many lakes are present. Theres just not enough dedicated panfishermen out there that care enough to make any changes. We pay enough money in license dollars to make the difference on the state end. Site specific regulations are neccessary on many lakes. Many of you may laugh because its just panfish and they only make up a fraction of some of our fishing trips. They aren't my primary target either but its nice to catch the big ones in numbers when I go.
  14. sorry ,not buying the over harvesting theory at mogadore.during the 60s and 70s alot of guys fished .congress lake rd parking lot was over flowing every weekend.we used to park along 43 from the bridge to the bottom of the hill (headed south on 43) .plenty of fish for everyone.on any given evening you could catch 15-25 gills (yesterday from 2;30-5;45 had one bit,three guys fishing near me never got bit) The number of people ice fishing has dropped off consederably over the past 20 with less fish being it's the lack of weed beds or amour carp the state put in
  15. Lokt


    Pressure is what does it. Few people throw back 8 inch gills which are very scarce anyway. Those who say they catch good numbers of 8 inch gills need to tape them. There are a few but not good numbers. Redears that size, yes, but not many gills.
    The pan situation will never improve. It's just got worse over the years as has all fishing inland as there are a whole lot more fishers that are better informed and equipped than in years past.
    Throw cormorants, and now ospreys, in the mix and the future for numbers of big pans looks grim. Times are tough and gettin' tougher for a lot of people. More and more people want the fishing trip 'to pay'. In other words, they want some fillets for the expense of the trip. This means fewer and fewer fished released.
    Bag/slot limits could conceivably work if enforced. But the DNR would find that way to much like work. They won't even bust the litterbugs. It's far easier for them to swarm a popular hunting area during deer season and bust people for cell phones and/or loaded guns 20 seconds after dusk or bust snaggers on the Maumee. Lots more money with less effort plus those people are more apt to have money than some derelict trashin' a causeway.
  16. I am new to ice fishing I work at nursery in lake county and have accsess to countless ponds I started fishing some this past weekend that have no fishing presure one pond I can cach a gill every time down but they are all 3 to 5". I would like to manage this pond so we can get some bigger ones in the futer. the pond is about a half acre and I cant emagine how many of these small gills are in there. should I take a large number of them out? Then at the risk of sounding stupid. is there any way of knowing how many to harvest. the first time I fished this pond I cought atleast 15 in about 20 min. or so the biggest was 5" and the smallest where 3 to 4" one after another no mater where you put your bait. Any input would be apreciated. thanks.

    there's one!!!
  17. First, you need to identify your predator base. What predator species exist? To start a pond that size I would stock 10 or 12 bass, 6 channel cats, 100 gills over 5", 4 lbs of shiners and 4 lbs of fathead minnows. I do understand this is an established fishery. In an established water that size you should have depending on average depth 200-400 gills present. For optimal health of the pond you should keep your population around the 200 mark. I know there is no real way to tell how many are in the pond at any point but if you are catching that many stunted gills there are way too many. If it were my pond I would go around and catch and dispose of all gills under 5". Make sure you have some predators around like bass and catfish in appropriate numbers. You should be able to harvest 40-60 gills a year for the table. This pond may turn your 5" gills into 8"+ gills within 2-3 years once the food competition is regulated. You can monitor and adjust the populations as you see fit. Many of you may believe that a pond can support more fish and it can. But if you keep the ponds near the populations I described as best you can the gills will become monsters. The only thing that could stand in your way would be too many weeds or infertile water.
  18. So if iam going to do some selective harvesting of these little guys I hate to waste them. What is the smallest gill worth cleaning because from what I have seen I think we could take a hundred or so in no time. I know its a mater of what we feel like cleaning but what is the smallest gill some of you guys keep?

    There's one!!!
  19. You could scale them and grind them into fish patties like some of the foreigners do. If it were me..... I know it would be illegal but if you can positively identify all the fish as bluegill I would dump them into a river or just chuck them back off the bank for coon food. Either way you do it I wouldn't consider it waste. They will make a fine addition to easy pickings in the food chain! I wouldn't waste my time cleaning 3 and 4 inch gills!
  20. I think that I read in a pond management publication from the Ohio DNR a few years ago that you should harvest about 150 pounds of fish per year from a one acre pond. That may be incorrect as I'm starting to suffer from CRS. The numbers seem to be what I remember. I have a 1/3 acre pond and take about 2-3 buckets of 35-50 gills our per year. A lot have grown to 7"-8". I also have a fair number of bass that I harvest each year. This year, I plan on harvesting about 10 channel cats. I have put around 30 of them in during the last 3 years. They should be about 3# by now.

    I don't think that if you take care, you'll ever run out. When I first built the pond around 18 years ago, I put in about 20 gills, 10 bass, around 10 channel cats and 4 white amours. The herrings took care of some of the amours but I replaced them and now have 3. I have little problem with weeds and am thinking of reducing the amour population to 2. The ones I have now look like nuclear submarines as they cruise the surface. I imagine they are between 10# to 15# each. I think I need a few more weeds to allow the minnows a little more cover.