ANGLER'S IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM
 

SIZEABLE NUMBERS OF NOT SO SIZEABLE BASS

                                                         By Charlie Lewis

 

As a member of Lake Sherwood’s LDMC (Lakes, Dams and Marina Committee), and as an avid fishermen I have made one of my personal goals to preserve the LS wildlife, enhance the existing ecology, and create new habitats for wildlife.

 

Where are the large bass?

A question I am often asked. I tell them “Lake Sherwood is simply stockpiled with too many bass” This is a condition that is very common with many Missouri private ponds and lakes. Micropterus salmoides (Largemouth  Bass) are very fast growing and can grow to 12-15 inches in 3 years providing there are sufficient food sources. A bass only weighing 1 pound can lay as many as 7000 eggs. Because of this with a little regulation bass can very easily maintain their population without the need of restocking. However this also allows them to quickly become overpopulated in an unmanaged lake. (Source Missouri Pond Handbook pg.21)

 

Bass are sight feeders.

Bass will eat only what they can see. They rely almost entirely on sight, less on vibration, and even less on smell/taste. Their primary food source is aquatic insects, craw fish, and smaller fish. In particular bass feed very heavily on small bluegill and shad. Due to the over population of bass, the abundant food sources we do have in our lakes are only enough to sustain the full life of a fish that may never grow over 15 inches. This was confirmed when the MDC (Missouri Department of Conservation) came out May 22, 2008 and electroshocked our main lake. These results may be viewed by going to the LDMC’s web page: LSLDMC.GOOGLEPAGES.COM.   In addition to the main lake,  they shocked one of the smaller lakes with similar results.

 

Bass Invasion, good or bad?

The bass overpopulation, while an annoyance is no threat to our lakes. The bass may not grow to the desired lunker size but they are very capable of living a healthfull lifespan. This can produce conditions preferred by some pond owners. The extra small bass keep bluegill from over populating and in turn the surviving bluegill become very large and numerous.

 

What can we do to improve bass fishing?

Supplementing the food source for bass will temporarily produce larger fish,  however the end result will be more 10-12” bass. Great care is needed when doing this because long term feeding will produce more fish than the lake is capable of supporting on its own. A sudden halt to supplementing their food could cause a fish kill.

 

Biologist’s recommendations.

As recommended by the MCD, this problem is best solved by aggressively removing bass 12” and under. Removing 25-30 bass per acre per year is the target goal to improving the over all bass size. This comes up to 3375-4050 small bass that must be removed out of the main lake for the next few years. The LDMC has set up a slot limit to help accomplish this goal. With the slot limit program in effect the MDC has agreed to help monitor the lakes fish population by more often electroshocking, provided they see improvement each time they test.

 

What can you do with small bass that are 12” or less?

There are a number of things to do with small bass. Take them home for dinner, use them for compost, or if you simply don’t want them slit their belly open and throw them back. Do not worry about needlessly killing them, this will make them sink to the bottom and provide a great meal for one of the many large channel cats or snapping turtles and will be a great benefit to the lake. The one thing that is not recommended is to throw them back alive. This is stated in the Lake Sherwood rule book as well on signs posted up around all the lakes.

 

Targeting small bass.

Small bass can be very fun to catch. Targeting them can yield much higher numbers of fish on a fishing trip. Small bass tend to stay near the shallower water usually seeking areas with nearby cover. They will readily take most lures in any sizes depending on the time of year, however smaller lures will produce more hook sets with smaller fish. In the early spring, medium diving crank baits can trigger deeper fish to come up for a bite to eat. Rubber salamanders on a Texas rig or live minnows can produce many middle to late spring bass. Slowing moving 4-6” long rubber worms can often be your summer time best bet. Fall brings the top water lures into their prime. In the winter anything deep and very slow should get you something to take home. Don’t hesitate to try something new. If they are not biting as well as you think they should, throw them a curve ball it might be just what they’re interested in. Don’t hesitate to try a lure that is too chewed up, either.  Bass often hit at something just defending their territory. The fish you caught might not have even been interested in eating.

 

What’s for dinner?

There must be as many good recipes for fish as there are stars in the sky. A classic would be to cover with bread crumbs batter and deep fry the fish in oil. Something a little healthier and a favorite of mine is to wrap the fish with foil including any combination of herbs, butter, and garlic. This can be grilled or cooked in the oven. A more recent creation of mine is to stir fry with finely chopped potatoes and carrots.

 

Just remember.

Next time you decide to go out on the lake make it a small bass day. Whether making the ultimate compost, getting dinner for the evening, or just feeding the catfish, every small bass out of the lake will greatly help bass fishing for the years to come.

 

Charlie Lewis for the LDMC