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John's Journal... Entry 164, Day 1


Giant Bluegills

EDITOR'S NOTE: Barry Smith of Montgomery, Alabama, a longtime fisheries biologist, co-owns American Sport Fish in Pike Road, Alabama, one of the largest private hatcheries in the Southeast, with his partner Don Keller. Smith and Keller have developed several breeds of fish that landowners enjoy stocking in their ponds. This week we'll talk with Smith about the giant bluegills American Sport Fish stocks.

Question: I know you've been experimenting with and breeding a super bluegill called the coppernose for a long time. What makes this bluegill different from any other bluegill or from the bluegills we find in the wild?
Answer: John, from a scientific standpoint these coppernose are what scientists call a subspecies or what some scientists may call a variety or a string. These fish, found originally in Florida, are called copper heads or coppernose because each male has a brilliant copper band across his nose.

Question: Now why did you choose these bream to start developing a subspecies?
Answer: We had a couple of reasons for using this coppernose. One thing that we've found is that these fish have a faster growth rate than the common bluegill, the native fish to most of the Southeast, except for portions of Florida. The coppernose also takes artificial feed much better than the common bluegill does. Those two combinations make the coppernose ideal for farm ponds because most people like to feed their bluegills supplemental feed to make the bluegills grow extremely fast.

Question: When you say extremely fast, how fast are we talking?
Answer: We normally start stocking farm ponds in October or November with fingerling coppernose bluegills, and by the following October or November, those ponds will have numbers of coppernoses that have grown to between 1/3- to 1/2-pound each in just one year.

Question: So you can raise a 1/2-pound bluegill in one year?
Answer: We certainly can. Now not all the coppernose bluegills will be 1/2-pound, but we certainly do have some coppernoses that reach 1/2-pound in that length of time. And typically, these coppernoses reach 3/4-pound in two years, and a full pound in three years.

Question: Now how much feed does a coppernose require to reach that weight?
Answer: We typically recommend feeding the bluegills at least twice a day and whatever the fish will clean up in about 5 minutes. Much of the decision on how much to feed these fish depends on the size of your lake. If you have a large lake and only a single feeder, you still can grow bluegills of that size in the area around the feeder. The coppernoses around that feeder will be significantly bigger than the other bluegills in the pond.

Question: What kind of feed are you feeding these bluegills?
Answer: We are feeding them primarily a floating ration -- a small pellet smaller than the size of a pencil eraser. This pellet is a moderate protein feed made primarily for catfish. There are a variety of feeds out on the market, and the type of feed you use isn't as important as how much you put out and how frequently you put that food out. This food just supplements the diet of the coppernose and isn't their primary food like cattle in a pen depend on one food source. Coppernoses still feed on insects and other organisms but use their ration of pelleted food to grow fast.

Question: Barry, how effective are the bug zappers on the ends of docks to feed bluegills?
Answers: Bug zappers work in a relative sense, but if you figure the amount of insects that actually fall in the water in a particular area, then what a bug zapper does may be fairly insignificant. At other times, when the area where you're raising the coppernoses has large bug hatches or an abundance of insects, then you'll soon realize that anything that supplements the diet of a bluegill will help to make it grow.

Question: How much do these bluegills grow in a year as compared to the native bluegills?
Answer: Well, the coppernoses grow at a higher rate than the native bluegills do, as has been established in literature from Florida up to the Carolinas, and all the way to California. Texas, California and the Carolinas have done some work with the coppernose bluegills that has shown the coppernoses have a faster growth rate than native bluegills. But the coppernoses aren't a super fish that can grow twice as much as a native bluegill. They certainly don't exhibit that kind of growth rate.

Question: I've noticed that the coppernose seems to be a thicker fish than a native bluegill.
Answer: A coppernose can be thicker than a native bluegill. Usually you'll see this where you supplementally feed the fish because these fish take feed so well, they'll thicken-up really good. Some of these coppernoses actually will weigh 3/4-pound and be 1 1/2-inches thick across the back. Coppernoses will take feed and grow really bulky in addition to growing long.

To learn more about American Sport Fish, write P.O. Box 20050, Montgomery, AL 36120, or call (334) 281-7703.




Check back each day this week for more GIANT BLUEGILLS ...

Day 1 - Giant Bluegills
Day 2 - How to Prepare Your Pond to Grow Super Bluegills
Day 3 - How to Have a Pond with the Most-Catchable Big Bluegills
Day 4 - Help Your Farm Pond Produce Better
Day 5 - Facts About Coppernose Bluegills

John's Journal