Managing Fish Ponds for large bream.
Behind the door in my office I have a life size picture of the
world record bream.  It is 15 inches long and weighs close to
five pounds (the fish not the picture).
In my memory there is another large bream. It was caught during a
huge periodic cicada outbreak. I noticed large bream were popping
cicadas that fell into the pond.  When I threw an earthworm
beside a disappearing cicada, the bream thought he had missed a
piece. Soon, I reeled in the biggest bream my father or I had
ever seen in the 75 years of fishing experience between us.  I
thought I had out-fished Dad but right before dark he caught an
even larger bream.  His bream was slightly smaller than the one
in the picture, but then the state record is smaller too. I would
have mounted it, but Dad is from the generation that eats
everything they pull from the water. Since we had a frying pan,
and didn't have scales to weigh the fish, I will never know for
sure how big a fish I helped eat. We have caught hundreds of
bream from that pond both before and since that day without
seeing anything close to the bream we caught that day.
 It takes luck and management for small pondowners to
consistently raise big bream.
 You will have to come up with your own luck, but here's a
three-step management plan to raising huge bream.
 First you need to maintain good overall pond productivity.
Usually this requires fertilizing (and liming if necessary).  In
some cases liming may be sufficient. Liming and fertilizing
increases the total biomass the pond can support.
 The second step requires maintaining a high density of bass.
Bass eat up almost all the new young fish.  The few bream that
don't get eaten grow large very quickly. The ideal situation
would be a dense bass population 'stunted' around 16­17 inches.
This will keep the preferred sizes of bream.
 The third management practice is doing a winter drawdown for
2­3 months (assuming you can count on the pond filling back up).
Drawing the pond down 3­4 feet (but keep at least 1/2 to 2/3 of
the surface area) from early November through late January or
early February concentrates the remaining young bluegill so the
bass can mop them up.
 Those are the keys if you want to raise large bream with
natural productivity.  Of course, feeding a floating feed can
also really boost bluegill production and size. Bream will go on
feed pretty quickly, but the bass probably won't use the feed at
all.  If you feed, you won't need to fertilize, but you still
need to maintain lots of bass and draw down the water each
winter.
 The only negative to managing a pond this way is that you
are increasing the chances of a low­oxygen fish kill.  This minor
increase is worse in drought years.  An electric aerator is one
way to lessen the chance of fish kills. An aerator cost quite a
bit of money up front, but it's the most effective way to aerate
the water.
 Low-oxygen fish kills occur during a rapid pond turnover.
This means the bottom layer of the pond becomes the top layer.
This occasionally happens when the top of the pond gets colder
than the bottom.  Two events can cause this.  Night cooling in
the fall of the year can lead to pond turnovers.  In the summer,
heavy cold rainstorms can lead to pond turnovers.  Low oxygen
fish kills are sporadic enough that pond owners seldom catch them
in time to do anything. So an electric aerator is worth
considering if you are really pushing a pond.
 When you ask experts how small a pond can be managed this
way, they will say 2 acres.  I have seen ponds down to 1/2 acre
managed very well with bream/bass combinations and would try it
even on smaller ponds. You can also manage smaller ponds by
regularly stocking and harvesting hybrid sunfish. The fact they
are hybrid will keep them from overpopulating.
 I have asked experts about stocking only bass in smaller
ponds and have never gotten a satisfactory answer.  The experts
seem to worry about forcing them to be cannibals, but bass never
seem to worry about eating other bass.
 If you decide to manage a pond for large bream, I would be
curious to hear about your results.
 Article was written by David Goforth Agriculture Extension agent North Carolina Cooperative Extension Cabarrus County Center.  Visit my homepage http://cabarrus.ces.ncsu.edu/ or http://cabarrus.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=lawngarden or my blog http://gardeninggurugoforth.blogspot.com/

Contact me at David_Goforth@ncsu.edu.  Reviewed 2007.