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.
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
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.
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.
I've noticed that the coppernose seems to be a thicker fish than a native
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
To learn more about American Sport Fish, write P.O. Box
20050, Montgomery, AL 36120, or call (334) 281-7703.
TOMORROW: HOW TO PREPARE YOUR POND TO GROW SUPER BLUEGILLS