Panfish on steroids — Hybrid bluegill top choice for small ponds

BIGbluegillThose with a small pond wondering what fish to stock should consider the hybrid bluegill, according to biologists, landowners and especially fishermen.

Jimmy Williams of Whitesboro stocked them recently, and couldn’t be happier about it.

“We put them in a pond about nine months ago,” he said. “The pond is a little more than one acre and we put in 500 hybrid bluegill and 500 channel catfish.”

The fast-growing fish are already hand-sized — and biting.

“Our four-year-old son Hunter is having a blast,” Williams said. “If you toss the line in, you’re going to get a bite.”

The hybrid bluegill is a cross between a female green sunfish and a male bluegill, said Wes Fleming, a biologist at Pond King in Gainesville.

Stocking the hybrid bluegill provides several benefits, but landowners should be aware of some potential pitfalls.

 “The hybrid bluegill grow faster; a condition called ‘hybrid vigor,’ “Fleming said. “And they can get to 2 pounds.”

One-year-old fish can reach 8 inches in length, and the fish reach sexual maturity at 5 inches.

They have a larger mouth than most sunfish and they feed aggressively.

“And they respond quickly to commercial fish food, making them easy targets for youngsters and adults from the bank or dock,” Fleming said.

Williams couldn’t agree more.

“We feed every two or three days, and the fish are following us as we approach the pond in the four-wheeler,” he said.

Small ponds are best for the fish.

“The best application is to stock them in ponds an acre or less,” Fleming said. “And the only other fish in the pond should be catfish.”

Why not bass or crappie?

“The hybrids do spawn, but they produce far more males than females (up to 90 percent males),” he said. “So they aren’t good as a forage fish.”

The good news, though, is the hybrids don’t tend to overpopulate like other bluegill.

And mixing with other bluegill species isn’t recommended, said Bob Lusk a fisheries biologist and owner of Pond King magazine.

“If people intend to stock hybrid bluegills, stock them as a stand-alone species and not with other species of fish,” he said. “That’s because they can reproduce, but only with other species. When that happens, the next generation won’t exhibit hybrid vigor.”

The hybrids are aggressive predators, Lusk said.

“Since their mouths are larger, they can outcompete other bluegills,” he said. “But, since bluegills can (and do) reproduce prolifically, bluegills, over the long term, can outcompete them via sheer numbers.”

Even in a small pond only mixed with only catfish, the hybrids won’t last forever.

“You have to restock them occasionally, because they produce mostly males,” Fleming said.

The fun they provide is well worth the investment, Williams said.

“It’s the best money I ever spent.”