On our farm we had cattle production, not fish production, except for the ponds on the farm where I enjoyed fishing on the weekends. Our cattle were a cross of an English breed, Angus, and Brahman: Brangus. These are a hybrid breed and provide “hybrid vigor” which results in faster growth and environmental adaptability.
Hybrid bluegill are a standard offering from fish hatcheries. The name “Georgia Giants” still lingers in the pond jargon after some clever marketing from a hatchery in Georgia who branded the standard cross of bluegill and green sunfish. This hybrid grows fast and readily accepts fish feed, making it a great fish if you want to grow big bluegill as a goal, to the exclusion of other goals. That is a problem that I frequently run across with pond management. The hatchery or fish truck representative is quick to recommend them (quoting folklore from Georgia about a bluegill that ate a dog, or some such…) without considering the goal of the pond owner. If the goal is both bass and bluegill production, the bluegill will need to provide lots of offspring to feed the bass. Since hybrid bluegill are 90% male, have poor reproduction, and have offspring with poor growth rates, the results are a couple of years of admirable bluegill production, and then no catchable bluegill with largemouth bass that you can read a newspaper through.
The right plan is a “put and take” fishery, or rather a stock, grow, and fish-out approach. Start with a pond with no predator fish, since we don’t want our investment in these hybrids to be eaten as forage. Stock 300-1,500 per acre and then focus on good water quality and feeding. The hybrid bluegill will perform wonderfully and grow fast, with good feed conversion at a rate of 1 lb of growth per 2 lbs of feed. Then get your poles, fish, take weights, take photos, have a fish fry, and brag on Facebook. When you have reduced the number of fish significantly, restock over the top of them with more hybrids the following season. In time the offspring may achieve significant numbers to be a nuisance and the pond may need to be drained to start over. Put, take, restart.
Hybrid catfish are a cross between a blue catfish and a channel catfish. Channel cats were the former king of the commercial catfish farming industry, having a fast growth rate up to 2 lbs, an ideal weight for the fish processing industry. Blue catfish grow slowly (up to 2 lbs) and then rapidly gain weight. The hybrids grow faster overall, have better feed conversion, and better disease resistance. The industry has thoroughly converted to them. I was visiting with a leading catfish researcher from Mississippi and he said, “There is no reason to stock another channel catfish in a production pond ever again.” With respect to our private ponds, channel catfish are still more readily available and they will still perform nicely. However, if you have the chance to purchase hybrid blue-channel catfish, that would be my choice. With either stocking, this is also best as a “put and take” fishery. Reproduction is eliminated by removing catfish spawning habitat-tires, culverts, barrels, cut out banks, or even hollow logs. Without this type of habitat available, catfish will not reproduce.
The fish delivery trucks will start running in October. Make a good plan, and stick to it!