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TEXAS GEORGIA GIANTS
 
BLUEGILL,RES, and TEXAS RIO's
 
GAM's,TS, and GS
 
RAINBOW TROUT


 
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COWS
 
GARDENS
 
CURRENT EVENTS
 
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TILAPIA
 
HYBRID STRIPED BASS
 
LARGE MOUTH BASS
 
GRASS CARP
 
TEXAS GEORGIA GIANTS
 
BLUEGILL,RES, and TEXAS RIO's
 
GAM's,TS, and GS
 
RAINBOW TROUT


 
HOME
 
PONDS
 
FISH
 
COWS
 
GARDENS
 
CURRENT EVENTS
 
CONTACT INFO
 
TILAPIA
 
HYBRID STRIPED BASS
 
LARGE MOUTH BASS
 
GRASS CARP
 
TEXAS GEORGIA GIANTS
 
BLUEGILL,RES, and TEXAS RIO's
 
GAM's,TS, and GS
 
RAINBOW TROUT


 
HOME
 
PONDS
 
FISH
 
COWS
 
GARDENS
 
CURRENT EVENTS
 
CONTACT INFO
 
TILAPIA
 
HYBRID STRIPED BASS
 
LARGE MOUTH BASS
 
GRASS CARP
 
TEXAS GEORGIA GIANTS
 
BLUEGILL,RES, and TEXAS RIO's
 
GAM's,TS, and GS
 
RAINBOW TROUT


 
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TILAPIA


In Texas, it is legal to stock Mozambique Tilapia, in private waters.
This fish is widely renowned for its fine eating qualities, but is not widely known as a pond management tool.

The Tilapia is, in this author's opinion, the single most advantageous pond management tool available to the pond owner/manager today. The Tilapia eats copious quantities of filamentous algae, provides tremendous forage for predator fish, is great sport on light tackle and fly-fishing equipment, and provides the aforementioned fine eating qualities.

They can reduce/eliminate dependence on chemicals for aquatic weed control, can reduce/eliminate the need for artificial feeding in your pond, and provide unbelievable weight gains to your predator fish.

The Tilapia can begin spawning at about 3 inches and at the 3 inch size can produce 300 to 400 fry every few days. Larger fish produce even more offspring.

Tilapia eat a wide variety of natural food organisms including filamentous algae. They will also consume artificial feed when available. Artificial feed will add to Tilapia weights but may also detract from their algae eating tendencies. If you want maximum algae control, do not supplemental feed the Tilapia.

The Tilapia are cold water intolerant. They do not reproduce at water temps below 68 degrees, stop feeding at temps below 63 degrees, and begin dieing at temps of 55 degrees. For a complete description of the Tilapia see the following link: http://srac.tamu.edu/tmppdfs/9922301-283fs.pdf

The first year that Tilapia were stocked in the ponds at Meadowlark ranch, marvelous results were obtained (see right.). Each succeeding year has shown similar results. A typical Tilapia is shown above..

The largest Tilapia caught to date from the ponds was 2.9 pounds, a weight achieved in only one short growing season. Heck, they have even been known to attack water turkeys.
 
 

Tilapia…
one growing season's experience.
This brief report was written in the winter of 2004 and summarizes the results of the first season of using Tilapia in the ponds on Meadowlark ranch. The report summarizes the results of an unscientific experiment with Mozambique Tilapia stocked in the spring of 2003 into 3.5 acre (Nova), ¾ acre(Methusela), and ¼ (Half-pint)acre ponds located in East Texas

The original intent of the experiment was to determine if the Tilapia would provide needed supplemental forage for largemouth bass (LMB) and hybrid striped bass (HSB). The experiment showed that not only did the Tilapia provide the forage, but also several other beneficial results which are summarized herein.

The report first discusses each pond in turn by describing the pond and then describing the results of the experiment. Following that, a discussion on the die-off is provided. Finally, an overall set of conclusions is then provided. 3.5 acre pond:

Background- This pond is 3 years old and stocked with Florida strain LMB, HSB, grass carp, threadfin shad, fathead minnows (FH) and cooper nose blue gill (CBG). The pond has considerable structure, varies in depth to 25 feet, has very clear water, and was supported with artificial feeding from three feeders during the growing season. Also, aeration was added to the pond in the spring.

Two somewhat expensive (($500 to $700) attempts at establishing a viable threadfin shad population for supplemental forage provided very limited results. The predators, LMB and HSB, wiped out the threadfins each time they were stocked. Fertilizing the pond had created extensive filamentous algae growth, which required treatment with algaecide chemicals to control. Also, the pond had a growing pondweed explosion, which the grass carp were originally intended to control.

Twenty (20) pounds of Mozambique Tilapia were stocked on April 1 (when water temperatures were reliably at and above 60 degrees in the East Texas area). Results- CBG population, which had been severely impacted by water turkey predation the previous winter, actually expanded significantly in numbers and size over previous years presumably due to the alternate forage offered by the Tilapia.

The HSB grew from a stocking size of 3-4 inches in the spring to 9-10 inches by fall. The LMB grew significantly larger, but unfortunately sampling them proved to be very difficult due to the ample forage (provided in part by Tilapia) and "learning".

The LMB could only be caught by using small live CBG as bait. The algae problem was completely eliminated. The pondweed was well under control by seasons end. The bottom of the pond, which in three short years had already begun to show the effects of bottom sludge and muck building up was "cleaned" of all sludge and now is clean to the sand and clay except for limited vegetation.

¾ acre pond: Background-This pond is estimated to be about 50 years old and stocked with native LMB, native BG, and native small minnows, which resemble FH. The pond was completely chocked with algae and pondweed, so bad that it was not fishable. Water turkey predation and poaching had reduced the population of LMB to virtually none and even the native BG were few and far between and very small.

In short, what had once been a thriving small bass pond (with bass up to seven pounds) had been reduced to holding water for livestock as its only value.

Seven (7) pounds of Tilapia were stocked on April 1.

Results- The results were nothing short of spectacular. By fall, the BG population had exploded with many native BG (no artificial feed) 6 to 9 inches in length where before they were almost non-existent. The LMB population also increased significantly with one to two-pound bass plentiful (no re-stocking). Most remarkably, the algae and pondweed were completely eliminated. The pond was transformed from an unfishable mess to a delightful fly rod and popper-fishing hotel.

I did not observe or fish this pond over the growing season and when first fishing it again in the fall, it was simply stunning to see the change. I would not have believed it, if I had not seen it myself.

¼ acre pond:
Background-This small pond is used exclusively for livestock watering and is estimated to be 70 plus years old. The cattle extensively fertilized this small water and as a result it was completely locked up with a thick mat of algae every year. Droughts had eliminated the few native LMB and BG that were once present.

Three (3) pounds of Tilapia were stocked (just for the heck of it) on April 1. Results-Again, the results were remarkable. The alga was completely eliminated and the pond had a freshly cleaned look. The Tilapia did not grow to the sizes seen in the other ponds but exploded in population with numerous 4 to 6 inch fish.

The pond looks so great that now I'm considering making it a catfish pond for food, fun, and grandkids.

The Die-off: This much anticipated and somewhat feared event, in fact, turned out to be less of a happening than predicted or feared. Some experts predicted massive fish kills requiring huge clean-up efforts. To add to my apprehension, about a month before the die-off, I observed a very large school of suspended Tilapia, in excess of a hundred fish, in the larger pond's deeper water. What would happen to all these fish when they died?

Here's what happened as best I can surmise: The Tilapia began dieing as the water temperatures hit 55 degrees and deaths accelerated with the dropping temperatures around the time of Christmas.

A very remarkable difference in the three ponds was observed, however. First, for purposes of this discussion small Tilapia fish are defined as 4 to 6 inches, medium fish 7 to 10 inches, and large fish over 11 inches. In the two ponds that had resident populations of predators (LMB and HSB), there were no small dead Tilapia observed, none…only a very few (about half a dozen) scattered medium sized fish were observed.. In the ¼ acre pond, which did not have any LMB or HSB present, there was an extensive fish kill. Several hundred small dead Tilapia were observed floating along the outside edge of the pond. (Photo here.)

This was expected, but what happened in the other two ponds? Why were no small dead fish observed; why only a few medium sized dead fish; what happened to the rest of them? I wish I knew the answers.

One likely answer is that the LMB and HSB consumed the small sized Tilapia as they approached death. As they approach the end, the Tilapia spin into a spiraling death dance and are very easy prey for the LMB and HSB to pick off. I actually observed this happening…but what happened to the large Tilapia? Perhaps they just sank to the bottom and are never to be seen again. If many of the Tilapia were consumed by the LMB and HSB, as I believe to be the case, it further supports the forage value of this fish for pond owners. Conclusions: Based on this somewhat limited, unscientific experience, I offer the following conclusions:
  • Tilapia are absolutely terrific for cleaning up existing ponds. Their stocking costs ($10 per pound in my case) are far surpassed in the savings provided by eliminating the need for undesirable chemicals for algae and weed control.
  • Tilapia offer a solid alternative forage fish for LMB and HSB. They showed no evidence of competing with BG or FH minnows and in fact helped the BG population expand in both size and numbers.
  • Tilapia do not require any supplemental feeding; when available, they will eat fish food but on a limited basis.
  • Tilapia are very difficult to catch, but are great fighters when caught and a terrific eating fish, albeit difficult to fillet.
  •  If you artificially feed, you will need to stock 10 to 15 pounds per acre to achieve the same algae control as 5 pounds per acre without artificial feeding.
  • Tilapia begin dieing at about 55 degrees and appear to be all are gone by about 50 degrees water temperature. A gradual temperature decline to those levels is a good thing; they don't all die at once that way. Also, the LMB and HSB have a chance to consume the dieing Tilapia so they are not wasted. Even in approaching death, Tilapia are providing the forage benefit.
  • If you want vegetation in your pond, do not stock Tilapia. They eat just about everything that's plant life.
Bottom line, they clean like a janitor, reproduce like rabbits, fight like a banshee, and taste better than chicken. What more could you ask of a fish?

 

UPDATE SEPT 23 '07:

In an effort to maximize the utilization of Tilapia before winter, about 500 small Tilapia are being moved from Half-pint pond where the HSB died leaving the Tilapia to thrive unimpeded. These small fish will serve to further fatten up the LMB in Nova pond as they head into winter months.

UPDATE Jan. 27 '08

Each year it seems the Tilapia live (survive) longer through the winter. This year, at the end of January, I am still seeing dead and struggling fish. The sun is shining today and it is very probable that there are still a few surviving large fish because only medium sized ones have floated thus far. The one pictured below is still barely alive and is probably about one pound in size. It is sad to see them go, but their contributions are just outstanding.

Update Fall 09: Techniques for catching fall Tilapia

The keys to catching large numbers of your largest Tilapia in ponds are to consistently bait a selected area over a period of weeks preceeding the time you want to harvest the Tilapia and get the Tilapia away from your bluegill. Select an area of the pond that is relatively shallow (2 to 5 feet) and has structure it in. A specific section of a pier is ideal. In this one(or more) specific spot, consistently bait that spot with range cubes and/or cottonseed meal or some other vegetarian based food several weeks before harvesting the fish. Range cubes work particularly well because bluegills generally are not overly attracted to range cubes...and you want to attract Tilapia NOT bluegills. Then when you are ready to harvest fish, bait again with whatever you have been using and in a few minutes fish for the Tilapia using mealy worms, regular worms, or your preferred baits. Place your bait just off the bottom and wait for Tilapia. Vertical jigging right over the baited area is most effective. This technique can enable you to catch as many or as few of the fish as you wish each time out. It is most effective in the fall with dropping water temps. Bluegill tend to move to deeper water and Tilapia seek out water that is warmed by afternoon sun. A couple of examples of this fall's catch are shown below. One can easily catch/harvest far more pounds of fish than you initially stocked. I prefer to only harvest the larger fish...those not likely to be eaten by your LMB. Tilapia of 2 to 3 pounds are the target and make great fillets. These are fish that probably will be wasted anyway in the die-off because it would take a very large LMB to consume a 3 pound Tilapia.

 

 

 

 

April 11, 2010 Tilapia stocking time. Water temps at 71 degrees and pecan trees budding.