Supplemental feeding of commercial fish feeds increases both bluegill and catfish growth. Largemouth bass do not readily consume artificial feeds, but they do benefit from the increase in bluegill reproduction. Feeding can double the average size of harvestable fish and total pond production (up to about 600 pounds per acre). Fish can be fed throughout the warm months of the year, but best results are obtained by feeding from March through May and October through November when most bluegill growth occurs.
Feed three or four times per day, if possible. Feed in the same area and at about the same time of day. Feeding can be done by hand or with demand or automatic feeders. Floating feeding rings to contain the feed can be made from PVC tubing anchored in place. Provide one feeding station for every 3 acres of pond.
The protein level of the feed is not very important. Studies have shown that low protein feed (25 percent) will produce excellent growth. Therefore, it is not necessary to purchase high protein feed. It is very important not to overfeed. A good rule of thumb is to feed all the fish will eat in 10 to 15 minutes, but not more than 10 pounds per acre per day. Winter feeding is not necessary but may increase bluegill growth.
Feeding is expensive and can be justified only when there is an obvious need to increase production above that which can be supplied by fertilization and controlled harvest. Feeding stimulates plankton blooms in the same way as fertilization. Thus, fertilization is usually unnecessary if feeding is done regularly. If feeding is not done on a regular basis it may be necessary to fertilize. Use the Secchi disk to determine if fertilization is needed.