Largemouth bass have a ferocious appetite, and in order for a pond to grow fat, healthy bass there must be plenty of forage available. Tilapia, while native to the Nile River in Africa, have a tremendous aquaculture value and are an excellent supplemental forage food for your bass. As an added bonus, tilapia is the number two fish in the world’s food industry, and can be enjoyed by you and your family.
The concept of stocking tilapia in your bass pond is a relatively new idea beginning around five years ago. However, it continues to gain attention with the levels of success it has achieved. Tilapia is more tolerant of high water temperatures, high salinity, low dissolved oxygen levels, and high amounts of ammonia concentrations than other forage fish. They are sexually mature at around six inches, which they can achieve in only a couple of months if ample food is available, and will spawn every 3-5 weeks producing up too 500 young. The offspring are kept safe in the mother’s mouth starting from eggs, and even shortly after hatching. This mouth brooding will protect the eggs and fry from early predation, yielding a high survival rate, and enabling them to quickly reach 3-5 inches, making them excellent forage for your 14-16 inch bass. Tilapia will not compete with your other fish for food as the majority of their diet consists of vegetation and detritus, especially filamentous algae. Therefore, their diet can result in less organic build up, and can even help prevent algae from covering your pond, which many pond owners know can be one of the largest problems in maintaining a pond.
You can begin stocking tilapia when your water temperature is consistently over 60 degrees. Since tilapias are great at utilizing the natural resources of a pond, they are able to sustain their numbers with relative ease. This is especially true in a well-fertilized pond with plenty of plankton for them to feed on. They will also eat pellets from fish feeders if you have one available. You can increase the feeding time to accommodate any additional fish. If you are stocking tilapia primarily for all-natural algae control about 10-20 pounds per acres is sufficient. If maximizing the growth potential of your bass is the goal, then plan on stocking 30-100 pounds per acre.
When the water temperature drops below 60 degrees in the fall, the tilapia juveniles become sluggish, making them an easy meal for your bass, which will allow your bass to enter the winter in great condition. Also, by mid to late fall, the original stocked tilapia should have put on several pounds and make for large triangular filets, you can now begin to harvest for your own dinner table. Tilapia can be caught at fish feeders using a variety of baits that resemble the food pellets. You can get pretty imaginative on different baits to catch them on, but bread balls seem to work just fine.