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Tennessee Lake Management and Tennessee Pond Management: Big Hand-painted Bluegill

I have made several blog posts about the growth rate of hand-painted bluegill. We’ll be doing a study soon to see whether hand-painteds or coppernose grow faster; at the moment, though, I can tell you that at a minimum, the hand-painteds appear to at least rival coppernose in growth rate. We got more evidence of this last Friday.

We seined one of our production ponds to get hand-painteds for a few pond owners. This particular pond has only had fish in it since October 2014; the first hatch of hand-painteds in this pond occurred around the last week of May 2015. The average lifespan of a bluegill in the South is six years, and considering all of the original brood stock were seven inches and larger, with most being eight to ten inches, those fish probably averaged three to four years old at the time they were stocked, and have likely all died by now.

So odds are that all of the bluegill in that pond now were born in it, in which case none of them is older than three years and five months…

We seined this brute on Friday:


The fish weighed 1.7 lbs., or 27.2 ounces. The pond it was in is 3/4-acre and has somewhere between 10,000-20,000 bluegill in it, meaning it’s entirely a hatchery pond with no predators, meaning there’s exponentially more competition for food than there would be in any fishing pond.

When I got home from a long day of seining, I had an e-mail from a pond owner in northern Arkansas. We stocked his one-acre pond with hand-painteds that ranged from 3” to 7” in late March 2017. This pond is a fishing pond, and is managed for trophy bluegill. The hand-painteds have grown slightly since March of last year:


The owner estimated the fish at between 1.5 and 1.75 lbs.    Seventeen months ago this fish was 7” or less.