Outdoors: Northern or Florida bass do well in California ponds

Question: We want to purchase some bass and bluegill for our four-acre pond in Northern California. We plan to use catch-and-release techniques to teach our kids how to fish. What would be the best kind of bass to buy? I assume largemouth bass and/or spotted bass would work best.

Please advise me as to which type to buy and where to get them. Thanks very much. — Andrew

Answer: The best bass for a small pond are going to be either the Northern or Florida strain of largemouth bass. According to associate fisheries biologist Jay Rowan, the northern strain largemouth are generally easier to catch and can grow to very large sizes in ponds. The Florida strain are a little more difficult to catch but are thought to have the genetic potential to grow to larger sizes than their northern cousins. Growth rates and maximum size of the fish are dependent on the stocking density, food supplies and water temperature.

Since this is a relatively small pond in northern California, Rowan suggests you start out with Northern strain bass for several years to see how they do. In your pond, the Northern strain should get a longer growing season because they will be less affected by cooler spring and fall temperatures than the Florida strain would be. And because of the longer growing season, you may also actually wind up with larger fish than if you went with the Florida strain from the start. In addition, the Northern strain bass are not quite as wily as the Florida strain so the kids should catch more fish.

Bass, as well as bluegill and other forage fish, can be purchased from the aquaculturists listed on the DFG Web site below. DFG informational leaflets No. 6 and No. 23, which deal with private stocking permits and Farm Fish Pond Management in California, respectively, are available from our Web site and are suggested reading.

Keep in mind that it is not legal to catch fish from one body of water and then transport them alive to stock your pond. The only legal source of fish for stocking purposes is a licensed aquaculturist.

Private stocking permits are issued on a county-by-county basis and some counties require new prospective waters to be inspected first by a DFG fishery biologist before a permit is issued. Not all applications are approved.

You will also need to wait until after January 2010, however, to apply for a new stocking permit due to a pending lawsuit. Once DFG starts approving permits again, you can get the stocking permit process started by contacting one of the approved aquaculturists listed on the DFG Web site.

Q: We are bow hunters and are wondering if there are any regulations against using the new lighted arrow nocks? They turn on when shot from your bow and stay on until you turn them off. They operate by a small lithium battery and will stay on for many hours if needed. The light makes it easier to follow the path of the arrow once released and will stay on until retrieved from the animal or wherever it ends up. — Joe G., Grass Valley

A: There are no prohibitions against this accessory as long as it doesn't emit light to help find and illuminate potential game animals, thus giving the hunter an unfair advantage. In this case this component appears to serve only as a visual lighted marker to help the archer watch the course the arrow takes upon release. (Definition of a nock: the slotted portion at the back of the arrow that sits against the bow string and holds the arrow in place until the archer is released.)

Q: What are the rules of the second rod stamp? I've heard that as long as we have this stamp we can now fish with two rods in all waters of the state. Is this correct? — Theresa L.

A: Not exactly. By purchasing the two rod stamp and affixing it to your license, licensed anglers and anglers under 16 years of age may fish with up to two rods in all inland waters that allow for the taking of fish by angling. The only exceptions are for those waters in which only allow artificial lures or barbless hooks may be used. In these gear-restricted waters, only one rod may be used — even if you have a second rod stamp.

Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. Send questions to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.