Production of Black Bass in Southern Illinois Coal Mine Lakes

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2001: $5,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $12,934.00
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Animals: fish


  • Animal Production: housing
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities


    Our project was to test if Black Bass could be successfully raised in a caged environment submerged in southern Illinois Lake. We have access to approximately 20 acres of a coal mine lake. Our objective of this project was to purchase “feed trained” black bass (both large and small bass) at 6 to 8 inches in length, stock them in netpens floating in our surface coal mine lake (deep, cool and clear water) and grow them out to about 1.5 pounds by fall and to sell for human food. With this technique the bass will not have a choice for natural foods in the lake and will be forced to stay “feed trained.” We have not engaged in any previous fish production techniques.

    Our project tested and evaluated sustainable aquaculture practices specifically for black bass culture in netpens. The parameters we tested and evaluated included water quality conditions in the netpen, the use of two different commercial diets, disease control methods and cost of production.

    Water quality conditions were tested using a manual method by utilizing a LaMotte Model AQ-2 freshwater aquaculture test kit. We tested the ammonia, un-ionized ammonia and pH with this kit. We were not satisfied with the testing results of the dissolved oxygen due to sporadic fluctuations in the water results. After several months of erratic data we purchased a YSI 55 meter to test the dissolved oxygen content of the water as well as water temperature. The results were as follows:

    Dissolved Oxygen, pH, H20 Temp, Ammonia, Un-ionized Ammonia
    January, 5, 7.0, 30, 1 ppm, .002
    February, 5, 7.0, 38, 1 ppm, .002
    March, 5, 7.0, 54, 1 ppm, .003
    April, 5, 7.0, 68, 1 ppm, .004
    May, 5, 7.0, 75, 1 ppm, 0.010
    June, 5, 7.0, 82, 1 ppm, 0.028
    July, 5, 7.0, 86, 1 ppm, 0.030
    August, 5, 7.0, 80, 1 ppm, 0.030
    September, 5, 7.0, 81, 1 ppm, 0.028
    October, 5, 7.0, 78, 1 ppm, 0.012
    November, 5, 7.0, 65, 1 ppm, 0.004
    December, 5, 7.0, 54, 1 ppm, 0.003

    We are satisfied with the results and given the small quantity of fish in relation to the large volume of water, we did not anticipate any problems with the dissolved oxygen, the ammonia and other variables. We would like to note here however that these are crude measurements due to the fact that we are not professionals in this area.

    We did not experience any disease in either our first stock of large mouth bass and none noted in our second stock which consists of small mouth bass (approx. 600). Our growth rate for the large mouth bass is as follows:

    Large Mouth Bass (2001-2002)
    Feed, Weight*, Length*
    January, 0, 12 oz, 7”
    February, 0, 12 oz, -
    March, 8 cups x 2**, 15 oz, -
    April, 8 cups x 2, 1 lb 1 oz, 12”
    May, 10 cups x 2, 1 lb 3 oz, -
    June, 10 cups x 2, 1 lb 4 oz, -
    July, 10 cups x 2, 1 lb 5 oz, 15”
    August, 12 cups x 1, 1 lb 5 oz, -
    September (sold all large mouth bass)
    November (purchased 600 small mouth in Nov. 2002)

    Small Mouth Bass (2002-2003)
    Feed, Weight*, Length*
    January, 0, -, -
    February, 0, -, -
    March, 10 lb daily, -, 5” (2003)
    April, 15 lb daily, -, -
    May, 20 lb daily, -, -
    June, 20 lb daily, -, -
    July, 20 lb daily, -, -
    August, 20 lb daily, average 10 oz, 9-11” (2003)
    November, 2 lb daily, -, 4-5” (2002)
    December, 2 lb daily

    *The weight and length are approximate because it is uncertain that we are measuring the same fish each time. We were conservative at handling the fish and chose to handle them as little as possible.
    **We fed twice a day, once in the early morning, approximately 6:00 am and in the evening at approximately 6:00 pm. In late July we went to feeding a larger quantity only once a day in the morning. When the water temperature increased the feeding habit changed. The fish seemed not to eat as much in the evening and we attributed this to the warmer water temperatures. The large mouth bass were fed Purina AquaMax floating, 45% protein. The small mouth bass are fed a mixture of Purina AquaMax floating and SilverCup sinking, 45% protein. This mixture method is implemented to allow for any loss that may result from the sinking food. Fish loss is approximately 30%. Greatest percentage of loss occurred directly after transport, therefore we are making the assumption that these fish died as a result of shipping/transport and not to our feeding method.

    Project Impact:
    We attribute our success to the help of Dan Selock, Aquaculture Specialist, Office of Economic and Regional Development, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and Chris Breden, Tech Specialist with the Illinois Fish Farmers Coop. the impact of weather did not affect us as much as we thought. With several heavy snow storms the fish managed to survive quite well. We are pleased with our results and plan to continue our efforts at raising fish in a caged environment. We feel that this project is an important alternative to other forms of raising fish. Our goal is to build this farm slowly and gradually with the addition of an aeration system sometime in the future. We are also raising hybrid striped bass which have done remarkably as well.

    In November of 2001 a radio interview was conducted with North Shore Productions. Also information has been discussed at the Fish coop meetings with other members.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.