A pond that’s properly stocked and managed will give you years of fishing enjoyment. Some states offer stocking programs, but commercial hatcheries are also available.
When choosing a species of fish to stock in a new pond, you need to consider both the size of the fish and the size of your pond. Stock fish in the fall or spring, when water temperatures are less than 65° F. This will reduce stress in the fish.
Also, make sure the water temperature in the hauling tank and the pond don’t differ by more than 5° F. Add pond water to the tank slowly to make temperatures consistent. Let the hatchery know your pond’s water temperature ahead of time.
Fish to stock
When choosing a species of fish to stock in a new pond, you need to consider both the size of the fish and the size of your pond. The University of Ohio Extension recommends these species:
Stock 100 2-4″ fingerlings, 50 4-6″ fish, or 20 9-10″ bass per acre. For bass to thrive, you’ll need a fairly large pond so that the entire food chain can be sustained.
Bluegills are a good food source for bass, and they’re also fun to catch. Stock 500 1-3″ fingerlings per acre.
This species is an alternative to bluegils. They grow larger, eat pond snails, and produce fewer young, so they’re less likely to be stunted. You’ll still need bluegills for the bass to feed on, so stock 250 1-3″ red-ear and 250 bluegill fingerlings per acre.
New ponds can be stocked with 100 2-4″ fingerlings per acre, and existing ponds 100 4-6″ fish per acre. The larger fish won’t be eaten by the bass population. Channel catfish will not in ponds unless containers are provided for reproduction to spawn in. This is not recommended because it can cause overpopulation.
Fathead minnow/golden shiner
Stock 1,000 adult minnows or shiners per acre to provide food for stocked bass until bluegills and/or sunfish can spawn and provide young for the bass to eat. Occasionally, fingerling carp and bullheads will be found in loads of purchased minnows and shiners. Take care to remove them.
Stock this species only if you have a problem with underwater vegetation in your pond. You can stock between four and 12 per acre, depending on how severe the vegetation problem is. In some states, only certain types of grass carp are legal to stock. Check local regulations.
Yellow perch (pictured below), walleye, northern pike, black and white crappie, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and striped bass are also popular fish to stock in ponds. Do not release more than 100 per acre of any of these species.
Fish to avoid
These fish will turn a pond muddy, even in small numbers. If they are currently in your pond, stock adult largemouth bass to eat the young.
At high densities, yellow, brown, or black (pictured) bullhead cause ponds to become muddy. They have a very high reproduction rate and eat bass and bluegill eggs, so overpopulation can occur quickly.
These cousins of bluegill and red-ear sunfish rarely grow to be larger than 6 inches, but their large mouth allows them to out-compete other sunfish species.
Source: The University of Ohio Extension
Fish photos: Iowa Department of Natural Resources