What to Stock Initially
A standard initial stocking of largemouth bass, bluegills, and channel catfish is recommended for all ponds one acre or larger with underwater visibility of at least 12 inches. Additional fish species may be added later depending upon management objectives.
It is critical that correct numbers of each kind of fish be stocked. Improper stocking may prevent a pond from ever producing a quality fishery. The pond owner should stock 100 bass, 500 bluegills, and 100 channel catfish fingerlings per acre. These fish will usually not be fishable for two years. If larger fish are stocked, numbers should be reduced. Stocking 50 8- to 12 inch bass; 100 - 250 4- to 5 inch bluegills; and 50 8- to 12 inch channel catfish per acre gives a pond a head start and minimizes mortality if an existing wild fish population is present.
Catfish alone are recommended for ponds less than 1 acre or for ponds with underwater visibility less than 12 inches. If only catfish are stocked, the number is dependent upon the turbidity. In clear ponds, 200 fingerlings or 100 larger fish can be supported per acre. In turbid ponds, half this number should be stocked.
To accelerate initial bass growth rates, it is recommended that 3 pounds of fathead minnows be stocked per acre when fingerling bass are introduced, or a year before adult bass are stocked. However, it should be realized that fatheads will only sustain bass for a year or two, so bluegills need to be stocked as well.
Some pond owners are reluctant to stock their ponds with bluegills because of the fish’s tendency to overpopulate. Bluegills are, however, needed to provide food for bass. Without them, a good quality bass population will not develop. Bluegills are also fine sport fish if bass are able to contain their population numbers through predation so that survivors grow to desirable sizes.
Many pond owners and anglers think that 500 small or 100-250 intermediate-size bluegills are more than needed. They feel that by stocking fewer bluegills, the fish would be less likely to overpopulate. Just the opposite is true! Bluegill overpopulation usually occurs not because too many bluegills are stocked but because too few are stocked. If too few bluegills are stocked, an unusually high number of their first spawn will survive. The high survival is a result of little competition for available space. The problem is further intensified if bass are overharvested during the first season of fishing, leaving the young bluegills with no control, or if the pond is too muddy for bass to see to feed, or too vegetated for bluegills to be available to bass. Stocking 500 small or 100-250 intermediate-size bluegills per acre also produces good bluegill fishing sooner and more reliably than stocking lower densities will.
Channel catfish in moderate numbers do not compete significantly with bass or bluegills for food or space. They can be considered a “bonus fish” in that they are not an important part of the predator-prey relationship. Bass and bluegills can function just as well with or without channel catfish present. By using all three species, the pond’s potential to produce fish is more fully utilized. If properly managed, bass and bluegills need to be stocked only once. Channel catfish will need to be restocked periodically since bass will eat almost all young channel catfish that are spawned.
Sources of Fish
Pond owners can purchase fish from commercial fish growers for stocking ponds. Purchased fish are considered to be the pond owner’s livestock. Such ponds are free of any restrictions, including license requirements and harvest methods. A partial list of commercial fish growers can be obtained from any Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, Natural Resources Conservation Service or Extension Service office. A pond can be stocked with fish legally caught elsewhere but this practice is not advised because it is usually difficult to obtain adequate numbers, especially for large ponds, and wild fish are more likely to have disease problems than those raised by a commercial fish grower.
When and How to Stock
Chlorinated water should not be used to transport fish because it will kill them! Water taken directly from the pond is best. It should be obtained just before picking up fish. Water collected the day before may cool significantly during the night, causing fish to die when transferred from the delivery truck into the container.
Before fish are stocked into a pond, the temperature of the water the fish are being transported in should be equalized to the temperature of the pond. A sudden change in water temperature will cause fish to go into shock and will often result in death. Half the water in the container used to transport fish should be poured out and replaced with water from the pond. The fish should then be given 5-10 minutes to adjust to the temperature change. This procedure should be repeated until the water temperature in the container is within 3°F of that in the pond. The fish can then be released into the pond without going into shock.
New or renovated ponds are commonly stocked with fingerling (1 1/2 - to 4-inch) fish. Since these fish are small, there should be no salamanders or other fish (besides fathead minnows) in the pond before stocking. If fish or salamanders are present, the stocked fish will be quickly consumed or will be unable to compete for food. To prevent wild fish from becoming established, a pond should be stocked as soon after it fills as possible. However, it is best to avoid stocking in summer months because high temperatures and low oxygen content in the water weaken fish being transported.
The Fishing Impoundments and Stream Habitats (FISH ) program was developed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism to increase angling opportunities, and has been popular with landowners and anglers alike. FISH leases impounded water, streams, and stream access, opening most of these areas to public access from March 1 through October 31. Landowner permission is not required to fish these areas, but anglers must respect and follow the rules on these properties. Under certain conditions and in certain areas, fish produced by the Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism may be available for stocking. Consult the Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism for more information.