What to Stock Initially

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.