Fish stocking is an important part of any lake management program. The choice of fish to stock depends on the lake owner’s goals and, of course, on the resources available. Although lakes are not necessarily easy to manage, it is very difficult to manage a pond of less than 1 acre for bass and bluegill. If your pond is less than 1 acre, catfish will be your best option.
The most common stocking strategy is to combine largemouth bass and bluegill (or other bream type). The combination of bass and bream generally works well in ponds larger than 1 acre and provides excellent fishing for both species indefinitely because of their relationship.
The best part of the bass and bluegill lake system is its simplicity. In a well-fertilized pond, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and insect larvae will be abundant enough to supply food for bass fry and all sizes of bluegill. The bluegill will reproduce and grow rapidly with the abundant food and provide excellent forage for bass. As long as bass are not over-harvested they will keep bluegill from overpopulating. However, some large bluegill will survive bass predation to provide good bluegill angling.
Another option allows channel catfish to be added to a bass and bluegill pond, but be aware that catfish will consume a portion of the food supply and slightly reduced the total pounds of bass and bluegill the pond can maintain. So yes, their are options, but be aware of what you want before you stock fish into your lake or pond.
Recommended stocking rates vary by lake size, location, condition of the lake, and the desires of the lake owner. Once you determine the species of interests and the proper fish stocking rate, you can move forward with finding a place to purchase fish. A typical lake larger than 1 acre, that will be fertilized and properly maintained, should be stocked with 1,000 bluegill fingerlings (or 60 adults), 100 largemouth bass, and 100 channel catfish per acre. Of course, you can also purchase more bluegill and adult bass to jump start your lake management program.
Bass, forage fishes, and catfish for stocking new or renovated ponds can be obtained from private hatcheries. Private hatcheries will deliver directly to lakes and can provide fish at almost any time of the year. Many offer varieties or hybrids that have been selected for rapid growth, so research your area and create a list of private hatcheries that can supply fish for your lake.
Stocking of 3-to 5-inch bluegill is most often done in the fall or early winter. The bluegill will grow and spawn by the following spring. Bass are stocked in late May or June and grow rapidly, feeding on the new bluegill fry. Bluegill will spawn two or three more times before fall, providing adequate forage for the bass. Bass growth should average 1/4 to 1/2 pound in the first year and can approach 2 pounds if forage is plentiful. Catfish can be stocked in your lake during the fall or spring. If stocked together always stock catfish as large or larger than the bass. Channel catfish usually cannot successfully reproduce in ponds with bass and bluegill populations and will have to be restocked as they are fished out.
Species that should not be stocked into ponds, or should be stocked only under certain conditions, include crappie, flathead catfish, common carp, and green sunfish. Lakes larger than 15 acres can accomodate crappie, but do not stock them if you are not ready to catch them.
Black and white crappie may pose management problems in small ponds in that they overpopulate and become stunted at sizes too small to be harvested. Under these conditions they compete with both bass and bluegill for food. Crappie can be stocked lakes larger than 25 acres, but only after largemouth bass have been initially stocked have spawned several times. Also, largemouth bass harvest must be carefully controlled to ensure enough bass in the lake to control crappie numbers.
Flathead catfish are voracious eaters, cannibalistic, and grow large enough to prey on even large bass. Other species that should not be stocked into farm ponds are common carp and bullhead cattish. Common carp can overpopulate rapidly, eat eggs of other fish, compete for food and muddy the pond through their bottom feeding activity. These species also compete for the available food resources and that can affect the survival of desirable fish, and the success of your lake management efforts.
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