Stocking a Pond

Tips on what types of fish to stock in your pond or small lake.

By Alan Clemons

For those wanting to manage their lakes or ponds for optimum fishing, predators and forage species should be stocked in spring at appropriate rates to avoid overpopulation.

Bluegills, various minnow species and threadfin shad are great forage species. They reproduce prolifically and provide ample food. Bluegills spawn at about 70 degrees F, so they’ll have at least 2 major spawns in one year, if not more. Rainbow trout are super for stocking in autumn, says Matt Euten of Southeastern Pond Management in Birmingham, Ala., because they’re a wintertime fishing option and may provide predator fish with a food source. In warmer climates, however, they may die in spring due to high water temperatures.

As for predators, bass are the most popular. Other examples include the northern pike, brook trout and walleye.

Barry Smith with American Sport Fish says a 10-to-1 stocking rate—for instance 1,000 bluegill per acre and 100 bass per acre in fertilized lakes—is a good starting point. In lakes being more intensely managed for trophy bass fishing, he says that ratio may be as high as 25- or 30-to-1.

Jerry Smitka, a biologist formerly with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, says bass are stocked in northern ponds and lakes, but not as much as down south. “Possibly 50% of the ponds might be managed by casually stocking with rainbow trout or brook trout,” Smitka says. “Twenty-five percent might be stocked with largemouth bass, while the remainder are not managed for fish but rather are enjoyed for their beauty.”

On the flip side of stocking your pond, good management may also involve removing appropriate recommended numbers of fish each year—typically, about 30 pounds of bream and bass per acre. That’s important because 100% catch-and-release can create unhealthy populations.

Crappie and catfish should be avoided as stocking options. “I highly discourage the addition of crappie and catfish into a lake with bass and bluegills,” Euten says. “My main thing is to keep it simple. [Stock] one predator species and several forage options, such as threadfin shad, golden shiners and bluegills. The simpler, the better.”

Contact your state or provincial wildlife or natural resource management agency, county extension service or a certified fisheries specialist about stocking your lake or pond and for information on supplemental feed for your fish.

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