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Man holding large fish

Species Selection and Stocking is part two of seven in the Management of Recreational Fish Ponds series.

The choice of fish to stock depends on the pond owner’s goals and on the resources available. It is very difficult to manage a pond of less than 1/2 acre for bass and bluegill. If your pond is less than 1/2 acre, catfish is probably your best choice. Other combinations such as hybrid bluegill and bass or hybrid bluegill and bass and catfish are possible stocking options (see Alternative Stocking).

The largemouth bass and bluegill sunfish (or largemouth bass, bluegill, and shellcracker) combination is the most common stocking strategy used in the Southeast. The combination generally works well in ponds larger than 1/2 acre and provides excellent fishing for both species indefinitely.

Bluegill

Bluegill

Largemouth bass

Largemouth bass

Table 1. Recommended Bass-Bream-Catfish Stocking Rates for New or Renovated Ponds of More Than 1/2 Acre

SpeciesFertilized Yes/NoNumber to Stock/Acre
Bluegill(bg/shellcracker(sc)yes1,000 bg
Bluegill(bg/shellcracker(sc)or800 bg & 200 sc
Bluegill(bg/shellcracker(sc)no500
Bassyes75 to 100
Bassno50
Catfishyes50 to 100
Catfishno25

Bass, bream, catfish, and other fish for stocking new or renovated ponds may be obtained from private hatcheries and consultants in Alabama and surrounding areas. Private hatcheries will deliver directly to ponds and can provide fish at almost any time of the year (after February 1), Contact your county Extension office for lists of private hatcheries that sell fish in Alabama.

Stocking of 2- to 3-inch bream is most often done in the fall or 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 exceed 1 pound if forage is plentiful. Catfish can be stocked in fall or spring. If stocked together, always stock catfish as large or larger than the bass. 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 farm ponds or should be stocked only under certain conditions include crappie, shad, flathead catfish, common carp, and shiners. Pond owners should work with a qualified fisheries biologist if they stock these species.

Crappie (both black and white) may pose management problems in small ponds in that they overpopulate and stunt at sizes too small to be harvested. Under these conditions, they compete with both bass and bream for food. Crappie can be stocked in larger farm ponds (greater than 25 acres), but only after the largemouth bass initially stocked have spawned several times. Also, largemouth bass harvest must be carefully controlled to ensure enough bass in the pond to control crappie numbers.

Stocking gizzard and threadfin shad can have either positive or negative effects. Stocking shad into established largemouth bass and bream populations can result in reduced fish (particularly bream) for harvest. Threadfin shad can be an excellent enhancement for the growth of largemouth bass in ponds larger than 7 to 8 acres. Bass may eliminate threadfin shad in smaller ponds. While the addition of threadfin shad may reduce the abundance of bluegill, anglers may not notice the decline. Unfortunately,  cold winters may kill threadfin shad requiring that the population be reestablished. Reestablishing threadfin shad can be difficult if the bass population is already large in the pond. Because of their large size, gizzard shad should only be stocked into ponds that are managed to produce trophy largemouth bass. Large populations of gizzard shad will reduce bream abundance and compromise the growth of smaller bass. In trophy bass ponds, anglers should expect to catch a few large bass and a few small, probably thin bass and bream.

Dotted gizzard shad

Dotted gizzard shad

threadfin

Threadfin

Flathead catfish are voracious eaters and cannibalistic, and they grow large enough to prey on even large bass. Other species that should not be stocked into farm ponds are common carp and bullhead catfish. 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.

Management of Recreational Fish Ponds Series

 

 

 

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