Stocking Your Warm-Water Pond

Generally speaking, pond owners will want to stock a predator species (bass, channel catfish) and forage species (bluegill, black crappie, pumpkinseed, bullhead (brown or yellow), mosquito fish).

If you decide to go with a predator/forage fish for stocking, maximum growth and production will occur 2-3 years after stocking.  After that time, you will want to harvest your pond heavily by removing as much as 50% of the fish population annually.  In a natural (unfertilized) pond, your annual fish yield should be approximately 15-35 pounds.   Be sure to leave enough fish of spawning size to ensure continued reproduction in your pond.  After stocking bass, they should not be fished until they have successfully reproduced (1-3 years after stocking). 

Everyone has their own "secret recipe" for successful pond stocking.  Basically, you should do what makes sense to you with one important element--try to stock fish of equal size, especially when adequate cover to protect "little ones" is lacking.  In other words, if you have a pond with relatively little cover, and you have several big bass in the pond, you will want to stock several large bluegills, rather than stocking fingerling bluegills.  If you want to stock bass and trout, again try to use stock of equal sizes.  

Many people want to stock warm-water species along with trout.  Again, you may stock whatever fish you want into your ponds (within legal restrictions on species and biological requirements for the fish). The important factor when stocking warm-water fish and cold-water fish together is that conditions seldom occur where both species will have favorable water temperatures needed for successful spawning. For a bass/trout pond, the bass should reproduce and should continue to provide bass for many years.  You will need to restock trout every so many years as they will likely not reproduce in a pond.

In reality, there are several stocking options, and you probably have some of your own ideas, too.  Some of the most common stocking approaches are:

  1. Stock all fingerlings at the same time

  2. Stock bluegill the first year and bass the following year.  The bluegill will multiply and provide an adequate food supply for the bass.

  3. Stock larger bass and bluegill at the same time

Although there are recommended stocking rates, even these vary among the experts.  So there is no magical, sure-fired way to ensure the best for your pond.  Instead, stock the number of fish you want when you want and be sure to monitor fish growth and reproduction so that you harvest your fish adequately.  Reasonable removal of fish on an annual basis will negate overcrowding of fish and associated problems such as stunting and cannibalism.