Stocking Your Pond With Fish

Insight on How To Stock Your Pond With Fish

Thinking of putting fish in your pond?

Sept 26, 2013 – More and more pond owners are stocking their ponds with fish. Whether it’s just for the sake of having fish in the water to help keep it healthy and clean or for providing a recreational activity for you and your family.

Maybe you already have a pond on your property and don’t even realize that there are fish in it. Here are the following steps that should be taken in order to create a Great Pond for Fishing.

Every pond is unique and depending on the soil and environmental conditions that exist with your pond will determine the type of fish that will either flourish or die. To have a great fishing pond you will need to look at all the costs associated with building and maintaining one. Make no mistake, a great fishing pond does not exist without first putting some investment and effort into managing your ponds ecosystem. Here are some tips to consider when stocking your pond with fish.

1) Determine what Kind of Pond you have and the Ecosystem which Currently Exists

Your Pond’s Fish Habitat Includes:

  • Physical Features – Surface area and Depth of pond and amount of aquatic plants define the physical structure of a fish environment
  • Chemical Components – Soil and water source are often things that define the chemical composition of your pond’s water
  • Biological Factors – what other forms of wildlife exists in your pond that can be both detrimental or beneficial to fish health
  • Temperature Characteristics – most ponds can be categorized as either coldwater ponds (water temperatures seldom exceeding 70°) or warm water ponds (water temperatures regularly exceed 70°). This distinction helps to identify what kinds of fish can be sustained in your pond. Water temperatures can be determined both by the water source feeding the pond and geographical location of the pond. Measure the temperatures of your pond during the fours seasons of the year.
  • Current Fish – what are the current types of fish that live in your pond

2) Identify the Water Source for Your Pond

Where is your pond going to get or getting its water from? Ground water usually maintains colder temperatures during the summer months opposed to water being inputted from a surface source such as stream or reservoir.

3) Depth of Your Pond

Ponds are usually constructed with depths between 6 and 8 feet, and with a maximum depth not greater than 10 to 12 feet. Natural ponds can be found with a wide variety of depths. An average depth of less than 6 feet greatly increases the probability of aquatic vegetation becoming established in the pond, and depths greater than 12 feet are not necessary for good fish production. Steep pond slopes help prevent the growth of nuisance aquatic vegetation, which can also become an important feature of the pond habitat. Vegetation isn’t necessarily bad for fish production. In fact, in many inland lakes vegetation provides important nursery and feeding habitat, but a pond choked full of vegetation seldom provides good fish habitat.

4) Pond Water Quality

Fertilizers contain phosphorus and nitrogen and are familiar nutrients that are used for grass and gardens. Run off into ponds that bring with it enormous amounts of these nutrients can excessively enrich a pond to unhealthy levels that cause an uncontrollable rate of growth of aquatic vegetation. Vegetation such as algae and weeds are most common by products. Thousands of Pond Owners a year are turning to more natural ways to ensure this does not happen. They are using windmill aeration systems to aerate their ponds.

Farmers have been aerating their ponds for almost 20 years and in the last 5 years we have seen a huge increase in residential pond owners doing the same thing. Pond Aeration has proven that by adding significant levels of additional oxygen to your pond you can essentially burn off excess nutrients that are saturated in the water and avoid unhealthy levels of aquatic vegetation growth.

Learn more about pond aeration, pond pumps, and read articles on windmill aeration.

Other Ponds that Are Affected By Runoff
Farmers and Golf Course owners tend to use large amounts of fertilizes which influence nutrient levels and water quality of their ponds. Runoff from cropland can increase the amount of sediment reaching the pond and may also contain potential toxic agricultural chemicals. Runoff from pastures and livestock holding areas is rich in nutrients from animal wastes. Runoff in residential, urban, and industrial areas may contain substances (such as chemicals, oils, and sediment from construction activities) that can adversely affect a pond’s water quality.

Again, in these cases oxygen can be an enormous benefit to maintaining a healthy pond. The oxygen level is an important aspect of pond water quality. High nutrient levels that produce algae blooms eventually result in decaying vegetation that use up available dissolved oxygen. Fish kills often result from a lack of oxygen or, under extreme circumstances, the presence of toxic algae. During hot weather most ponds have a layer of water near the bottom that contains little or no dissolved oxygen. When high winds or cold rain cause this water to mix with the upper pond water, oxygen levels often drop to levels that can kill fish.

5) Spawning Habitat

Depending on the type of fish that you are looking at stocking in your pond and the ones that you would like to reproduce will be very dependent on the type of pond you have or would like to build. For example, trout will not reproduce in farm ponds because most of these ponds lack a suitable spawning habitat. For trout, you require a gravel area through which groundwater flows during winter months. Groundwater provides over-wintering eggs with fresh oxygen-rich water and keeps them from being smothered by silt deposits.

On the other hand Bass and Sunfish rarely have an issue with reproducing. The problem with these types of fish is usually controlling the production, or overpopulation. These fish usually reproduce in warm shallow areas and grow in numbers many a time to a point that outgrows the pond’s ability to produce enough food to sustain steady population growth. This results in a population of small fish with the inability to grow bigger.

6) Fish Suitable for Your Pond

You will need to experiment with the types of fish that are most accommodating to your pond and its location – in order to satisfy your dream of successfully raising fish in a private pond.

Fish populations continually change and never reach an ideal state of balance without constant management, Fisheries Biologists sometimes call this effort of determining the satisfactory relationships between predator and prey of fish populations as balance. Balance is the key to maintaining healthy fish population. In order to achieve this there are three main factors that you need to be aware of:

  • Amount of fish of harvestable size in your pond
  • Annual reproduction of each species in your pond
  • What combination of fish should you have in your pond, including at least one predator species?

To find out what types of fish are ideal for your region and or pond you should contact your local wildlife association. This again is only a starting point for all ponds are different. Be patient as you determine which species are best for your pond. It will be a process that may take a few years and as you learn more continue to adjust your pond management processes.

Other Resources that may come in handy:

  • USDA Natural Resources Booklet on “Ponds – Planning, Design, Construction.”
  • Conservation Service (NRCS) Agriculture Handbook 590.information on design surveys, site selection, drainage area, pond layouts, soil analysis and spillway construction. Contact your county NRCS office to obtain a copy.

Permit Requirements
For additional information on permit requirements for stocking fish in farm ponds, as well as contact information for fish suppliers, contact the nearest regional office of the Department of Environmental Conservation.