The Ecology of a Fish Stocking Pond

The intent of a stocking pond is to have an environment that is as conducive as possible for fish growth and survival, no matter what the ultimate purpose of the pond might be. Adding to a community’s recreational fishing options is every bit as lofty of a goal as providing food for your own family in a rural setting that also allows you to raise crops and other animals. The development of a fish stocking pond involves much more than simply excavating a pit and filling it with water.

Requirements for designing and building stocking ponds in Northern Michigan or Minnesota will be essentially different from the needs of pond owners in Colorado and Utah, in New Mexico or Texas, or in South Carolina, Florida or Mississippi. It is always wise to consult with your region’s regulatory agencies, university extension agents and fisheries biologists.

Obviously, not all fish species are ideally suited to pond life, and ponds should be designed to support the specific types of fish that will thrive in the climate and with the environment of your location. Basic considerations for a pond include size, depth, water temperature and quality, runoff and drainage, aeration, vegetation, local wildlife and non-aquatic predators, and the existing and potential food chain.   

Although you will want to determine your priorities at the outset and study the best ways to achieve your individual goals, some basic principals apply. BTL can serve not only as a resource for information, but also supplies the most effective, reliable pond liners on the market today. AquaArmor was developed to resist harsh UV radiation and protect your pond for years to come. In addition, AquaArmor is 100% safe for both fish and plant life and it will not harm the environment.

Fertilizing Your Stocking Pond

The practice of fertilizing a recreational fishpond is the subject of some debate, and whether you choose to fertilize or not is largely a personal decision. According to the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson University, “A fertilization schedule can dramatically improve fish production in ponds by up to 300 percent, and fertilization can also decrease aquatic weed problems by shading the pond bottom, so that aquatic weeds have less of an opportunity to grow. A well-managed recreational fishpond that has a good fertilization program can sustain harvests of 125 pounds of fish per acre per year for a number of years.”

However, not all ponds need such fertilization. If you practice supplementary feeding, you will be unable to fertilize your pond, and fertilization is not likely to be practical or successful if you have substantial aquatic weeds or if the water exchange exceeds five percent by volume daily. Also, if you want a clear-water pond, you will probably not wish to fertilize, even though fish yield might be improved through fertilization.

Fertilizing increases production of the free-floating microscopic algae known as phytoplankton that forms the basis of the food chain in a fishpond. That boosts fish production and over time increases the number of harvestable fish. According to the Clemson report, the harvest of a fertilized pond might be triple that of an unfertilized pond.

Harvesting Fish from a Recreational Pond

Once your pond is stocked, it’s necessary to wait approximately one year – sometimes even longer --before you begin to harvest (catch) fish. The reason? You’ll want to ensure that the fish have become accustomed to pond life, that the population is in balance and, most importantly, that the mature Largemouth Bass (assuming that’s what you’ve stocked as predator fish) have had a chance to spawn and that they will continue to replenish your stock. They spawn only once a year, typically in spring, while other species can spawn twice a year, or even more frequently.

A Planned Approach Takes Time

It is almost universally agreed that spring is the best time to begin stocking a new fishpond. However, it should not be a quick process, according to Todd Sink, Ph.D., with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Instead, he notes, a planned approach that will result in a “finely-tuned” pond environment, might require up to three years to get right. He adds that rushing the stocking process by stocking the wrong fish, in the wrong order, can lead to years of required remediation.

His advice is to begin with water testing that allows pond owners to understand the basic pond environment and make initial adjustments to provide for optimal food chain and fish health. Read the full discussion here to understand more about pond additions and adjustments that can help stabilize the pond environment and ecosystem before you begin to add fish.

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