A great deal of study has gone into the recommendations for fish to stock in a private pond. Topping the list in most areas are Largemouth Bass, combined with Bluegill and Yellow Perch.
Easily recognizable, due to the dark stripe and significant large mouth, this is one of the most common sportfish in the country. They can live an average of 16 years, begin to spawn when they’re about a year old, and are relatively easy to introduce into most aquatic environments. When young, the Largemouth Bass eats smaller fish, large insects, crayfish (if they’re available), frogs, bats and sometimes even small birds. Adult bass eat mostly fish, and they are the predominant predator fish in most private ponds. They are also an excellent fish for enthusiastic anglers and can grow to trophy size. A record fish weighed in at just over 22 pounds!
Bluegill are a favored prey for the predator Largemouth Bass. Also called bream or brim, this fish has a small head and mouth, and often an irregular black spot at the base of the top dorsal fin. In most environments, Bluegill live between five and eight years and can grow to about 12 inches in length. They spawn from May through October in waters where the temperature is between 67 and 80 degrees and produce large numbers of young. They do well when there are adequate hiding places, such as stumps, logs and vegetation, where they can escape from predators; especially during spawning season. They feed at dawn and dusk on zooplankton and insects, and sometime on small fish, and can usually be caught with live bait and bright colors. Bluegill are not only the primary source of food for Largemouth Bass, but they also are good eating fish and can be quickly pan fried either on a campfire or at home.
Another common prey for Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch grow to be about 10 inches at maturity and live an average of 8-10 years. They are easily caught with live worms, minnow or crickets and are another tasty panfish. Yellow Perch tend to congregate along the water’s edge in reeds, weeds or other pond structures. Young perch feed on zooplankton and later feast on such things as midges and mosquitos, fish eggs, crayfish mysid shrimp and juvenile fish. In some parts of the nation, Redear Sunfish or Hybrid Sunfish are used as a supplemental prey for Largemouth Bass. To make it even more confusing, even though Perch and Sunfish belong to distinct orders of fish, the names are used interchangeably in some parts of the country. Be sure to check with your fish supplier to determine what is best for your stocking pond in your particular locale.
It is sometimes claimed that catfish is the most commonly eaten fish in the United States. That is also the reason that many stock ponds include Channel Catfish in the mix of species. The fact that catfish prefer to rest on the pond or lake floor makes that possible, because they do not typically upset the predator/prey balance of stocked fish. Channel Cats grow rapidly when they have ample food, and often reach a weight of more than five pounds. They spawn in early summer when water temperatures reach 70 to 75 degrees. Males make nest holes in a bank or log to provide protection, and they also guard young fish. They also help to cull Bluegill numbers, if the population tends to become too large. The general recommendation is to introduce about 50 catfish per acre of pond and assure that there are some shallow areas and perhaps some running water.
Other Popular Fish to Stock your Pond: Trout
If you automatically think of trout as a popular stocking fish, you’re right. Rainbow trout are adaptable, and they are often stocked in inland lakes or community ponds because they provide a great fishing experience for all ages.
Stocking trout is not as easy as you might think. Before you consider adding trout to a pond, understand that they seldom survive in warm water. Pond temperatures of 70 degrees, for more than a few hours during the summer, or inadequate water flow, can be disastrous for trout and result in devastating fish kills. If you determine that your pond will support trout, they may be stocked either in spring or fall, but should always be purchased from a reputable supplier. Trout may also require supplemental feeding to encourage growth.
This species is stocked in some national park lakes in Colorado because of the challenge they offer for serious anglers. Channel catfish (primarily in southern states) and Walleye (especially in Minnesota) are stocked for the same reason in many parts of the country. Popular fish can vary greatly from one region to another, but any fish that is popular for eating is usually also popular for stocking.
Triploid Grass Carp
A sterile fish that does not reproduce, the Triploid Grass Carp can be instrumental for control of aquatic weeds in a recreational pond. They have no significant effect on the bass and bream populations that are the bulk of the pond populations.
Adding some fast-growing tilapia to the pond population mix is a practice in some parts of the country, used for additional forage for bass and as an aid to aquatic weed control. In colder climates, the tropical tilapia often dies out, so they typically must be restocked each year. In some warmer climates, however, the species are highly regulated, and having some types of Tilapia in states like Texas is illegal. It is always advisable to check stocking regulations before ordering, transporting, or stocking fish in a private pond.
Although it might be tempting to add Crappie to your pond because they are prolific breeders and are good for eating, it is not usually recommended by professional pond managers or biologists due to their abundant reproduction . If this sounds like a Catch-22 situation, that’s exactly the point, according to Texas A&M Agrilife. After a few years, and following a spectacular Crappie spawning season, which can occur regularly, the population will be so large that even hungry Largemouth Bass will be unable to eat enough to keep Crappie numbers in check. The inevitable result is a decline of pond health and fishing viability. Ultimately, the food chain will be so adversely affected and severely damaged that it cannot recover. So, the best advice is “Just don’t stock crappie.”