Private Pond Stocking
I screamed as the 8-inch bluegill pulled line from my Zebco 33 reel. The fight was on. I looked over to see if my dad was watching my magnificent catch, but he was grabbing a 4-pound largemouth bass by the lower lip. That day of fishing at the pond when I was just 7 years old is the first fishing trip I remember. I’m sure it helped turn me into an outdoor fanatic.
No doubt, many Missouri anglers started out pond fishing. Missouri ranks at the top nationally in the number of small impoundments on private lands.
The more than 300,000 privately owned ponds and lakes in Missouri offer impressive fishing potential. A quick peek at our state records shows that seven record fish came from farm ponds, including the state record white crappie, bluegill and black crappie.
Quality pond fishing starts with introducing fish to the pond. Stocking is used when a new pond fishery is being created, to supplement ponds that have poor fish production, or to restore fish populations in ponds that have fallen victim to fish kills.
What Fish are Best?
Years of research with fish stockings have demonstrated that largemouth bass and bluegill are the two species best suited for stocking in most ponds. Channel catfish are often stocked along with bass and bluegill to provide additional fishing and harvest opportunities.
Hard-fighting largemouth bass will be the top predators in your pond. Bass are voracious eaters that feed on small fish, frogs, crawfish and insects. In Missouri, largemouth bass live for six to 10 years unless they are harvested.
Bluegills provide food for largemouth bass as well as great sport and excellent table fare for anglers. Bluegills eat everything from microscopic plants and animals to insects, snails, crayfish and small fish. They can reach 6 inches long and start reproducing after just one year. Once introduced into a pond, they usually sustain their numbers through natural reproduction. Bluegills in Missouri may live five to 10 years.
Channel catfish are primarily bottom feeders, eating insects, crayfish and fish. They canbe trained to feed on commercial food pellets. Populations of channel catfish rarely increase in ponds as the bass eat all the young ones. A supplemental stocking of channel catfish longer than 8 inches every two to three years is needed to sustain a fishery.
How Many Do I Need?
The number of bluegill, bass and channel catfish that a pond can support depends on the amount of