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Stocking Ponds

Watch a video on pond stocking.

Big Largemouth BassProper stocking is the most critical step to developing quality fishing in a pond.  The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division recommends that bass and bream ponds be at least ¼ surface acre in size (1/2-acre if pond is not to be fertilized).  Ponds that are small are difficult to keep in balance. If a pond is smaller than 1/4-acre, a catfish only pond is the most viable sport fishing option.  Pond size should be measured carefully before stocking to ensure the proper numbers of fish are stocked.

It is critical that ponds be free of wild fish before stocking. Assume that fish are present, even if none are seen. An existing pond should be drained as much as possible and any puddles or potholes treated to kill fish.  New and old ponds should be filled with water after the water temperatures stabilize below 60oF usually in October.

Ponds stocked with fingerling fish at the proper rate and proper time have a greater chance of success and typically result in better fishing than those stocked with adult fish.  Fingerlings are also less expensive.  Bream, a mixture of bluegill (80-90%) and redear sunfish (10-20%), should be stocked after water temperatures stabilize below 60oF, October through March. For fertilized ponds, stock 1,000 to 1,500 bream per surface acre.  For unfertilized ponds, stock half as many bream per surface acre.

Largemouth bass are stocked during May or June after the bream are stocked the previous fall or winter.  For fertilized ponds, stock 100 largemouth bass fingerlings per surface acre.  For unfertilized ponds, stock 50 bass per acre.  Harvest should start one year after the bass fingerlings are stocked.  From decades of research on bass-bream ponds, those stocked with the recommended rate of largemouth bass and bream (bluegill and redear sunfish) have proven to provide a perpetual fishery, if bass and bream are harvested correctly. Some pond owners prefer to stock the Florida strain of largemouth bass, as that strain has shown it will grow larger than the northern strain, but the Florida strain is more difficult to catch, sometimes resulting in a bass crowded condition.  Therefore, other pond owners have found the northern strain largemouth bass is preferable since it is easier to catch. Finally, some pond owners may prefer a genetic cross between a Florida and northern strain, but regardless of the strain chosen by the pond owner, sufficient numbers of bass must be harvested annually to maintain good growth and recruitment in the pond.

Channel CatfishChannel catfish can be added to a pond at any time with little effect on the bream and bass if fewer than a hundred per acre are stocked in a fertilized pond. An unfertilized pond can only support half that many channel catfish. When stocking channel catfish in an existing pond with adult bass, the catfish need to be 10-inches or longer to reduced predation by the bass.

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division no longer sells bream or bass to private pond owners. Contact your District Fisheries Office or local Alabama Cooperative Extension System Office for a list of suppliers for stocking your pond.

Do not haphazardly stock fish from a neighbor’s pond or nearby stream, as poor fishing will likely result. Money spent on proper stocking will be cheaper than trying to correct a pond with an unbalanced fish population.

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