Stocking your pond can be one of the trickiest aspects of making your dream pond a reality. Whether it’s something sporty like trophy bass or something a bit more for the kids like rainbow trout, with the sheer amount of fish species to choose from it’s easy to become lost. At AES we work clients across Georgia, the Southeast and beyond to help them achieve their fishery goals. With your goals and budget in mind we will create an individual plan to best utilize your time and resources. A thrown together stocking plan will only cause headache and more money down the road. AES biologists will only stock your lake or pond with the correct quantities, sizes, and species necessary to help you meet your fishery goals.
Although many clients enjoy catching big bass we understand that not everyone shares those views. Some want to construct a small pond with fast and furious action for their grand kids. A plan like this might include bluegill, hybrid striped bass and a fish feeder. Others don’t want the hassle of liming, fertilizing, and forage stocking but still want quality bass. In this instance a feed trained bass fishery would be best.
If the pond already has fish in it we recommend an electrofishing survey Blindly stocking fish based on what the past property owner said or fishing results usually has ill-fated results. Electrofishing gives our biologist a snapshot of what’s happening underwater. Maybe you need to stock bluegill or maybe you have plenty of bluegill and it’s a better use of budget to stock crayfish. Our value goes beyond just stocking fish.
Fish Species That We Stock
Trophy Bass Stocking
Largemouth bass are the preferred game fish in the U.S. providing exciting fishing for anglers. They eat just about anything that they can fit into their mouths making it the top end predator in most ponds. Largemouth bass begin to spawn when the water temperature reaches 63-68°F, normally once a year in the early spring before bluegill begin to spawn. There are two known subspecies, Florida and Northern. Florida bass are known to grow quite large but research has shown them to be less aggressive when adults, making them harder to catch. Northern bass are more aggressive but do not have the top end potential of Florida bass. There is also the F1, which is a cross between the two having the best characteristics of both subspecies (aggressive and grows big in size). You can also have Fx bass (due to years of inbreeding of both genetics) that are a mix of genetics of both subspecies.
Grass Carp Stocking
Stocking grass carp provides the best long term solution in controlling weeds. They eat up to 5 times their body weight in one day. In order to stock and keep grass carp in a lake, a barrier may need to be placed at the spillway, depending on the design, to prevent the grass carp from escaping. Grass carp love flowing water and might escape, via the spillway. Grass carp are very effective in controlling submersed weeds. However, they have very little impact on filamentous algae, duckweed, and watermeal.
Coppernose Bluegill Stocking
Known as bream to many, they are the backbone of forage production for largemouth bass ponds. Bluegill are very prolific, reproducing multiple times a season (3-5 times/year). This provides trophy bass with a large quantity of food while still allowing themselves to sustain a healthy thriving population. They spawn in large colonies of nests in 3 to 6 feet in depth over sandy and gravel substrates close to the shore. Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach 67-70°F. Bluegill readily eat floating fish food and have great growth rates from supplemental feeding. They also provide excellent fishing opportunities for kids and novice fishermen. There are two subspecies, native (also called Mississippi) and coppernose. The coppernose are better suited for warm climates and are very aggressive when supplemental feeding.
Redear Sunfish Stocking
Also known as bream, they occupy a different ecological niche than bluegill, improving the utilization of the ponds natural productivity. Redear Sunfish eat snails along with other invertebrates present in the pond and reduce the incidence of some fish parasites (i.e., grubs, flatworms) that use a snail as a intermediate host. Similar to other bream species, Redear Sunfish are a favorite prey fish for bass. They grow larger than bluegill, but they are not as prolific, since they reproduce only once per year. Redear sunfish are distinguished from bluegill by the presence of a red or orange opercula tab.
Fathead Minnow Stocking
Fathead minnows are stocked only in new lakes at the same time the bluegill and redear sunfish are stocked. Fathead minnows provide an excellent forage species for young, newly stocked bass, and help reduce feeding pressure on the bluegill from the bass. Fathead minnows will reproduce at a high rate, but will become almost non-existent after a year or so do to predation from the bass. However, during the time that the fathead minnows population numbers are high, the bluegill are flourishing and getting a head start on the bass due to less pressure from the bass. This is why fathead minnows play such a critical role in a newly stocked lake.
Threadfin Shad Stocking
Threadfin shad occupy an additional niche in the ecosystem and improve lake productivity since they mostly feed on phytoplankton. Threadfin shad provide a rich and abundant source of protein for largemouth bass. It is critical for establishment to stock in the spring with spawn ready shad. This means adult size (>2 inches) shad are gathered when they are surfacing in efforts to spawn. Shad do best in fertile ponds since they are filter feeders.
Gizzard Shad Stocking
Gizzard shad are filter feeders and also feed on benthic organisms. Like threadfin shad, gizzard shad do best in a fertile pond. Gizzard shad provide an excellent forage species for largemouth bass, however they do grow large in size and can become too big for a bass to eat. Though gizzard shad are excellent when a lake owner wants to grow trophy size bass, they do have their drawbacks and should be properly managed when stocked into a lake.
Golden Shiner Stocking
Golden shiners feed on small aquatic organisms and provide an additional forage species for largemouth bass. They are known to eat the eggs of other species. This provides a management concern. However, this can help to keep the bass population from becoming over abundant. They routinely reach sizes up to 10 inches in length providing a larger prey item than threadfin shad.
Black Crappie Stocking
This is a desirable species for many fishermen, however they can have a negative impact on the fishery. Spawning occurs when the water temperature reaches 62-65°F. This allows the crappie to get a head start on other species in the pond giving them a large recruitment class (i.e. small fish survive to reach a larger size). This results in the crappie fingerlings growing too big to serve as food for small bass and they compete with and predate small largemouth bass. This can lead to a rapidly expanding crappie population in a small pond. As the crappie population grows, so does the competition between crappie and bass resulting in decreased growth in both species.
Hybrid Striped Bass Stocking
Hybrid striped bass are also called wipers, sunbass or just hybrids. They are a cross of a white bass and striped bass. They are very aggressive and fast growing when stocked in the right environment. Their growth rates are shown to be higher in waters with hardness levels above 50 ppm. To grow trophy Hybrid striped bass, they should be stocked in ponds having a threadfin shad population and/or a supplemental feeding program. There are no issues when stocked along with largemouth bass when supplemental food is in place with little impact on the largemouth. They of course do not reproduce making them easy to manage. They put up an excellent fight for their size.
Channel Catfish Stocking
Channel Catfish provide a great game fish for children and novice fishermen while diversifying the fishing options in the lake. Channel catfish cannot reproduce successfully in the presence of bass and remain on the bottom of the pond occupying a different ecological niche. They compete very little with bass before they reach 2 lbs of weight because catfish mostly feed on fish food (if provided) or invertebrates. However, once they reach 2 lbs, they compete with bass for forage.
Called swamp bugs, crawfish, crawdads, or crayfish they are an asset to growing big bass. Stocking rates are less for a new pond than existing lake. Establishment is accomplished with 40 lbs/acre. Crayfish occupy a different niche and in the right environment aid in bass growth. They create a situation where the bass bite better as well. Crayfish thrive when they have hiding places. Thick trees are good, but rock and concrete are even better. They also need a high hardness, something that should be achieved with a good lime application.
Rainbow Trout Stocking
Rainbow trout provide a good game fish for children and novice fishermen. Rainbow trout are aggressive fish that bite well during the cooler months of the year when other fish are not as active and survive temperatures up to 74ºF.
Goldfish provide great bass forage for several reasons: more “plump” than golden shiners and small bluegill meaning they provide a more energy packed forage since they higher calorie content, very slow swimmers making them very easy for largemouth bass to consume, no defense mechanisms such as hard spines like bluegill, highly visible making them easy for largemouth bass to track down, and relieve predation pressure on the bluegill population allowing the bluegill population to increase.