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Home / Fisheries / How To Build A Farm Pond / Stocking

How To Build a Farm Pond

Introduction   |   Planning   |   Construction   |    Stocking

Stock ponds with fish only from reliable fish hatcheries to prevent bringing in undesirable fish species, parasites, or diseases. Consult the district offices of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, your Natural Resources Conservation Service office, your county Extension office, or download the publication Sport Fish Suppliers and Stocking Guidelines for Stocking Mississippi Ponds for a list of licensed game fish hatcheries in Mississippi.

Selecting a Supplier

As a pond owner, you face decisions in selecting a fish supplier. Here are some questions to ask before making an informed decision:

  • Is there a warranty on the fish? Keep in mind that fish may be delivered alive but may die several days later because of hauling stress, insufficient tempering to the pond water, or disease. Get it in writing!
  • Does the supplier produce the fish or buy them from a third party? Vendors who produce their own fish are more likely to know the health history of the fish.
  • What species and sizes of fish do they supply? Not all suppliers sell all species of fish, and the sizes, strains, or reproductive capacity might not be right for your pond.
  • References! Ask to contact some of their satisfied customers! Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau from its state. Remember, commercial fish producers are in the business of selling fish. It is not in your best interest to get your stocking recommendations from them. Your county Extension agent, local Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks biologist, specialist from the Wildlife & Fisheries Department at Mississippi State University, or NRCS biologist can assist you with stocking plans free of charge.

Recommended stocking rates (number of fish fingerlings per acre) and species combinations for farm ponds larger than one acre. Stock all species except bass in the fall, when the pond is at least half full and filling, and then stock bass the following spring. Use the regular (Reg) stocking rates unless you intend to immediately initiate and maintain a fertilization program. If you will fertilize, use the ferlized (Fert) stocking rates.
Stocking combination Largemouth Bassa Bluegill Redear Sunfish Channel Catfishb Fathead minnowsc Grass carpd,e
Reg Fert Reg Fert Reg Fert Reg Fert Reg Fert Reg Fert
Bass-Bluegill 50 100 500 1,000 -- -- -- -- 10 lbs 10 lbs 5 5
Bass-Bluegill-Catfish 50 100 500 1,000 -- -- 50 100 10 lbs 10 lbs 5 5
Bass-Bluegill-Redear 50 100 350 700 150 300 -- -- 10 lbs 10 lbs 5 5
Bass-Bluegill-Redear-Channel Catfish 50 100 350 700 150 300 50 100 10 lbs 10 lbs 5 5
Channel Catfish Only 25 -- -- -- -- -- 150 -- -- -- 5 5
aNo additional stocking is necessary after the initial stocking of largemouth bass, bluegill, or redear.

bChannel catfish will not reproduce well in ponds with bass and must be replaced when they have been removed. Stock 8- to 10-inch catfish when bass are present.

cFathead minnows are optional for bass ponds and will provide extra food and faster growth. However, they are quickly eliminated and must be restocked on a regular basis as desired.

dGrass carp are recommended to prevent aquatic week growth. Large grass carp (20 lbs) are not as effective at controlling weeds, so restock 2 to 3 grass carp every 5 to 7 years to maintain control.

ePonds over 10 acres with significant open water should stock only three grass carp per acre.

Stocking Recommendations for Ponds One Acre of Larger

Releasing Fish

It is important to stock a pond in the proper order and with the recommended numbers to achieve a balanced fish population. To begin, choose the desired stocking combination from above, and stock those species as follows:

  • Stock fingerling bream (bluegill and redear sunfish), catfish, triploid grass carp, and fathead minnows in the fall or winter. The pond should be at least half full and filling.
    • Stock 500 bream per acre. This can be all bluegill, or if desired, 350 bluegill and 150 redear sunfish.
    • If you want channel catfish in your pond, stock at 50 catfish per acre.
    • Stock five triploid grass carp per acre to avoid weed problems. For lakes larger than 10 acres that have much open water, stock three grass carp per acre.
    • Fathead minnows can be stocked at 3 pounds per acre with bluegill in the fall or winter to provide additional prey (optional).
  • Stock 50 largemouth bass per acre the following spring when the bream and fathead minnows are ready to spawn. This ensures that small bream and minnows are available for the small bass.
    • The stocking ratio of bream to bass should be 10 to 1.

Bluegill and redear sunfish fingerlings stocked in the fall and winter will spawn the next spring. Stock largemouth bass fingerlings in the spring to coincide with the first bream spawn. They feed on the small bream, preventing an overpopulation of bream. Fathead minnows provide supplemental winter forage for largemouth bass and bream. If timing is such that you cannot stock the pond in this order, consult a fisheries biologist to discuss an alternative stocking strategy that might work. Since all situations are different, no single recommendation easily applies to all cases. You can stock a properly fertilized pond with 1,000 bream per acre in the fall, either all bluegill or 700 bluegill and 300 redear sunfish, followed by 100 largemouth bass per acre the following spring. You can stock up to 100 catfish per acre in fertilized ponds. Keep triploid grass carp stocking rates at five per acre for weed prevention.

Adding fish to the pond year after year can lead to overcrowding and stunted fish. This has ruined the fishing in many ponds in Mississippi. With proper management, a correctly stocked pond generally results in a balanced fish population, ensuring good fishing for years to come. You can restock catfish after you remove more than half of the fish from the original stocking. Remember to stock larger (8- to 10-inch) catfish to avoid feeding catfish to your bass in established ponds.

Stocking Options for Ponds Less than One Acre

The bass-bream stocking combination tends to be less successful in ponds less than one acre in size because bass are easy to overharvest and the bream become too abundant to grow to a harvestable size. But other options are available. These are catfish only and hybrid-bream combinations.

Specific Fish Stocking Information

Management Options