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Carefully select sellers to restock farm ponds
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Fall finds owners of new and renovated ponds filling them with water and preparing to stock sport fish to produce quality fishing opportunities.
Wes Neal, fisheries specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the best time to stock fish is in the fall and spring. Many owners build ponds in the summer, allow rains or streams to fill them in the fall and then stock them.
“The majority of sport fish should be stocked in the fall. This includes sunfish species, catfish and grass carp,” Neal said. “The sunfish have a chance to grow over the winter and then reproduce in early spring. Bass are stocked in the spring and eat the small sunfish.”
Neal said choosing a sport fish supplier is an important decision, and consumers should do their homework before choosing who to do business with.
“Check their references and see how satisfied other customers are,” Neal said. “Check them out with the Better Business Bureau in Mississippi or the company's home state. Most companies do not show up in the Better Business Bureau, but companies with a poor record of customer satisfaction may have records at these bureaus.”
Dennis Riecke, a fisheries/environmental coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said his department, the local Natural Resource Conservation Service office and Extension agents have the list of all firms that have been issued a permit to sell game fish in Mississippi for stocking ponds.
“We have received several complaints in recent years concerning firms advertising in newspapers that they will supply free fish,” Riecke said. “Once the pond owners inquire, they are told they pay for a certain number of fish and get an equivalent number for free. We have heard from other pond owners who are upset because a firm required them to pay in advance half the cost of their order, and no fish were ever shipped or delivered.”
Some businesses do not ensure that no undesirable fish are stocked along with the requested sport fish.
“If you have any doubts about the decision you have to make, get free advice from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the National Resource Conservation Service or your Extension agent,” Riecke said. “Don't take the advice of friends and family who may not know, and don't rely on recommendations from farm cooperative stores or newspaper ads.”
When selecting a sport fish supplier, the MSU specialists urged customers to ask about the company's warranty on the fish provided. Fish can be delivered alive but die days later from hauling stress, disease or other factors. Ask for the fish warranty in writing.
Find out if the company produces the fish it sells or buys them from a third party. Vendors who produce their own fish are more likely to know their health history and pedigree. Also find out what species and sizes of fish a company supplies to determine if the fish being purchased are appropriate for a particular pond.
“Those kinds of questions can tell you a lot about a producer,” Neal said. “Also remember that sport fish suppliers are in the business of selling fish. People should not call sport fish suppliers to ask what kind or how many fish they should stock in their own pond. They are in the business of selling as much as they can. They have the potential to overestimate stocking rates or recommend fish that are not compatible with the landowner's goals.”
The MSU Department of Wildlife and Fisheries offers a publication listing sport fish suppliers for Mississippi ponds. Among the information provided are tips on selecting a supplier, species recommendations for Mississippi ponds and suggested stocking rates per acre for the species. The Extension Service offers Pub 2525 Sport Fish Suppliers and Stocking Guidelines for Stocking Mississippi Ponds from county Extension offices.