One of the most popular uses for ponds is fishing. Sportsmen of all ages enjoy catching “keeper size” bluegills, bass, and catfish. A well-managed and maintained fish pond should support a harvest of up to 20 pounds of largemouth bass and 80 pounds of bluegills per acre per year. Building a fish pond may require help from friends, because it’s important to continue to harvest pan-sized fish.
A fish pond is defined as a body of water less than 5 acres in size that will support fish. To do this, a pond must be at least 8 feet deep in the deepest part; this helps to reduce the danger of winter kill from heavy layers of ice.
Ponds of one acre and larger are more likely to provide satisfactory fishing than small ones. If surface area and average depth is known, management will be easier. Pond maintenance for fishing begins with stocking. The numbers of recommended species to be stocked vary.
Bluegills are the food fish as they form a major part of the diet of largemouth bass until the bluegills reach 2.5 to 4.5 inches. Although the bass help to keep the bluegills in balance, some harvest is necessary to maintain balance in both species. Fish pond owners who do not expect to fish for bluegills should not stock them. Some owners who do not want bluegills are getting good results by stocking golden shiners or fathered minnows with largemouth bass.
Channel catfish are also suitable for stocking with the bass-bluegill combination in ponds approaching acre size. Catfish should be the same size as the other fish if they are stocked at the same time. However, channel catfish of less than 6-inch length should not be stocked if there are adult bass in the pond. And small bass and bluegills should not be stocked with adult channel catfish. The channel catfish has a forked tail and you should not stock catfish with rounded tails such as bullheads because they seldom do well in fish ponds.
Avoid accidental introduction of undesirable fish. Many owners do not permit the use of live minnows for bait because the minnows may be small, undesirable fish such as carp, shad, green sunfish or similar species.
Start harvesting bass only after they have spawned the first time. Bass reach sexual maturity when they are 9 to 10 inches in length. Some bass may spawn in May or early June of the second year after being stocked as fingerlings. However, most may not reproduce until the third season after stocking.
Harvest at the rate of 4 pounds of bluegills for each fish pond of bass. This means 10 to 3O bluegills, depending on size, for each keeper-size bass. Keep all bluegills less than 5 inches long. Larger bluegills which are not going to be used should be returned. Alert owners keep looking for indicators of an unbalanced fish population. These indicators may be a decline in fishing success, few bass caught, bluegills remaining small, no apparent bass spawning or new hatches of bass, or survival of a large number of tadpoles.
A better diagnosis of the balance is possible through sampling the population with a seine. Seining the shallow water with a minnow seine will give an indication of the spawning success of the fish population, which is very important if you want to build a fish pond successfully.