BROOKVILLE – Jonathan Ferris, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, Richmond, an educator in Wayne County, offered advice on fish stocking and management to participants during an Oct. 8 pond clinic.
The event, sponsored by the Franklin County Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service and Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, was held at Mick and Jenny Wilz’s Brookville farm.
“A lot of people don’t know what’s in their ponds,” so keeping a fishing journal is a good idea, he said. “It will tell you about fish health and the environment in your pond.” Some information to keep track of can include, “Is the average bluegill size growing or shrinking? How many fish are you catching per hour? Are you finding bass? Keep note of things you never stocked there, but are showing up.”
When it comes to stocking fish, “be realistic on how many you can hold in your farm pond. If the pond is in good shape, 320 pounds of fish per acre is good.
“The channel catfish is one people like, but they don’t normally spawn unless there’s a hole or dark, secluded place.”
Some people “are attracted to hybrid sunfish because of their size. They’re supposed to get big fast, and some of them do. The problem is since they are a cross between different fish, it throws off their sex ratio. There’s a lot more males than females, and they don’t breed as fast.”
A stocking ratio that has been successful in Indiana is five bluegill to one largemouth bass, not to exceed 1,000 bluegill and 200 bass per acre. Channel catfish can be stocked at a rate of 100 per acre, he noted.
The agriculture and natural resources educator also had advice on what not to do: “Don’t start with big fish. The problem is if for whatever reason one species survives better than another, then all of a sudden the whole thing’s out of whack. It’s a lot better on the long-term balance to stock them small and let them grow.”
There are “people who go down and get fish from a friend’s farm and they don’t know what they have, or they fish with minnows .... Unless you have them from a reputable source, I don’t recommend using them. It’s a real good way to introduce some fish you may not want in a pond.”
Some problem fish include bullhead catfish, also called “mudcats” or “yellow-bellies.” They are “really annoying catfish, and they will overpopulate quickly and muddy up the water” by stirring up the sediment. Carp, buffalo and suckers compete for food with other fish and destroy their habitats.
“Crappies in general don’t thrive in smaller ponds. They’re really suited for larger acres. Perch “typically don’t do well in ponds, either,” he added.
“When people talk about their fishing quality being lousy, what they’re referring to is they have the wrong kind of fish, all the fish are the wrong size or they’re not catching enough of them.”
Ferris pointed out that if the fish aren’t growing and there are a lot of smaller ones, one of the problems may be too much vegetation, which “creates a lot of hiding places for those smaller fish and they don’t get fed on as much by bigger fish. If you suddenly take away the hiding places, the larger fish like bass have more to eat.
“From a fishing standpoint, we like to see a third of your shoreline with some sort of vegetation.”
Also, “if bluegill are too small, that tells me there are too many fish in the pond.” He suggests, “If you catch a bluegill, don’t throw it back. They can get out of hand really, really fast. What you’ll see is the ones that are left have plenty of food.
“Bass can also grow really fast. They should grow between three to four inches each year .... If you have too many fish and all the fish are small, think about getting some of them out of there. There’s only so much food in that pond.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.
SECOND IN A TWO-PART SERIES • Part 1: Aquatic plant management and pond construction, Oct. 11