Stocking alternative fish species | Living the Country Life

Stocking alternative fish species

It's essential to properly stock your fish pond.

Radio interview source: Nathan Stone, Extension Fish Specialist, University of Arkansas

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

Most farm ponds are stocked with bass and bluegill for good fishing and pond management. There are other species options, but the pond environment has to be suitable.
Our pond is well-stocked with bass and bluegill. We have some crappie swimming around as well. Crappie are popular in ponds, but also unpredictable. They can overpopulate, resulting in small fish. Fortunately, we have plenty of adult bass to keep the crappie numbers in check.
Nathan Stone is a fish specialist at the University of Arkansas. He says that stocking species other than what's recommended in your pond is often a gamble, so there are several considerations to make.
"Is your climate suitable, will it do well in your pond?  If someone has a small pond then maybe the fish won't do very well there," he says. "The second one is this a legal fish?  More and more state game and fish agencies are trying to restrict the fish species that are stocked.  The reason they're doing it is they're trying to protect the natural ecosystems.  And then the third point is they're called alternative for a reason. Typically they require a lot more management than normal species that are recommended for stocking."
Stone says hybrid bream, a cross between sunfish species, are well-suited for small ponds and popular with families. They grow fast and are easy to catch. However they should be stocked in a new pond or one that's been recently renovated. The hybrids won't grow quickly if they have to compete for food.  
Catfish grow fast and eat a lot, including insects and crayfish, but they also require some feed, so you'll have to decide if you're willing to spend the time and money. 
Stone says there is plenty of information to help you make your decisions.
"The best thing really is to contact your cooperative extension service or the local game and fish agency, and get the farm pond management booklet specific for your state because that will tell you what's appropriate for that area, and also what the requirements are for these species so that you know whether your pond is right or not," he says.

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