Stocking your Texas Fishing Lake – Fish Species
For this discussion, ponds or lakes larger than 1 acre are considered “large ponds or lakes.” Many large lakes are stocked with largemouth bass and prey species. Species stocked primarily to provide forage for bass are bluegill, redear sunfish, minnows and possibly threadfin shad. A well-managed farm pond should support 300 to 500 pounds of fish per surface acre.
Channel catfish can be stocked to provide additional support and will not interfere with the critical balance between bass and forage. Expect most or all of the catfish reproduction to be removed by the bass, particularly in clear ponds. Muddy ponds (and other large ponds, if desired) may be managed for catfish and fathead minnows alone, as recommended for small ponds. Successful multi-species management in large ponds requires stocking combinations of species to achieve a balance between predators (largemouth bass) and their principal forage species (bluegill).
A balanced pond will have:
- Annual reproduction by largemouth bass and bluegill.
- Bluegill of many different sizes to provide food for all sizes of largemouth bass.
- Sufficient growth of both species for satisfactory sustained catches by the angler.
- Maintaining balanced bass and forage fish populations is important for good fishing.
- Proper harvest of intermediate-sized bass and proper stocking schedules are critical for maintaining this balance.
The stocking schedule depends mainly upon the size of the bass stocked. When you plan to stock fingerling (1- to 3-inch) bass, stock fingerling (1- to3-inch) bluegill and redear sunfish, fathead minnows, and catfish larger than 4 inches in the late fall, followed by the bass fingerlings the next spring (usually May or June when fingerling bass first become available).
This schedule ensures that:
- The forage species and catfish are large enough when the bass are stocked that the bass will not deplete the original stocking of the forage fish and catfish.
- The forage species will have had an opportunity to spawn, creating a food supply for
newly stocked bass.
If adult (longer than 3 inches) bluegill and redear sunfish are used, you may stock them either simultaneously with the fingerling bass or in the late fall followed by the fingerling bass the next spring. Stocking fingerling bass between July 1 and September 1 is risky due to problems associated with transporting and stocking fish during elevated water temperatures. If stocking fingerling bass is not possible in late spring, an alternative stocking strategy is available. Bluegill, redear sunfish, and fathead minnows can be stocked in the spring and larger bass fingerlings (4 – 8 inches) can be stocked in the fall when water temperatures begin to cool. Large bass (> 10 inches) and bluegill (> 5 inches) are sometimes used to stock new ponds, but this practice is not recommended because it makes achieving a proper balance less certain.
Desirable Fish Species for Texas Fishing lakes
Channel and Blue Catfish
These species do well in most pond environments and can be stocked alone in ponds of any size or as a supplement to bass and forage populations in ponds larger than 1 acre. Channel catfish are more available for stocking, and can grow quickly to harvestable size when fed commercial feed. Pond owners desiring excessively large catfish can stock blue catfish. However, expect them to become the dominant predator in the pond, not in numbers, but in size. Large blue catfish primarily consume fish and will compete with other sportfish for prey. In ponds primarily managed for bass fishing, channel catfish are the preferred species.
This species is the most sought-after sport fish in Texas and, in almost all multi-species pond environments, is the primary predator. The northern largemouth bass subspecies is native to Texas and has been widely stocked since the turn of the century. Although the Florida subspecies grows to a larger size, it is more sensitive to very cold temperatures and more difficult to catch than the native (northern subspecies) bass. Because of its sensitivity to cold, Florida largemouth should not be stocked in ponds in the Texas Panhandle. The native bass and Florida bass are often crossed to produce an intergrade offspring, commonly referred to as the F1 “hybrid.” The F1 may provide some of the advantages of both species. Florida largemouth bass will interbreed with natives, so if both subspecies are stocked in the same body of water, a mixture of Floridas, natives, hybrids, and back-crosses of various mixes will eventually occur.
Many pond owners are reluctant to stock lakes or ponds with bluegill because of the fish’s reputation for overpopulation. The bluegill is, however, a fine sport fish and the only fish species which can produce the large numbers of small fish needed to provide food for bass. Without them, a quality bass population will probably not develop. Overpopulation of bluegill most commonly occurs because of excessive escape cover (aquatic vegetation) or over-harvesting of the bass in the first season of fishing—both of which reduce predation on the young bluegill. The coppernose bluegill is a unique strain that, in Texas fishing lakes, can reach larger sizes than do other varieties. If you have a strong interest in bluegill fishing, consider stocking this species.
Redear sunfish can be stocked with bluegill in Texas ponds and fishing as supplemental forage.This species is also a fine sport fish and can increase angling opportunities. Because they eat snails they may also reduce fish parasites within a pond.
Hybrid Striped Bass
Hybrid striped bass are another sport fish that can be stocked in any size lake to provide additional sport fishing. They will readily accept artificial feeds, but will not reproduce in ponds. Hybrids can be stocked alone, with fathead minnows or sunfish, or in bass-bluegill ponds. Consult a fish biologist if you plan to stock these fish.
The fathead minnow is a relatively slow swimmer (very vulnerable to predation), and therefore offers no long-term benefit when stocked in ponds containing established bass populations. However, they are very useful when stocked with catfish that are not being fed regularly or in new bass-bluegill ponds to increase first-year growth of the bass and bluegill.
Grass Carp (White Amur)
This species, when stocked in proper numbers, can provide long term, cost-effective control of submerged aquatic vegetation in fishing lakes; however, only specially produced sterile (triploid) grass carp are legal in Texas ponds, and a permit is required. Contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for details.
This species is an excellent supplemental forage species for bass; however, like the fathead minnow, generally cannot withstand bass predation for an extended period of time in a small pond. They are also sensitive to cold temperatures and perform best in South Texas, but can survive mild winters in North, East, and Central Texas. A fertilization program will greatly increase the success of threadfin shad introductions by reducing water clarity and increasing productivity.