Central Texas trophy fishing lake construction
Species Selection and Stocking of Fish in Texas Fishing Lakes
Fish stocking in a Texas lake.
Fish stocking in a Texas lake.

The choice of fish to stock depends on the pond owner’s goals and on the resources available. It is very difficult to manage a pond of less than 1 acre for bass and bluegill. If your pond is less than 1 acre, catfish is probably your best choice. See Extension publication B-1319, “Catfish in Farm Ponds,” for more detailed information. The most common stocking strategy is to combine largemouth bass and bluegill (or largemouth bass, bluegill and redear sunfish). The combination generally works well in ponds larger than 1 acre and provides excellent fishing for both species indefinitely.
The beauty of the bass and bluegill system is its simplicity. In a well-fertilized pond, zooplankton and insect larvae will be plentiful enough to supply food for bass fry and all sizes of bluegill. The bluegill will reproduce and grow rapidly with the abundant food and provide excellent forage (food) for the bass. If bass are not over-harvested, they will keep the bluegill from overpopulating. Some large bluegill will survive bass predation to provide good bluegill angling.
Channel catfish may also be added to a bass and bluegill pond, but the catfish will consume a portion of the food supply, slightly reducing the total pounds of bass and bluegill the pond can maintain.

Recommended stocking rates in Texas lakes and ponds vary with the size,location and condition of the pond or lake and the desires of the pond owner.  A typical pond larger than 1 acre that will be fertilized should be stocked with 1,000 bluegill fingerlings (or 60 adults), 100 largemouth bass and 100 channel catfish per acre. Bass, forage fishes and catfish for stocking new or renovated ponds can be obtained from private hatcheries. Private hatcheries will deliver directly to ponds and can provide fish at almost any time of the year. Many offer varieties or hybrids that have been selected for rapid growth. Soilmovers LLC can help you with the selection of a reputable hatchery.

Stocking of 3- to 5-inch bluegill is most often done in the fall or early winter. The bluegill will grow and spawn by the following spring. Bass are stocked in late May or June and grow rapidly, feeding on the new bluegill fry. Bluegill will spawn two or three more times before fall, providing adequate forage for the bass. Bass growth should average1/4 to 1/2 pound in the first year and can approach 2 pounds if forage is plentiful. Catfish can be stocked in fall or spring. If stocked together always stock catfish as large or larger than the bass. Catfish usually cannot successfully reproduce in ponds with bass and bluegill populations and will have to be restocked as they are fished out.

Species that should not be stocked into farm ponds or should be stocked only under certain conditions include
crappie, flathead catfish, common carp and green sunfish. Crappie (both black and white) may pose management
problems in small ponds in  that they overpopulate and  Black Crappie become stunted at sizes too small to be harvested. Under these conditions they compete with both bass and bluegill for food. Crappie can be stocked in larger farm ponds (more than 25 acres),but only after the largemouth bass initially stocked have spawned several times. Also, largemouth bass harvest must be carefully controlled to ensure enough bass in the pond to control crappie numbers.

Flathead catfish are voracious eaters, cannibalistic, and grow large enough to prey on even large bass. Other species that should not be stocked into farm ponds are common carp and bullhead catfish. Common carp can
overpopulate rapidly, eat eggs of other fish, compete for food and muddy the pond through their bottom feeding
activity. These species also compete for the available food resources and that can affect the survival of desirable fish.

Species that should not be stocked into farm ponds or should be stocked only under certain conditions include
crappie, flathead catfish, common carp and green sunfish.




Removal of Unwanted and Overpopulated Species of Fish
Fish populations in poorly managed ponds usually become out of balance and may become contaminated that they overpopulate and with unwanted fish species. Texas ponds often become stunted at sizes too crowded with small or stunted bass or bluegill populations or become populated with green sunfish, bullhead catfish, shiners or other unwanted species. The best management option in these situations may be to destroy all fish in the pond and start over. Removing or killing the fish population usually is much easier and less expensive if the pond can be drained dry or partially drained and the fish concentrated. Fish will survive in very small pools or puddles away from the main body of water. To get a complete kill you must treat all puddles, even those in the watershed, no matter how small!

Rotenone is a registered aquatic chemical that is used to kill fish. In Texas, rotenone for pond renovation can be
purchased from most farm supply or feed-and-seed stores. You must have a private applicator license to purchase
and use this chemical. Rotenone comes in liquid or powder formulations, at a concentration of 5 percent active ingredient. Rotenone should be applied at a rate of 10 pounds per acre-foot. The volume of water in the pond (in acre-feet), or that remaining after drawdown, must be estimated so this concentration of rotenone can be calculated. One gallon of the liquid rotenone formulation (5 percent) is sufficient to treat approximately 1 acre-foot.

The acre-feet in a particular pond can be calculated by multiplying the surface area in acres times the average depth in feet. For example, a 2-acre pond with an average depth of 6 feet would have 12 acre-feet, and would require 12 gallons of the liquid 5 percent formulation to treat. Powdered rotenone should be mixed to a “soupy” consistency with water (about 2 gallons per pound of powder). Liquid rotenone also should be diluted with water at a rate of about 10 gallons of water to 1 gallon of rotenone. Apply rotenone evenly over the pond using buckets, sprayers or pumps. If the pond is more than 4 feet deep, use a hose to pump rotenone into deep sections of the pond. Rotenone applied properly and at recommended rates will not harm most livestock, even if they drink the water. Pigs, however, might be affected by the rotenone formulation, and ducks and geese may suffer if they gorge themselves on dead or dying fish.

Caution: Make sure no water containing rotenone runs off your property to kill fish elsewhere!

Rotenone is usually applied in the summer or fall when water temperature is above 70 degrees F. Contact a fisheries biologist or county Extension agent for additional information on purchasing and applying rotenone. Rotenone will dissipate within 3 to 10 days, depending on weather conditions. Generally it is safe to restock 2 to 3 weeks after applying rotenone. To check for the presence of rotenone, place a few small bluegill in a minnow bucket
and float it in the pond. If the fish are still alive after 24 hours it is safe to restock.

This excerpt was taken from Texas Agricultural Extension Service Publication B-213 Management of Recreational Fish Ponds in Texas

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