Creating Fisheries, Opportunities
The Department operates four state fish hatcheries -- Durant, Holdenville, Byron and J. A. Manning (formerly Medicine Park). In 2005, these hatcheries produced nearly 14 million fish to enhance angling in Oklahoma.
These facilities also supplied fish to private pond owners. Recent surveys indicate about 20 percent of state anglers regularly fish in farm ponds, so the Department realizes the importance of establishing pond fisheries. Bluegill, channel catfish and largemouth bass are supplied to pond owners who purchase a fishing license. In 2005, over 410,049 fish were provided to applicants for stocking private water.
Fry vs. Fingerlings
Anglers who review the stocking reports will notice that the Department stocks huge numbers of some species, such as walleye, but much smaller numbers of other species, such as largemouth bass.
Why the drastic differences?
Most of the difference depends on whether fry or fingerlings are stocked. Fry are newly hatched larval fish. They are generally less than 1/2-inch long with more than 100,000 of these eyelash-sized fish to the pound. Fry are stocked into lakes or hatchery production ponds a few days after they emerge from eggs. In lakes, these tiny fish will be a potential meal for almost anything that swims for at least several months. Since only a small percentage survive, fry are stocked at rates of between 100 and 500 fish per acre. Fry stockings are relatively inexpensive, but they're no sure-fire way to enhance long-term fish populations, because timing, temperature and food availability are critical. In fact, sometimes fry stockings fail completely.
Stocking fingerlings, on the other hand, is quite reliable and almost always produces a fishable population within a few years. These one- to three-inch long fish are stocked at rates of five to 25 fish per acre, since a large portion of them will survive. Stocking costs for fingerlings are much higher because fry must be fed and raised to the larger size in hatchery ponds.
Regular fisheries population sampling tells fisheries biologists when a lake needs to be stocked, while research and experience tell them whether to use fry or fingerlings to reach their management goals.