As with all pond management schemes, it is important to start with a properly constructed pond. Refer to Pond Construction, page 5. Proper shoreline slope and a drawdown structure are important to any management approach. Severe turbidity problems should be corrected by establishing adequate sod in the watershed or by other means prior to implementing any management strategy. Similarly, severe aquatic weed problems must be corrected before attempting any pond management plan (see Aquatic Vegetation Control). In general, 10 to 20 percent of the pond surface should be covered with vegetation. Fertilization is usually not required.
Once your pond is in acceptable physical condition, fish stocking is the next order of business. The ODWC recommends stocking 500 bluegill fingerlings and 100 channel catfish fingerlings per acre in the fall. The following spring, stock 100 largemouth bass fingerlings per acre. Stocking at higher initial rates will not produce more fish unless they are fed. If you plan to do minimal management of the pond, it is best to follow these recommended rates.
Fish are available from the ODWC (see brochure Fish For Your Farm Pond) or from private commercial producers. Lists of private fish producers are available from Crappie and other species such as green sunfish, flathead catfish, bullhead, carp, hybrid striped bass, walleye and saugeye are not recommended for a balanced bass-bluegill fishery.
The ODWC will provide fish for your pond if the following criteria are met:
- Pond is at least a half acre (21,780 square feet) in size.
- Pond does not contain fish.
- Applicant has a current Oklahoma fishing license, even if otherwise exempt, and is the legal owner or lessee of the pond.
- Fish will not be provided for private ponds where a fishing fee is charged.
- Application is signed and approved by the local game warden in the county where the pond is located. The pond owner must allow the warden to enter the property to examine the pond and check licenses of persons fishing the pond.
- Completed applications must be postmarked or received at the Department by May 31st of the year fish are requested. Any requests after May 31st will be included in the next year’s fish production schedule.
- Fish for private ponds must be picked up by the pond owner, lessee, or designated agent at the specified time and place. Applicants should bring medium-sized cardboard boxes for transporting their fish.
After your pond is stocked, it is important to be familiar with the information presented below regarding angler harvest. For three years following the initial stocking, you should adhere strictly to a “no bass harvest” regulation. This period will give your stocked bass the opportunity to spawn and produce several year classes of bass, an important factor in maintaining pond balance.
If body condition of 12- to 18-inch bass begins to decline (sunken stomachs, large heads and small bodies), the pond manager should begin to harvest some of the bass over 18 inches at the rate of approximately 10 per acre annually. If body condition of bass remains unsatisfactory, harvest up to 20 bass per acre each year and continue to monitor body condition of remaining bass. Harvest of bluegill generally does not need to be restricted to maintain a balanced fish population