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It's time to stock your pond

Oct 24, 2023

Autumn is around the corner. Soon the lush green leaves will begin to turn colors, and golden rod will fill the fields. It is time to start thinking about stocking our ponds. Many soil and water conservation districts will be holding fall fish sales so that their residents can stock their ponds. Even in Ohio, as long as a pond is properly stocked and maintained, you can find some pretty decent fishing spots.

So, when is the best time to stock your pond? Some will say in the fall, as the fish can acclimate to the climate better. However, you can stock your ponds in the spring or in the fall — for recreational purposes, either is a pretty good time of the year.

Whether your pond is new or old, populations need to be replenished to optimize your fishing experience. We encourage stocking your new or reconditioned ponds with the SWCDs fingerling fish such as largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegills. Not only are fingerlings less expensive, but they are also recommended as they do not lead to an unbalanced fish population.

For older ponds, we strongly encourage you to take stock of the fish species in your pond along with the size and age of your existing fish, as that will determine what species, amounts and size you should restock in your pond. In addition to the sport fish, you will want to stock or restock fish species which are “food sources” for your sport species.

When purchasing fish from your local SWCD, it is recommended that you bring water from your pond in a large plastic trash bag lining a tote. Once the fish are placed in the bags for transportation, the bags can then be filled with oxygen and sealed so that you can safely and carefully transport your new species back to your pond.

I know once you get those fish home, you are going to be anxious to begin the sport of fishing. However, you must keep in mind good pond management practices. Largemouth bass and bluegills should be allowed to remain in your pond for a period of at least three years so that they can grow and reproduce.

If you do decide to begin fishing before then, please practice the art of catch and release. Also, pond owners do not want to overharvest their ponds because that can result in several problems one being an unbalanced fish population.

There are a variety of ways a pond owner can track their fish population. You can keep a diary of what you catch and release and choose not to release. Angler diaries are a great way to assist with pond management, fish populations and the quality of fishing within their pond.

Seining is a low-cost way of determining a pond’s fish population. Utilizing a seine along the shoreline to catch newly hatched fish in late June or early July will give the pond owner an indication of their pond’s fish population and spawning status.

With this information, a pond owner will know what needs to be restocked to balance the species population. The absence of or low numbers of young largemouth bass or small bluegills in the seine will alert the pond owner that the fish population needs to be adjusted and restocking needs to take place.

While we hope and strive to have our ponds be self-sustaining, if we are harvesting fish, our ponds have to be able to reproduce them. Some pond owners may resort to artificial feeding. If a pond owner decides to use artificial feeding, they have to be willing to make a full commitment to continue feeding from spring when temperatures reach 60 degrees F until fall when the temperatures fall below 60 degrees F.

Fertilization can be performed as well. If fertilization is chosen, close water quality monitoring is required and fertilization should be on a strict schedule. However, most ponds in Ohio have enough nutrients from their surrounding watersheds. As we all know, excess nutrients can cause the growth of unwanted vegetation and result in poor water quality. The SWCD fish sales offer various fish species that help eliminate unwanted and/or excessive vegetation.

One way to help promote a healthy environment for your fish is to apply pond conditioner one or two times a year. This conditioner will help promote a healthy ecosystem in your pond.

One of the best ways to promote the fish population is to provide habitat structures to your pond. Structures should be placed in relatively shallow areas where oxygen quality is best to provide cover, resting and feeding areas for younger hatchlings. Structures can be placed in deeper areas provided there is good circulation (aeration) so that dissolved oxygen levels are optimal.

Recycled Christmas trees make great natural habitats for our fish as do man-made structures such as PVC pipe, concrete blocks and wooden pallets. Tree species that do not easily decay such as oak, hickory and cedar work well. Just remember to place them in an area where the anglers can easily cast their lines

The SWCDs work with the best fish hatcheries in Ohio. Here in Mahoning County and most of northeast Ohio, we work with Fender’s Fish Hatchery, a family fish farm that owns and operates over 200 acres of ponds within three counties. They provide 44 of Ohio’s 88 conservation district’s with healthy fish and a plethora of experience and information when it comes to stocking and maintaining ponds.

Steve Fender wrote the definitive book on pond management. The SWCDs also rely on the valuable information provided by our friends at Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

Personally, I have looked to ODNR’s Ohio Pond Management book for insight to help my local constituents with all of their pond needs. You can find the book at

We hope to see you all at our fish sale this fall, Sept. 28 at the Canfield Fairgrounds. Contact the district for information related to our fish sale and pricing or your local SWCD.

Remember, fishing, and aquatic sports is great way to spend time with family and friends. And if you have caught too much, there is nothing wrong with a good fish fry — don’t forget to invite your friends at your local SWCD! In the meantime, your local SWCDs, are here for you and your pond needs.

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