Currently there are more than two million farm ponds in the United States alone. Their popularity has several reasons, including ecological and practical ones. Farm ponds or stock tanks can provide an aquatic environment for many fish, flora, and wildlife in addition to offering a place for farmers and friends to fish for food or enjoyment. Having a diverse ecosystem on your farm land helps everyone, including the wildlife and any domesticated animals such as cows or goats that may graze on your land.
The most common size of farms that can accommodate farm ponds are anywhere between half an acre up to 30 acres in general. Farm ponds themselves can range in size from a small watering hole to large stock tanks filled to the brim with fish and other aquatic wildlife. The term farm pond refers to a body of water anywhere from a quarter of an acre up to a 5-acre area on farm land. The pond needs to be anywhere from 6 to 12 feet deep in order to shelter the fish from freezing or possible drought if there is not enough rainfall. As with any new environment, consider the size of the pond and the size of the fish species you want to stock before you visit a fish hatchery.
If you have at least a 1-acre farm pond, there are three species of fish that do best in this size body of water: bass, bluegill, and catfish. Bass, especially largemouth bass, are a sizeable fish and great for eating. Because bass tend to be predatory, regular fishing must control their population. Bluegills are also necessary because they are the food for both the bass and humans. If you add catfish to the mix, you may prefer to use channel catfish as the big fish instead of bass – bass tend to be predators toward catfish in general, especially their young.
Other popular choices for farm ponds include smallmouth bass, striped bass, rainbow trout, walleye, yellow perch, northern pike and black and white crappie. For these species in particular, do not release more than 100 per acre.
Here is a partial list of fish species that generally should be avoided in farm ponds:
- Bullhead (yellow, brown, or black)
- Green sunfish
- Carp (common and grass)
- Yellow perch
- Crappies (black and white)
There are others to avoid, so do some research before throwing just any fish into your farm pond. Always buy your fish from a licensed commercial fish hatchery, listen to their instructions, and follow their advice. Whatever you do, do not transfer native species from any local stream, river, or lake – this could disrupt your entire ecosystem. You must also be aware of what kind of aquatic environment you want to provide and what your fish will need for protection, spawning, and feeding. Some species such as catfish need spawning areas and prefer the dark recesses of the bottom near the mud. Other species may need more rock formations or aqueous plants to hide in. Again, do your research before you decide what kind of fish to stock in your pond.
When is the best time to stock your farm pond? The best time is in the fall or spring once the water temperatures are warmer than 65 degrees F. Water temperature is very important so verify that the temperature in the hauling tank and the pond don’t differ by more than 5 degrees. Add the pond water to the hauling tank slowly in order to make the temperatures consistent and reduce the chance of stressing the fish. If possible, it is optimal to let the hatchery know your particular pond’s water temperature ahead of time. If you have any questions, your fish hatchery will be glad to answer them.
No matter what kind of fish you decide to stock, you need to make sure that your fish pond is safe for them. Check and make sure that the pond is safe from runoff caused by pesticides, fertilizer, or animal manure. Also make sure you use nontoxic materials in your fish pond liner, such as the reinforced polyethylene that companies such as Western Liner provide. This gives you assurance that your pond is a safe place for all its inhabitants.