Something fishy this fall

fish sale
There are several factors to consider when managing your pond: stocking rates, species selection, the number of fish you need, and even your pond's age. (Submitted photo)

It’s hard to remember as summer’s temperatures soar that fall and winter are just around the corner. If you’ve enjoyed a summer fishing at your pond (or maybe more importantly if your summer fishing has NOT been so fruitful), now is a great time to start thinking about stocking your pond this fall to make next summer’s fishing adventure even better.

Many area soil and water conservation districts are planning fall fish stocking sales to help you stock your pond this fall. But, there are several factors to consider when managing your pond: stocking rates, species selection, the number of fish you need and even your pond’s age.

At Ashland SWCD, like most area SWCDs, we purchase our fish from Fender’s Fish Hatchery. Steve Fender wrote the book on pond management — literally. In fact, you can even purchase his pond management book through our fish sale for just $20.

Two species Fender recommends for every pond are large mouth bass and bluegill. These two species work well together and counterbalance each other, setting your pond up for a healthy fish ecosystem that can successfully repopulate itself for several fish generations to come. Fender recommends stocking 100 bass to 200 bluegill per surface acre of your pond.

If you’d like more variety in your pond, yellow perch are a good addition and can be stocked at 100 perch per surface acre. If you have a good food base, feed your fish with pellets and have plenty of structure for the perch to hide in, you might see some reproduction from your perch. However, these fish typically do not reproduce and need periodic restocking. This year, Ashland SWCD has even added fish food to its sale to keep your fish growing, fat and sassy.

Black crappie can also provide some variety and are good to eat when the water is cold according to Fender. Crappies can be stocked at 100 per surface acre and can grow significantly — up to 18 inches or more. However, the crappies will only reproduce once each year.

If you enjoy fishing for and eating catfish, consider stocking your pond with channel catfish. They can also be stocked at 100 per surface acre. However, if you don’t plan on eating or fishing your catfish, Fender does not recommend adding them to your pond because they can eat your bluegill and push back your bass population. That being said, Fender says they are one of the best fish to eat, and the 4-6 inch fingerling purchased through the stocking sale will be 15-16 inches long by the end of next summer.

The redear shellcracker or red-eared sunfish gets its name from its red ear flap, yellow breast and the fact that it eats snails, which are parasite carriers. The shellcracker will push back the snail population, reducing parasite problems in your pond, and they can also be stocked at 100 shellcrackers per acre.

If you enjoy bluegill and enjoy an aggressive fish to catch, Fender says the hybrid bluegill may be a good fit for you. It’s a cross between a green sunfish and a bluegill, which gets very large. As a general rule, Fender says you should stock as many of these fish as you’d like to catch in a summer. They are favorites because of their aggressive bite, fast growth and good eating, but because they are a hybrid, reproduction will eventually revert back to one of the parent species, meaning that they will need occasional restocking.

New ponds will also benefit from fathead minnows. They are also great for promoting growth in your pond with restocks as well because they serve as food for the larger fish. Even though they reproduce prolifically, a sustainable population will never be established because they are at the bottom of the food chain. So, plan on restocking 1,000 minnows per surface acre.

For vegetation control, Fender recommends the white amur, or grass carp at a stocking rate of 8-12 amours per surface acre of your pond. Amurs have been legal to stock in Ohio since 1987, and all amurs sold through Ashland SWCD’s fish sale are sterile, so they cannot reproduce. Amurs get very large (up to 40-50 inches long) and are used as an alternative to chemicals for vegetation control.

Ashland SWCD also sells Nature’s Pond Conditioner as part of its fish-sale lineup. This two-in-one product contains a bacteria that will, over time, turn your pond’s black muck into clean water, helping to lower the fertility levels in the pond. Secondly, it contains a food-grade dye to help create a natural green color in your pond to help block sunlight and slow the growth of unwanted vegetation.

Contact your local SWCD for information on their specific sale. Orders can be placed through Ashland SWCD’s website at or by picking up an order form at the Ashland SWCD office. The order deadline is Oct. 6 with pick up from 10-11 a.m. until noon on Oct. 17. For more information, contact the Ashland SWCD office at 419-281-7645.


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Jane Houin is the fiscal and education specialist for Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a graduate of Purdue University with a BS in agricultural communication and MS in mass communication. Houin raises horses and sheep with her husband Craig and their three children. She can be reached at 330-674-2811 or



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