How to stock your pond for fishing


It is one of the greatest American pastimes — fishing. Just ask my husband, fishing is right up there with God and family.

Even in Ohio, as long as a pond is properly stocked and maintained, you can find some pretty decent fishing spots.

Many soil and water conservation districts are holding their annual spring fish sales so that their residents can stock their ponds. But when is the best time to stock your pond? Some will say in the fall so the fish can acclimate to the climate, however, you can stock your ponds in the spring or in the fall.

Quite honestly, for recreational purposes, spring is a pretty good time of the year. And whether your pond is new or old, populations need to be replenished to optimize your fishing experience.

What to stock?

We encourage stocking your new or reconditioned ponds with the SWCD’s 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 inventory 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 that are food sources for your sport species.

fish stocking chart

When purchasing fish from your local SWCD it is always 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.

Catch and release

And I know once you get those fish home, you are going to be anxious to go fishing. However, you must keep in mind good pond management practices. Largemouth bass and bluegills should be allowed to remain in your pond for 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.

What’s in your pond

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.

The SWCDs work with the best fish hatcheries in Ohio and also rely on the valuable information provided by our friends at Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife. 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 division’s newly revised book at

I hope to see you all out fishing one day — it is great way to spend time with family and friends.


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  1. My husband and I recently bought a home with a large backyard and we have a pond that we are thinking of stocking with fish. I appreciate that you say the fish population needs to be replenished often to optimize your fishing experience. I will make sure to talk with an expert about which fish would be best for our pond as well as how to types of fish that will create a balanced fish population.


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