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Farm Pond Stocking and Management

Years of experimentation have shown three fish species are best suited for Iowa ponds. Largemouth Bass and Bluegill are the primary species stocked in ponds, and must be stocked in combination with each other if a good fishery is desired. Channel catfish are also recommended for pond stocking because they are popular with Iowa anglers and provide excellent fishing.  All three species are available from many private hatcheries in Iowa.

Correct Stocking is a MUST for good fishing

Some of Iowa's best fishing for Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, and Channel Catfish is provided by properly stocked farm ponds.  The recommended stocking for a one acre farm pond (to provide good fishing in two years and excellent fishing by the third year) is:

The Iowa DNR's recommended stocking rate is successful and well respected because it is based on research funded by fishing license dollars. This research was initiated to assist landowners in their efforts to provide quality angling to fellow Iowans.

Iowa ponds contain about 250 pounds of Bluegill per surface acre of water; hence, this species will provide most of the fishing in a pond. Harvest of Bluegill can be started the second year after stocking. Bluegill limits need not be imposed on private ponds because they are plentiful.

Largemouth Bass populations in a balanced Iowa pond will reach 50-75 lbs/acre, approximately 1/5 that of bluegill. Largemouth Bass should not be removed from the pond until the fourth year after stocking. No more than 15 bass/acre over 14 inches in length should be removed annually. Greater harvest rates will reduce the quality of both Largemouth Bass and Bluegill fishing.

Key to management: harvest most bluegills, release most bass.

Channel catfishing can begin three years after initial stocking. Harvest should not exceed 15 fish per acre.

Many people like to have species of fish in their pond other than the usual Largemouth Bass, Bluegill and Channel Catfish. Several species are available for sale from private hatcheries in Iowa.

Walleye and Northern Pike are trophy fish and highly sought by anglers. These fish can be stocked into farm ponds and will cause no harm. Neither species will reproduce, however, and they must be stocked periodically if the population is to be maintained. Walleye seldom grow large in ponds, but Northern Pike often do. A major disadvantage of stocking Northern Pike is when they become large they feed heavily on Largemouth Bass.

Redear Sunfish, another member of the sunfish family, are often stocked into lakes or ponds as a control for yellow and black grubs.  Redear Sunfish work well with the DNR recommended stocking as they don’t compete directly with Bluegill but provide fish that are on average larger than Bluegill.

White Crappie and Black Crappie are often stocked in ponds although they usually produce little fishing, seldom grow to acceptable size in ponds and compete directly with Largemouth Bass. They are not recommended for ponds.

Bullheads are also popular with Iowa anglers, but should not be stocked in ponds. Bullheads often become over-crowded, are very slow growing and muddy the water.

A list of private fish hatcheries in Iowa which sell fish is available from the Department of Natural Resources.  Private Fish Hatcheries