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Farm Pond Stocking and Management

The DNR will provide fish for a fee if your pond meets the following criteria:
  1. New or renovated and free of fish.
  2. Surface area of at least 1/2 acre.
  3. Maximum depth of at least 8 feet.
  4. Fenced to exclude livestock with a 60 foot minimum buffer between pond edge and fence.
Stocking FishIf you feel your pond meets the above criteria, contact your local DNR Fisheries office and sign-up for fish. You can also download the Farm Pond Stocking Application (PDF) which will need to be completed to start the process.  A DNR employee may contact you to arrange an on-sight inspection of your pond. This contact will allow you an opportunity to obtain additional information concerning fish and wildlife management. The Department employee will discuss the potential of your pond and adjacent area for fish and wildlife and if the pond meets the minimum criteria, it will be approved for stocking.

Owners of ponds approved for stocking will be notified by postcard, a minimum of 10 days prior to delivery of fish. The card will also indicate the date, time and location of the truck delivering fish and the gallons of pond water the owner or his representative will need to transport his fish. Bluegill and channel catfish will be distributed in October and the largemouth bass will be distributed the following June.

Fish 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.

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

Bass populations in a balanced Iowa pond will reach 50-75 lbs/acre, approximately 1/5 that of bluegill. 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 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 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 northerns 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.  Redears work well with the DNR recommended stocking as they don’t compete directly with bluegills but provide fish that are on average larger than bluegills.

Crappie are often stocked in ponds although they usually produce little fishing, seldom grow to acceptable size in ponds and compete directly with 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