Testimony from a Member with 3 yr old pond: "Moral of the story: If your pond guy, stocker guy, or whoever wants to do something that you really question, TALK ABOUT IT FIRST. If you aren't convinced, stand your ground. It's YOUR pond, after all. Don't just accept their word because "They are the experts." They don't know your situation as well as you do, and for sure don't have the time to do so." The link from this post:

When a fish hatchery suggests with to stock it is a very good idea to get 2nd opinions from experienced members of this Pond Boss forum. We are always willing to provide quality, experience advice.

A reader had a new 3 week old pond in Texas that was about one half full of water in mid September. He wanted to know if it was too early to stock forage fish (minnows or bluegill/panfish fingerlings) and if they would have enough to eat to survive.

Bob LUSK concisely says: For most waters of the US, it's a good idea to establish forage fish this fall (Cody – fall, late fall, early spring, spring or summer depending on when pond is built). Although water is probably a bit muddy, you won't be stocking many pounds of fish (fathead minnows), and there will quickly be enough food for fathead minnows to eat. Bluegill fingerlings (1”-2”) can also glean enough food to grow some over the fall and winter months. In Texas, water temps probably won't drop below 45 during winter, so the cold won't be a big deal. My Texas recommendation is to plan to stock fish this fall. Stock based on your goals.

Once you put the new small fish in the pond, healthy fish disappear. You won't likely see them again for a while unless you feed them. Your fish are still there.
Right now, all the signs of life are below the surface.
Fathead minnows eat tiny things, such as organic ooze with protozoa-rotifers, small bugs, plankton, etc. Real small panfish (fry to 1") eat mostly planktonic tiny animals, and real small insect larvae that are quickly hatching from eggs laid in the new pond water by adult aquatic insects. It's amazing how fast a new pond in this part of the world develops a food chain for tiny fish.

Keep in mind that, newly stocked larger sized fish need an ABUNDANT SUPPLY of larger, appropriate sized food items to be healthy and grow well. FOOD SUPPLY DETERMINES GROWTH IN FISH.


FISH AVAILIBILITY - This sometimes determines when to stock the first fish. Generally most hatchery fish are available during most all months except the hottest mid-summer months. Fish are hard to successfully handle and transport when the water is warm (76F+). After stocking minnows, waiting a few weeks or months to stock fingerling sport fish (predators and panfish) will give you time to do some additional reading and home work while the fish food supply increases in your pond. Information that you glean here on this forum will help you decide which fish are best to stock to meet your needs, goals, and or pleasures. Lots of different fish combinations are possible, if done properly, and they will produce exciting angling experiences and long lasting memories.

A hint about buying fingerling bass was discussed at a pond round table and produced this tidbit of experience: A couple of Pros, Bob Lusk and Todd Overton, explained to us why you should always avoid the early LMB fingerlings from the fish supplier (March/April) in favor of the later ones in June (mid & southern states) or fall (more northern areas). The early spring ones are most likely stunted LMB left over from the previous year and will never grow out like the June fingerlings. Meadowlark says – “I'll never forget that discussion, and as a result will never buy early spring LMB fingerlings again”.

FATHEAD MINNOW FOOD ITEMS: More information about food items reported for fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) can be obtained from the following internet link:

LOCATION – Geographic location in the US can affect how much growth will occur in newly stocked fish over winter. The further north your pond is located the less growth you can expect during late fall and winter. Thus, if you live in the northern states, stocking in the spring may be just as good or better than stocking in late fall. In southern states one can expect to get a some degree of fish growth based on winter water temperatures. Ultimately new fish growth is based on how old the pond is and how much food has developed in your new pond.
The more tiny food organisms that are available, the better the new fish will grow. So waiting a few months over winter will allow some additional tiny forage foods to develop. The new fish may actually grow faster when stocked in spring as compared to late last fall. Testimony: “I stocked 1-2" BG in late Oct of 04 in Tennessee. They spawned prolifically last year. The pond is full of multiple sizes of juvenile BG (spring of 2006).” His particular pond obviously had lots of food in fall when the new bluegill were stocked.

A more detailed answer to how soon can I stock minnows or small panfish is determined by the current conditions of the new pond.

1. WATER SOURCE. What is the water source for filling the pond? Watershed runoff and stream water introduces or seeds into the pond a host of many types of microscopic fish food. These introductions then reproduce and mulitply if conditons are "RIGHT". If well water or just rain water fills the pond then the community of microscopic and larger invertebrates have to naturally develop in the pond which is a somewhat slower process that can take months or years for a HIGHLY DIVERSE microscopic fish food commumity to develop. However ponds can and do quickly develop within a few weeks a basic microscopic food chains that contain what I will call the simple food chain consisting of several dominant planktonic and benthic invertebrate species. This early food chain is very adequate to feed the first stocking of minnows and or some small bgills.

2. NUTRIENTS - FERTILITY. Fertility of the new pond will determine how many or the abundance of the tiny fish food types that will develop. Fertility will cause more food items to grow which will ultimately feed more fish biomass. Fertility (fertilizer - nutrients) will not be effective and cause the adequate foods and amounts to develop without the proper water hardness or alkalinity. An alkalinity water test may be desirable to see what the potential is for producing an abundant food chain. Only sometimes fertilizing a pond will stimulate more rapid and greater amounts of fish food for small fish. Sometimes just "weeds" develop when fertilizer is added. Ponds built in limestone based soils are relatively fertile. The watershed runoff from fertilized or farmed ground that feeds the "pond" often contains relatively medium to high amounts of dissolved minerals and nutrients. Thus one probably should not have fertilize a pond in an agricultural region to get good fish growth in a newly established pond.

3. CLARITY OR TRANSPARENCY. What is the water clarity of the pond as it fills or after it is full? If the water clarity is greatly reduced due to mud, clay or other inorganic dirt particles suspended in the water, then this can suppress the overall development of the planktonic (free floating) organisms. Amount of suppression that the turbidity imparts is pretty much inversly proportional to the amount of silt - more silt results in less plankton. Silt also interferes with the life functions of filter feeding zooplankton. The plant plankton needs to receive light to stimulate the growth process. Without light penetration into the water plankton reproduction is hindered and it is basically limited to the water depth (upper shallow zone) where adequate light concentrations are present. - usually the upper couple of feet.

4. PLANKTON SEEDING. If your pond has water clarity of 18" to 2ft then a "normal" microscopic plankton can develop if an average or minimal water fertility (nutrients) is present. If only rain water or well water is filling the pond, then you might want to introduce or seed some basic types of beneficial zooplankton into the pond to "jump start" or enhance the basic fish food chain.

Normally, seeding of zooplankton into a pond is NOT necessary and Mother Nature quickly does this for you. The soil and airborne spores or resting stages of algae & zooplankton are typically ever-present in the environment. Fish hatchery water often contains many of these microscopic viable and dormant organisms and sometimes even the unwanted or nuisance species are present. How well all the organisms that get seeded into the pond survive, always depends on the overall water quality of the pond.

You can collect your own zooplankton seed water by transferring 5 to 10 gallons of water into your pond from another healthy pond with good water quality. However this is always a "crap shoot" because you do not know for sure what is microscopically in the other pond’s water. IDEALLY you want to try and get water from a pond that does not have a history of nuisance algae blooms such as those caused by numerous bluegreen (Cyanobacteria) or “scum or thick film forming” species. Unless you know all the basic annual cycles of the donor pond be careful about deciding about using this method.

Another good and safer zooplankton seeding process is to purchase some live zooplankton (Crustacean) cultures from a biological supply company such as Carolina Science. I would recommend any one or a combination of the cultures of Crustaceans mixed, Copepods, or Daphnia pulex. Each small culture sells for around $6.25 to $10.25; shipping charges will vary depending which form you choose. You only need one to a couple of the individual cultures. If conditions are correct in your pond, and it is fishless, then the seeded zooplankters will rapidly reproduce, to within a week or two, produce millions of new individuals to serve as a basis for the food chain-web in your pond. See the link below for an example of some crustacean zooplanktonic organisms that are available by mail order. tom=Y&top=N

SUMMARY. So depending on your answers to the above items, then hopefully your answers will give you an idea if newly introduced fish will have enough to eat. As a general rule the smaller the new fish are, the better the chances are that they will have enough appropriately sized food items for growth and a thriving survival in a new pond. Larger sized stocker fish obviously come from an established pond that had an established and diverse food web or chain. Putting large fish into a new pond is unwise unless you have taken numerous PROPER steps to insure the presence of a full or healthy food chain. Development of a healthy and diverse supply of plant and animal organisms which comprise a complex food chain takes some time to produce in a new pond.

Once it is past the spawning season for minnows (usu. September to May), I recommend that you wait another several weeks to stock any fingerling fish. This will allow some more time to hopefully increase the water clarity (sediment settling) AND hopefully the surface area (more filling) AND more importantly allow a little more time for the invertebrate and plankton communities to get seeded, reproduce and flourish which are all based on your present pond conditions.

Take the time now to do some homework and decide where the best place is to buy some good quality minnows and or panfish fingerlings and try to purchase them before December. This will give these forage fish and or panfish fingerlings some time during fall and winter to get established, maybe produce a little growth and or improved body condition (fat). Then they will be in good condition to reproduce next spring to provide an abundant supply of healthy forage fish.

Good luck with your new pond and ask more questions on the Pond Boss “Ask The Boss” forum as the pond community develops. It would be very beneficial to purchase Bob Lusk’s Pond Management and Trophy Bass Raising books for lots more good, fish raising, information. See how to order them from the Home Page of the Pond Boss Website. Reading Pond Boss magazine will keep you informed about new and interesting ways to manage your fish and your pond.

More advice of New Pond Stocking.
Fatheads can go in during fall. However any fish stocked in fall will not grow much over winter and not in spring until the water gets to 50F. Allowing a new pond do develop large numbers of zooplankton and insect invertebrates in fall through early spring creates good natural fish foods for the spring stocking. Minnows and small panfish can go in together in spring with predators getting stocked in fall or the next spring. Remember fish do not grow very much in cold water, except trout. Want quick fishing and interesting first winter/spring? Stock 20-40 trout (8"-12" this fall as soon as the water drops to 65F. Feed the trout through fall, winter if ice free, and again in spring. Harvest them anytime before May 20. Fall stocked fish should have time to put on fat reserves to maintain health during the hard winter ahead of them.

Spring-early summer, stocking is often best because foods are developing for fish growth. Stocking in late summer (Aug-Sep) can work if quite a few natural foods are present or the fish are pellet trained and fed pellets until water drops to 55F.

Stocking a new pond can be simple but after 3-4 yrs you may not have what you really wanted in a fishery or fish pond. Just about everyone you talk to will have a different opinion of their favorite fish to stock, especially if those people are trying to sell you fish or wanting to fish in your pond. Goals are important. Decide on the goals of the fishery or pond use then stock and manage to meet those goals. Do good homework and ask questions here before stocking. My research over the last 28 years is that YP will not maintain catchable numbers of new fish one the LMB start reproducing. YP stay too slender for too long and all young ones end up as fish food for the LMbass especially if you keep the pond relatively clean of weeds. To maintain perch numbers after the original ones die (old age or are harvested) you will have to periodically restock with 8"-9" YP to avoid their being eaten by 15"+ LMbass.

For background read through these:

Come back with questions.

Edited by Bill Cody (10/04/16 11:05 AM)
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