We dug a new two acre pond in the north east. I had a whole stocking plan ready, but turns out there aren’t many places around here that stock fish (I’m near Toronto Ontario).
I am ultimately hoping to have Walleye and SMB as the top predators. I found a minnow supplier but all they supply is a “grab bag” from the local creeks, so I am a bit worried about what species we might get. I also did find a SMB hatchery, but they suggest the minnows wouldn’t last, even with structure and a year head start, so they suggested I just wait a year and then just do SMB next spring once the pond has naturalized further and frogs/insects/ etc can be the forage food. They also suggest that their SMB are pellet trained, and suggested I could even do the SMB this year if I fed them. The SMB are 1” long and they want $3 a piece, which seems pricey,
I’m not quite sure what to do. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there are any other sources of minnows around here, so I’m tempted to say “screw it”, and just add the minnows now and see what happens. But maybe I’ll end up regretting that. What do you all think?
I can't imagine having a large enough population of frogs and insects to feed a healthy population of both SMB and Walleye. If it were me, I would either buy or trap myself some of the minnows and sort them individually before adding to the pond. I am planning a similar pond with YP added as an intermediate species to provide some additional SMB and WE forage. I would still feed if I had SMB and/or YP available that were feed trained, but at least you would have some other natural forage available.
That "grab bag" would give me some pause, but then again, maybe those varying species would end up in your pond anyways (assuming that supplier is very local to your pond). Note that fish that live in streams/creeks don't always do as well in ponds. Maybe you could hand-sort any 'bad' fish out of the grab bag.
I would want to get some kind of forage fish going for 6 months to a year before the SMB or Walleye stocking, if it was at all possible.
Using fish feed will expand your potential options.
Fathead minnows usually do not "last" - even though they will breed prolifically in your pond with even a little habitat.
However, if they are given a head start in the pond, they don't last because your SMB will feast on them for months before they get them all! Your SMB will grow very rapidly during that stage.
Does your pond get water from a running creek or a waterway with other people's ponds upstream? If the answer is yes, then you will not have complete control over the fish species in your pond. Some undesirable fish from the grab bag stocking would probably have occurred eventually anyway.
However, if you WILL NOT have fish introduced from the water supply source to your pond, then I would be much more deliberate in the stocking plan. There are lots of posts on Pond Boss from people requesting help to get undesirable fish out of their pond.
We have some posters from upstate New York, so I believe there are some fish suppliers available in that area. Is it illegal (or very difficult/expensive) to get fish into Canada from a U.S. supplier?
Good luck on your pond project. A 2-acre pond outside of Toronto sounds like a great retreat!
Red flag here for me...SMB are not pellet trained at 1". You pull them from their fry growouts once they reach 1-1.25" and begin to train via ground up krill shrimp, then transition to specialty pellets. At 3" they could be considered "feed trained".
Cody has notes on SMB as a sole species, SMB with soft ray minnow species and with other species. SMB will eat their own, but what will maximize growth to get them up to spawning age? Also, I don't believe SMB will produce enough to feed WAE and themselves.
Sorting the minnows, buying from a bait shop or adding YP would have to be done, IMHO.
I will return when I have more time to create answers.
Stocking your 2 acres with a minnow “grab bag” from local Toronto creeks is a feasible method PROVIDING you CAREFULLY sort the small fish to remove: all sunfish types - especially green sunfish, bullheads, common carp, suckers and redhorse. Carefully avoid them. Know the body features of common fishes in your Toronto local area. General rule is when in doubt, toss it out. SMB do not live real well and grow big bass with the northern sunfishes as the main forage fish. All those previously named species can cause various types of long term problems for your SMB-walleye(WE) fishery.
I have done lots of minnow creek trapping some of it in Canada. I spent one entire summer on a Canada lake for my MS thesis. I have the very good book Freshwater Fishes of Canada (Scott & Crossman). Extensive studying about the common small fishes has shown me a lot of the common minnows/shiners that occur in your local creeks will not reproduce in the still water pond conditions. A lot of those are stream species and need moving stream water and gravel substrate conditions for completing a spawn and egg hatching. Some to numerous of those in the ‘grab bag’ that are stocked will not breed when put into your pond; they will live, grow to adult size, and then die in usually several years.
All of the chub species, including the very common creek chub, will NOT reproduce in your pond; yes,,,, live okay, but won’t reproduce. The very common creek chubs can grow to 8”-10” long in the pond before they die of old age. The only local "grab bag" species that could cause some water clarity problems would be the suckers and redhorses when they grow large because too many would tend to roil the sediments when searching the sediments for food that create unwanted turbidity. Several suckers would be okay but with lots of them,,,, I see as potential problems.
Those several stocked minnows/shiners species that do manage to recruit new youngsters will provide a type of good forage base. Although many of those reproducer species will be small adults such as red belly dace, and will not grow very large and may not perpetuate very long in the pond with predators of SMB and WE unless extensive dense habitat is present. The typical several local Toronto stream species most likely to thrive in your pond habitat would be the native fathead minnow, common bluntnose minnows, golden shiner and spotfiin shiner. Our Forum member Donno did manage to get common shiner and emerald shiner to reproduce successfully in his yellow perch pond by providing special moving water conditions from a fairly large waterfalls. The common lake shiner as spottail shiner, has a remote but very doubtful success of spawning well in your pond.
I suggest that you ALSO go to some local small lake habitats and set a baited (old bread) minnow trap in some of the remote shoreline areas for minnows that thrive live in that lake. Those species present "suggest” that they are successful pond/lake dwellers and able to spawn in still water conditions, although some may have been hatched in feeder streams and live their life in the lake. Those lake minnows present are VERY likely to be the ones to reproduce in your pond. Beaver ponds in Canada are also good places to collect pond dwelling minnow species. Golden shiners are a common successful shiner in many Canada lakes.
In my long pond management experience, your stocking plan IMO for best success, needs a panfish such as the yellow perch(YP) that serves as a very good compatible forge fish with SMB & WE and is very good table fare. Well balanced YP numbers can easily grow to 10"-12" long. Well balanced YP numbers is key to growing 12" long YP.
The YP feeds well on invertebrates and small fish and will provide lots of small forage for SMB and WE... I would use WE as a bonus fish and not stock more than 5-7/ ac unless the pond has a dense minnow population. Maybe omit the WE until you see and abundance of small YP and or minnows. WE as 15”-16" individuals eat up to 5” perch. WE in ponds struggle to grow beyond 3 lbs. Perch are common in lots of lakes in Canada. There is a good natural reason for this common northern fishery combination.
Perch and some of the young SMB will also pellet train fairly well with good conscious effort and encouragement to eat high protein pellets. Pellets grow fish faster and more of them per acre. Although YP do not need to be fed pellets. But without pellets fewer total pounds of fish will be raised per acre. Quite a few harvestable fish can be raised on all natural foods in a 2 ac pond. A natural fed fishery with a good balanced proper harvest and population management in 2 ac can grow a very nice harvestable fishery. Fertility and clarity of the pond water determines quantity of the fish that can be raised per acre. Very clear water ponds grow notably fewer fish per acre. If you decide to add YP to the pond, I would first allow the minnows to reproduce one summer along with maybe several added mature 5”-7”+ YP. Then after or just before the first YP spawn add the predators to help control the 1st reproduction from the YP so you do not have an early overpopulation of YP and a better chance of fishery balance of prey fish and predator.
I agree with Snipe's wise comment that 1" SMB are not well pellet trained and at that size will very likely not continue eating pellets in a pond with lots of natural foods. Best stocker pellet trained SMB are 4"-6" long and have a $ value of $10-$15 each! Smaller ones may not eat pellets well when placed in a food rich pond. Snipe also wisely says that SMB will not reproduce enough small fish to feed even several WE per acre. I wholly agree. Plan on EACH WE and adult SMB to eat at least 300-400 small fish per year
Please keep us updated on your pond progress. We want to learn more about your pond adventure and success.
Thank you for the great thoughts and ideas everyone. I appreciate it. A bit more context on the plan. I originally wanted to add YP and Pumpkinseeds but haven’t been able to find them yet. Hopefully that will change and they can be our “in between” species. Also the pond is completely isolated from other water bodies (ie there is no stream in or out), with a small watershed keeping it topped up and a well available if needed.
Another interesting thing about the pond is we dug an 800’ long stream that circulates water from one end of the pond back to the other. The stream is 12’ wide, 2’ deep, and lined with rocks and pea gravel. I haven’t turned the pump on yet, but I’m hoping it will move around 100,000 gph, giving a flow of about 1.5 ft/s through the stream. So maybe that could be used to get walleye and some of the minnow species to spawn?
I like the idea of getting the grab bag, and then doing the sorting myself. I don’t have any experience with this, but I ordered the book you mentioned Bill and will do as much research as I can before attempting. Here is what I have so far:
KEEP: chubs, fathead minnow, common bluntnose minnows, golden shiner, spotfin shiner, common shiner, emerald shiner
REMOVE: green sunfish, bullheads, common carp, suckers, redhorse
Does that make sense?
Also any good online resources people have found for identifying minnows?
I will return when I have more time to create answers.
Promise fulfilled, in Spades.
Remove ALL sunfish types including rock bass. If you have the stream conditions you can keep any small silvery colored shiner shaped minnow. They and others may spawn in the stream. I would learn how to separate suckers/redhorse fish and keep them all OUT due to stream conditions and spawning hazard. All Suckers have a noticeable downward shaped mouth. Compare fish head shape of suckers with bluntnose minnows who also have a "somewhat" rounded snout with lower mouth. HOWEVER the bluntnose minnow has a prominent black spot at the base of the tail. So any fish with the rounded snout and no black spot at the tail base do not stock it. Most common small sucker that you will catch in minnow traps is the white sucker. See bluntnose minnow and suckers in FW Fishes of Canada for comparisons.. I see there is another book titled Freshwater Fishes of Eastern Canada. Which could also be very good fish book for your region.
This is beyond helpful Bill, thank you. I am hoping I might be able to get and sort my grab bag this weekend. If so I will aim to report back on how that goes.
The 1,2,3 are shiners. I think they are all the same specie. I do not recognize the species without a better look at the extended fins.
4 is a small fingerling trout with parr marks. Not sure which one. maybe a fingerling brook trout? .The Ontario Ministry of Natural Res does have a bait dealer law against selling wild fingerling trout as bait fish. The place you bought the minnows evidently did not carefully look and their fish they were selling. see below https://www.salmonography.com/Salmonid-Topic/Parr-marks/i-92VvqNH/
5 To me looks like a northern red belly dace
6. I think is a bluntnose minnow, note it has breeding tubercles on the snout (nose).
All are okay to stock bluntnose will definitely spawn if correct flat underwater rocks concrete tile are present; although the shiners, dace and trout might even spawn in your homemade stream.https://www.ontario.ca/document/ontario-fishing-regulations-summary/bait
Ok thank you for this Bill. I also found this site: https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/publications/baitfish-poissons-appats/page08-eng.html
It seemed like it would be quite helpful in theory, but in practice it was still pretty hard to tell, so I appreciate your thoughts.
On the trout I was thinking the same. The seller said they do their best to sort them, and throw out all game fish as required by law, but I guess this one got through.
Also we put in about 40 pounds. Hopefully that is enough for 2 acres.
Based on the link of Ontario bait fish species the closest shiner your pics of the 1st shiner is the striped shiner, Notice the taller than wide scales mid body. Although your shiner pics do not closely match any of those in the link. I would be very interested to know the species your wild caught shiners.
ted, just FYI, for putting the pictures in the post, the "img" needs to be capitalized on both ends, so the first one will be " [img] "and the second end one will be "[/img]"
EDIT: That's odd, but it changed my capital IMG's to lower case "[img]"