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Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
#516622 02/10/20 06:38 PM
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I had a very enjoyable spring fishing season in my pond last year, and I am excited to do it again this year. I live in central PA, I have a 1/4 to 1/3 acre pond with LMB, BG, HSB, and a few CC. 10’ deep in deepest spot. I have an aerator running 24/7. It is moved to 2’ depth for winter. I stock FHM every spring, and have seen schools of fry in summer. I have a large population of trap door snails. I am planning to stock about 100 pounds of golden and rainbow trout. Did the same last spring. Sizes from 10-18”. Must remove them before July, temps in pond get in the 80’s in summer. I have used and plan to use a local fish farm. They are great to work with. They allow tank loaning with an aerator that hooks up to your truck battery. My question is about stocking timing and how to feed the trout in February weather. The farm is raising rates March 1st. I planned to pick up about 80# of trout in the smaller sizes Either late this week or next. Guessing 60 to 80 trout in 10-15” range. The aerator keeps Some of the pond ice free. We have had slightly milder temps. So about half the pond is open water. Will the trout I stock now, feed, or need fed? I am sure they will find more comfortable temps below surface. I will buy pellets from farm, which float. Should I try to pellet feed right away? Will they rise to surface In these temps? If there’s even some ice I’d guess surface temp in 30’s. Will they just attack existing forage at lower depths or will they not feed at all? The raceways at the farm stay in the 50’s all year long. I hate to pay higher rates and wait for March warmer weather. Forecast for next week is temps above freezing during day and just below freezing at night. Almost each day.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516628 02/10/20 08:04 PM
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Your project sounds like lots of fun. Your stocking in mid-February should be successful as long as you have some open water. I think the trout will feed on the floating pellets. Ask the fish farm where you get the trout a few questions: 1. What do they say about feeding the trout soon after you get them. 2. When do they usually feed the trout at their farm because fish are very conditioned to feed at the same time. Trout normally quickly find floating pellets. 3. Take the temperature of your pond water and give that info to the sales person. This information may help with fish farm advice.

I suggest that next year you buy your trout as soon as the water temperature drops to 60F-64F usually in October. This puts some growth on the trout, gets them conditioned to where and when to eat in your pond, and may help reduce some excess BG. Plus the trout in your pond during winter could provide some ice or cold water fishing excitement during late fall or mid-winter. Enjoy.


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Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516631 02/10/20 09:58 PM
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Mike, I stocked rainbow in deep east Texas early December, and they are thriving. So much fun, though of course won't survive a Texas summer.

Speaking of trapdoor snails, is there a fish out there which could eat them for you? Redear sunfish, maybe pumpkinseed? I'm pretty sure the freshwater drum in Lake Erie will, but maybe you don't want them in the pond.


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Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516633 02/10/20 10:11 PM
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Mike,
We have had some trout, rainbows, browns, and/or tigers year round for the last 10 years. Our cool water pond has sustaining populations of LMB, BG, GSF, YP, and a few other species that do not reproduce.

We get complete ice cover every winter for 1 to 3 months. We run an aerator in shallow water when necessary to keep a hole open.

I've tried throwing feed when there is ice on the pond. I have gotten no takers on the surface. The trout feed voraciously throughout the rest of the year. I've tried feeding at all times of the day and at all light levels. Nada.

This surprises me, as I really thought the rainbows at the least would come to the opening and sip some pellets.

The pond has no deep water refuge so perhaps the aeration is completely mixing the water, and everybody is cold. This past week I've shut off the aerator allowing the pond to freeze over. We've had some warm days, so ice on the north shoreline is melting out several feet. I'm hoping to get some thermal stratification going.

Many times I've tried ice fishing without catching a single fish. I'm thinking that the entire water column is an even temp, probably close to 32 degrees, and that is contributing to the lack of interest from even the cool water perch and the cold water trout.

I'll be following your reports of your experiences.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516687 02/11/20 08:13 PM
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Thanks for all the input guys. How large is you pond 4cornerspuddle? I think I’m in the same boat as you. I stocked thirteen 12-18” Golden’s last January. It was a test run to see how the trout would fair in my pond. It was actually good advice from someone on this forum. I saw a few Golden’s near surface next to ice opening. Kept throwing pellets, and like you, no takers. I waited till ice off (early March) to stock 50# of 10-12” and 25# of 12-15” all rainbows. Fed pellets two days later and to my enjoyment had the surface explode with trout feeding voraciously. The only Golden’s I stocked were the initial 13 from January and all of them showed up to eat pellets when there was no ice. I’m wondering if my aerator is cooling the whole pond like you thought might be happening to you. I found 3 dead blue gill after ice off last winter but no LMB floaters. The BG where large and we don’t keep many so that could easily be normal die off. I have heard of super cooling a pond if the aerator is left in deep water. But maybe my pond is small enough that it is cooling down all of it to a point. The fact that you didn’t catch any through the ice makes me think the stocked trout won’t feed at all for a while. So they won’t wipe out my forage. Good news is that I came home to an ice free pond today. Forecast near 50 next Monday. So maybe I will get lucky and they feed on pellets right away. As you can tell I’m a little obsessed with my pond and fish, so I’ll have no problem keeping you posted on how it goes. I am scheduled to pick up 60# of 10-12” and 65# of 12-18” Friday.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516689 02/11/20 08:26 PM
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anthropic: the trapdoor snails I purchased are live bearing and have relatively soft shells. I am not an expert at all, but the sales pitch I was given was that it was a fish foraging food. I have seen hundreds of the tiny snails along the shore all summer long. I assume my bass are eating some, and the FHM would pick the tiny ones out of the shallows. But that is only an assumption.

The trout put and take stocking I did last year was the best thing I ever did in my pond. We hand feed the BG, HSB, koi, and I even have 2 LMB pellet trained. So fishing for them does bring some guilt. BUT, when I know the trout are temporary and if I don’t catch them they will die, it becomes a lot more fun fishing! I would recommend it to everybody!

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516690 02/11/20 08:44 PM
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Bill,
I do buy pellets from the farm that I buy the trout from. Last year I asked them when they feed them, and they told me it various, no set time. They told me they isolate the trout I am scheduled to pick up and don’t feed them for a day before pickup. But they also advised to give them a day to acclimate before trying to feed. I can’t remember for sure if I waited one day or two days before feeding them after ice off stocking. But they found the pellets fast. 100 or so trout hitting the surface, sometimes leaping out of the water in a small pond is so neat to watch. I did intend to buy trout in October this year but the hatchery moved their adult trout to another facility and I would have to travel 2 hours one way, then return the loaner tank. 8 hours total travel. Decided to wait until closer facility had larger trout to sell.

If the trout do “shut down” or feed little for a month or so, is that detrimental to health, or normal.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516702 02/11/20 11:37 PM
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Mike, our pond is 1/4 acre when full, and only 7 feet deep. I don't aerate during the summer as the incoming irrigation water is cool and well aerated.

Yes, the splashes of feeding trout are exciting. I'll pull out my cell to snap pics; water from 15 feet away can drench the lens. One of my Australian shepherds likes to hang her head over the edge of the dock watching the fish. She'll get a soaking on occasion.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516703 02/11/20 11:39 PM
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BTW, I grew up over in Berks County back in the '50s and 60s.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516818 02/14/20 11:03 AM
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Mike, you mentioned that on Tuesday the ice had gone off your pond. Hve you thrown any feed; if so, what was the result?

By early last evening, the sun had melted the ice along the entire north shoreline and half of the west shoreline of our pond. The open water extended out between 10' and 20'. So a good 150' of shoreline was open. I threw pellets along most of the ice edge; water depth ranged from 1' to 3' feet along that edge.

No takers after 20 minutes of waiting/watching.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
4CornersPuddle #516835 02/14/20 09:12 PM
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Just stocked today 4corners. We had a cold day in PA today. High of 24 degrees. But the rest of the week was above freezing so I had only a thin edge of ice on opposite side of aerator when I stocked. My pond gets too warm for trout in summer. Until 3:30 today there wasn’t any trout in it. I purchased 60# of 10-12” and 65# of 12-18” rainbows and a few Golden’s. Tried to count bodies while slow releasing them from the dip net. I want to keep track of how many are left in the pond in June. The count I had was 142 trout with 18 of them Golden’s. Warmer weather is forecast. I’m going to try to feed each day. I will take water temp off the dock each day and record when they start eating. The depth at the end of the dock is about 6 and a half feet deep. Though it is on the same bank as the aerator. I’ll get temps on surface and on bottom. Though it is just a cheap thermometer I bought on amazon, don’t know if I trust it.

I did jump the gun a little today though. My pond is only about 75 yards from my house. I can see it through the sliding glass door from my kitchen table. I did witness a few fish break the surface of the water about an hour after stocking. Probably just jittery and checking new surroundings. But I thought, heck, why not try. So I ran out to the garage got some pellets and scattered two handfuls as far as I could throw. I did see two more surface swirls that I thought “might” be feeding fish, but that was all. Looking forward to tomorrow. Can’t wait until they explode on the surface again.

I did talk to the hatchery and he told me his water stays 50 degrees and they have been feeding well. But their other locations don’t have as warm of water and those trout hardly feed. They have about 4 locations in both PA and VA.

Re: Put & take, Trout feeding habits in winter PA pond
MikeSell68 #516837 02/14/20 11:15 PM
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Mike, I appreciate the update.

Today, after the aerator has been off for about a week, and two days of warmer afternoons have melted a band of ice along the north shoreline, I was able to get several fish to come to the surface for Optimal BG pellets.

Some of the riseforms were certainly from RNBT (rainbows). Others, not nearly so splashy, could also be from trout, or from YP (perch). The lighting was so low that I could not identify the fish.

This is the first time in 10 years that I have actually had fish feed while there was ice on part of the pond surface. I'm strongly considering this is a result of aerator been off. The pond water may have stratified a bit. Unfortunately, the ice is weak enough that I don't think it's safe for me to walk out and drill a hole to lower a temp probe into the depths.


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