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Hey everyone, I held off on making this post because I've been reading through tons of old posts but haven't quite found the answer to my question. I've got an existing .4-.2 acre pond on my property that I want to turn into a catfish only pond. I intend to buy a feeder at the same time I buy my fish, and then aerate it in the future when I get power pulled to the property. This will be for friends and family as well as business contacts and their kids to pull fish out of for food. I am not planning on doing any spawning structure in the pond and will restock each year. The only source of water for this pond is runoff so we are at the mercy of the weather to get fresh water into the pond. The pond swells to .4 acres or larger during the spring, and then as the summer months roll in it drops considerably to only 1/5 of an acre. Since I'm assuming the hot summer months are putting the most stress on the fish, it seems logical to use that water body size as the limiting capacity amount. I'm in the Austin, TX area. One last detail is that we have the little mosquito fish in this pond. Not sure how they got in there, but I would assume that even if I drain this thing to ensure no other fish, they will likely find a way back in. I'm assuming they are coming in from neighboring ponds during exceptionally large rain storms. What is the maximum fish load that you would put in this pond without aeration and then with aeration? Thanks in advance.

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How deep is the pond?

Wouldn’t worry too much about the mosquito minnows the catfish will eat them up.

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I saw that you want to 'pull fish out for food.'


How often do you see that happening? I ask because I feel that would directly correlate to how many catfish you want to stock.


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By the time the pond is down to around .2 acres in size we have an average depth of around 3' (the pond goes deeper but average depth is only 3').

I'm also realizing that last year we started off with the pond not being full, and right now with the recent rains its overflowing. So this year we should be a ft higher at our minimum if we go into the same drought conditions and excessive heat. We won't gain that much in surface as the slope is fairly steep.

The pond is surrounded by willow trees which I have been told suck out a lot of water, however it does keep the pond really shaded during the summer and noticeably cooler. I will be removing a bunch of them this year when we get the equipment out to start the other pond. But I would like to leave a lot of the larger ones to keep the pond shaded.

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My family eats a good amount of fish, and all our friends eat fish. Plus, I have a ton of business contacts and their kids that would love to fish it as well. I don't think it's unreasonable to pull 300 fish out per year in the 1-2lb range. My thought is that I might as well start with the max fish load, and then if we're not fishing it as much, just reduce my stocking rate. The other stuff that I have read on previous threads is that catfish become difficult to catch on rod and reel after being caught. so, when you catch them, it's probably best to just pull them out. We may start fishing in the fall, once the fish have put on some weight and are worth pulling out. Then re-stock the appropriate number of fish in the spring and put a pause on fishing until those fish are of good size. This prevents someone from catching a small catfish and wanting to toss it back. After the second year, it sounds like that would be a good time to draw down the pond and net it to ensure that none of the big catfish are still lurking in there.

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Originally Posted by Sunil
I saw that you want to 'pull fish out for food.'


How often do you see that happening? I ask because I feel that would directly correlate to how many catfish you want to stock.


This


AL

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We would like to fish the pond once a month.

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I see you plan on eating 1-2 pound CC. (Hey, I think a pound and a half is just about perfect.)

What do you plan to do with the CC that you don't catch until then get a lot bigger than that? If they're going to be a problem, that's a reason to stock smaller numbers until you establish growth and catch rate baselines.


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If a target harvest was (300) catfish per year in what we can call a 1/5 acre pond, I'm thinking aeration is a 'must-have' as the stocking numbers would be more than (300) fish, and the amount of feed needed to bulk those fish up (possibly over 600-700 lbs of feed per year), plus the fish waste would push water quality issues to the max, and maybe over.

What you are talking about is almost a fish-farming venture.

The conventional wisdom on feed to weight-on-fish conversion is 2:1. So, 600 pounds of feed may theoretically only put one pound of weight on each of (300) fish.

I don't think there's enough water-room in a small pond like that to have much of a natural forage base for the catfish to eat on at those high CC stocking numbers.


Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
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Follow Sunil's rec of reducing the number of CC.

My biggest concern is the summer drawdowns. If you lose 1/2 the surface area, how much of water volume is lost? It depends on the shape of your pond but it could be more than 1/2 or less. If more, the effect is more than just 1/2.

So just thinking of ways to have more of what you want without large standing weights of CC during high Texas temps and summer draw down. Lets talk first about the ponds strengths. Its cool season has twice as much water and the water is teeming with GAMs. Give some consideration to leveraging that.

For example, consider stocking rainbows in the late fall when water temps are falling below 60F. The temps are more forgiving, the pond would be past turnover, and they will grow all winter providing good fishing through about March 31st. The GAMs will be EXCELLENT forage for them. During the last two weeks of March, just keep all you can of them without releasing any. You might fish artificial lures until then and for the final harvest leverage bait/feed to take out the rest. You might be able to go as high as 100-300 trout when temps are cool. I think I would judge how many based on how much feeding I wanted to do and how large I wanted to grow them. But lets say you stock 150 and feed them 240 lbs of feed, you could probably add 150 lbs to an initial stocking of around 75 lbs of rainbows. At .40 acres, we are talking 562 lbs/acre at seasons end. That's doable and you are likely to succeed without aeration. This approach is dependent on RBT supply.

So what about Summer when then the conditions are tough? Why not have a modest number of catfish for your own use. Use the summer surface area and stock something like 60 fish per surface acre (12 annually). You don't have to feed them. They should grow to the target weights without feed and aeration.

Last edited by jpsdad; 01/30/24 08:04 AM.

It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so - Will Rogers


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So I don't need to have a fish farm operation, and I don't "need" to harvest 300 fish a year. It's just that the more fish I can put in here, the more kids can be invited out to go and fish. Mostly from reading other threads there's tons of warnings about being able to consume and harvest the number of fish required to keep a catfish pond in check, and just want to let you guys know that I have the ability to distribute large quantities of food with ease and keeping this pond in check shouldn't be an issue.

One other part that lends itself really well in making sure all the fish are harvested or accurately counted is that during the end of duck hunting season, I'm planning on pumping this pond down to help flood a field. This gives me the opportunity to net out the remaining fish that haven't been caught on rod and reel. So, every year, the pond can be drained down and emptied of fish or at least there will be an accurate counting of what is left (may be fun to leave 2-3 big ones in there). Either way, I realize I will have to monitor what is caught, how much is being fed and do my own calculations on the total fish weight that is in the pond to make sure that when summer comes I'm not exceeding my carrying capacity. What I'm feeling right now is that there might not be a good answer to this question, and I may just have to feel it out. So maybe stock low at first with 50-75 fish, check on the growth rates and the water quality and see what happens in summer?

I feel eventually that my limiting factor on how many fish I can produce in this pond will come down to water quality since I don't have any way of exchanging the water. After diving into threads on fish food it appears that some fish food creates more fish waste and may result in poorer water quality. I know the catfish feed tends to be the cheaper grain base feeds, but is there a feed out there that will produce less fish waste and therefore help maintain my water quality?

By the way, I absolutely love the idea of putting in trout over the winter, my only issue is this may affect my plan of drawing down the pond. The idea being that the pond can be drawn down in winter, knowing that the spring rains will fill it back up. Second issue is that I'm not sure where to buy trout as the closest local fish farm doesn't appear to stock them. My wife and I love eating trout, so plans may be changed around to accommodate them.

jpsdad, so the pond is odd. What it appears to me is they set out to build a 1/4 - 1/3 acre pond. Then when they finished they started to create a berm to divert water into the pond....and then they ran out of money. So the berm they built was way too large if you were just trying to divert water, and it ended up digging out and creating more pond. The bummer is that they didn't finish the berm, so the pond is losing out on a lot of runoff that it should be catching. I'll correct this when I get the equipment out to the site to build my larger tank. So the pond is a circle, with a reverse peninsula that extends out a pretty far ways. That peninsula accounts for a surprising amount of surface area but is only 2-2.5' deep at its max. This area does hold water long enough where the willow trees have grown around it and not in it. I'm hoping this increased surface area will just help provide more natural feeding area for the fish when they are small and gain more weight.

One last question, I was thinking about throwing a lb of fathead minnows in there along with the catfish. Mostly just being optimistic that they will populate and once my other tank is done I can net or trap them and toss them in there. Dumb idea or worth a try? I realized I'm spending more money in diesel to get to the fish farm and back then I am on all the fish so trying to make the most out of this trip.

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You can buy 1# CC from the hatcheries. They (and larger ones) are used to stock pay fishing lakes. One question that you never had answered is how many fish without aeration. I'd say around 300-400 pounds per surface acre. With aeration you could double or triple that. The biggest issue you will have is the 1/5 acre 3' average depth in the summer down there - the water will get HOT and the hotter the water the less O2 is available.


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Essentially, if you've got the time and resources/(money), you can accomplish almost anything you want.

You could start with a smaller number, and feed like crazy and just see what happens. 30-50 fish on a heavy feed diet would create some mass per fish and some fillets. With a lower # of fish, you may be able to avoid aeration, but even 30-50 fish, heavily fed, in a pond of 1/5 acre or less, in the south, could create water quality issues.


Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
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I think I'm going to start with 60 fish in the 6-8" size. Hopefully with some heavy feeding these fish will be approaching a pound each by the end of June? I'm doing 60 because I don't think we'll be able to resist fishing and pulling around 10 out even if they're small. In any case, goal is to have 50 fish going into the summer. After giving this some thought, I really just want to monitor this pond and see what happens. The land will be completely torn up from digging the main pond for the property, so not very likely we will be wanting to invite other people out yet. This is a great year to experiment. Between the fish and feed I'm likely looking at less than $100.

Should I assume 100% survivability with the catfish stocking or get a few extra in case a few don't make it early on? This pond is in a pretty wooded spot at the moment, so I don't typically see any of the usual predators.

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Don't ever assume 100% survival when stocking. Probably could use 85-90% survival as a very general rule.

I'm not sure about the 'less than $100.' comment though. Do you mean less than $100 for (60) CC in the 6-8" range, and the feed costs?


Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
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Having 60 6"-8" cc gain weight to a pound each involves roughly 50 lbs of total weight gain. At a best possible 2:1 ratio, that's feeding 100 lbs of feed. Add your fish price and your best possible feed cost.


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Yes, the fish are .60 cents each, so $36, and the feed will be $60 for a 100lbs. So, $96 plus tax. Obviously, will be spending a lot more than that with the fish feeder and other purchases but I won't be losing those.

I'll assume a 90% survival rate to be on the safe side, which will only allow us to pull out 4 fish early, but that's actually fine. I'm finally getting some more realistic bids for my other pond project, so there may be some extra money to dig this pond out deeper.

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Originally Posted by CentexSaj
I think I'm going to start with 60 fish in the 6-8" size. Hopefully with some heavy feeding these fish will be approaching a pound each by the end of June?


How many months will the fish be in the pond with the water temp between 70 and 85 degrees after being stocked, but before July 1?


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That’s tough to answer because I’ve never monitored water temps before. I know our last freeze date (safe to plant gardens) is the second weekend in March and by mid June we start getting hot, upper 90s. These are air temps, so water temps I would imagine would be 10 to 15 degrees cooler? So my guess is 3 months mostly depending on how quickly we warm up.

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The 6"-8" fish won't grow to 14"-16" in 3 months. I'd start with 12"-14" fish if I was doing it for myself.


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I wanted to give everyone an update on what happened with this little project. Sorry it's been a while, just been really busy. So, in early March we went to the fish farm and purchased 45 catfish in the 4-6" range and a lb of fathead minnows. Surprisingly they were extremely busy with lots of people re-stocking ponds that had gone dry through the drought, so that was the only size they had. I backed way off the number I was shooting for because I now have delays on my main pond build, so this is going to have to be our fishing hole for a while and I didn't want to ruin it by over stocking. Anyways as we are putting the fat head minnows in the water explodes about 3' from us. Definitely a fish strike. Now I have tried fishing this tank multiple times and have never even gotten a bite, as well as 3 other people. Plus the previous owner said that he thought the tank went dry. We returned the next week with fishing poles and ended up catching 3 good size bass, around 10 small bluegills and another baby bass around 5". We culled out the big bass and ate them, I tossed the small one back since there's really no chance of him ever being able to eat our catfish and we tossed back all the bluegill minus maybe 2 that swallowed the hook entirely and were going to die. We've been back multiple times to fish since and we do know that there is at least one more big bass in the pond capable of eating our catfish fingerlings and are actively trying to catch him. The last time we were out there I thought I saw a much larger fish that looked like a carp that was a solid 18-20" long. Over all, I guess I was way off when estimating the depth of the pond if all of these fish have managed to survive through the droughts. We did set up our fish feeder the day we stocked the fish and have been feeding aqua max twice a day for 1 second.

So first question which I know may be a crap shoot, but any suggestions on how to manage this pond at this point? Of the 45 catfish we bought, one was pretty dead on arrival, and another was in bad shape. The rest were fine. No telling how many are alive right now. I'm not sure if the bluegill or catfish are an easier target for the bass. When we fish for the bluegills, we usually kill one each outing on accident (these don't go to waste, we keep them for bait). Also, the pond at full capacity clearly has room for more bluegills. We are only catching them in around 4-5 spots, and there's a solid 15-16 spots with structure around the pond where there should be blue gill. I should also note that we haven't seen a catfish since releasing them, although I wasn't expecting too until they got much larger. End goal now would just be to be able to catch eating size bluegill.

Second question is that we have had the feeder running for over a month now and nothing really seems to be coming up to the surface to hit the food. I have not been around when the feeder actually goes off in the morning or the evening, I have just tossed a handful out when I'm there usually in the middle of the day. I do see a few small blue gills start pecking at the food when it sinks. Should I only be feeding once a day until the fish start to hit the feed? I'm frankly a little shocked that they aren't more trained to the feed at this point.

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Keep feeding when you are for the same length time until you can be there at that time to observe the feeding response. I can feed in my pond at noon and you'd think there wasn't a fish in it. 1/2 hour before sunset is a completely different story. If you saw the fish responding to the feed, you might not want to swim in the pond. LOL


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Centex, I see you, at one point above, called your pond a tank. I knew without looking that you were from Texas. Hang in there.


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

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Originally Posted by Dave Davidson1
Centex, I see you, at one point above, called your pond a tank. I knew without looking that you were from Texas.
But you knew not to ask. Never ask a man if he's from Texas. If he isn't, you'll embarrass him. If he is, he'll decide when you deserve to know.


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