Some Oklahomans consider a day at the pond with a good companion, a cold beverage and fish nibbling at the hook to be a splash of heaven.
When starting from scratch in creating the fishing pond of your dreams, the first step is to become educated about pond management, said Marley Beem, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service aquaculture specialist with Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
What type of fish do you want in your pond? Will they work in the size and type of pond you have? How do you deal with pond problems such as muddiness or excessive plant growth?
“Information on many pond management topics including trophy bass, catfish-only ponds and hybrid bluegill can be found in ‘Managing Pond Fisheries in Oklahoma,’” Beem said.
A limited supply of this publication is available from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Fisheries Division in Oklahoma City. Beem said the information will be posted online once the supply is exhausted.
When stocking your pond for the first time, Beem suggested using fingerlings. However, if there is already a fish population, other steps must be taken first or existing fish will eat them.
Fish for stocking a fishing pond can either be purchased from a private hatchery or be obtained from ODWC without cost. An application for free largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish fingerlings from state hatcheries in Byron, Durant, Medicine Park or Holdenville must be completed by June to receive fish this year.
An application can only be filled out once a pond owner meets ODWC requirements and accepts certain conditions.
“The pond owner must have a current fishing license, along with a pond of at least a half-acre with absolutely no fish,” Beem said.
Also, game rangers are allowed to check anglers for fishing licenses but owners are not required to let members of the public fish in their ponds, unless part of the pond is on public property.
For an application or more information on ODWC pond stocking, visit www.wildlifedepartment.com/farmpond.htm on the Internet.
Some landowners may prefer to purchase from a private hatchery.
“Buying fingerlings from private hatcheries gives pond owners the option of stocking other fish species and getting larger-size fingerlings,” Beem said. “It pays to visit the hatchery before you buy, to inspect the fish you’ll be buying.”
Regardless of the path chosen to stock a new pond with fingerlings, certain precautions must be taken.
“Observe the fingerlings closely and check for any signs of disease,” Beem said. “Not all sick fish will show disease signs, so it may be safest to reject all of them if some appear sick.”
Symptoms of ailing fish include loss of balance, hanging near the surface, bulging eyes, swollen or shrunken stomach, sores and cotton-like growth.
“There may be undesirable fish mixed into your fingerlings,” Beem said. “Take care not to introduce such problem fish into your pond by checking closely for unknown fish.”
More information on fingerlings and farm pond management is available through local OSU Cooperative Extension county offices.