Stocking Texas lakes and ponds
The size of your pond or lake is the major factor that will determine the species and quantity of fish to stock, the degree of management needed to maintain these fish, and how many fish you can harvest each year.
If you are controlling the initial stocking of a pond or lake, in very small ponds it’s usually best to stock only catfish since they provide more fishing recreation, food for the table, and can be fed commercially prepared feed. Many existing farm ponds – especially those built simply for cattle watering – will have a variety of fish brought in by drainage, and by eggs sticking to the feet of waterfowl or birds from neighboring stocked ponds. Ponds and lakes larger than one surface acre or greater are more suitable for multiple species. The type species you may stock will be dependent on water depth, temperature, and oxygen content; live floating, submerged, and emergent vegetation; dead standing or fallen timber, and artificial cover such as sunken concrete blocks, rocks, and other structure constructed of plastic, PVC pipe, or other man made materials. Learning the habitat requirements and preferences of common fishes will help land owners to not only manage the needs of various life stages of those fishes but also provide habitat that improves angler success. For Texas ponds, warm season water temperatures are too high and oxygen to low for non-native rainbow trout. Hybrid striped bass do not reproduce, so do they do not need spawning habitat, but they do need deep, open water and adequate forage production in those habitats.
Create Fish Habitat
A firm, gravel substrate is ideal for nest spawners such as largemouth bass and sunfish. A 10′ x 10′ area of gravel 3 to 6 inches thick can be added where water will be 3 to 4 feet deep during the spring. Gravel can be placed on plastic sheeting or some other barrier to avoid sinking into the bottom sediments over time. Nesting largemouth bass prefer sites near large simple structures such as natural logs or pressure-treated lumber held in place on the bottom by concrete blocks; this provides adults with cover especially from bird predators in clearwater. Adult fish prefer areas that offer rapid change in water depth and irregular bottom contours. Many ponds that were built to accommodate livestock watering or bowl shaped offering little habitat complexity. Adding artificial cover is excellent, low-maintenance alternative to plants for providing sanctuary for prey fishes and cover for predatory fishes from which to ambush their prey. Artificial cover serves to increase angler catch rates by congregating fish is smaller, more serviceable areas. Over time, a pond owner can receive more maintenance-free recreation from an artificial structure them from introducing live plants that might grow out of control. It is also important to know that fish of different sizes and lifestages require different kinds of habitat. Young bass and sunfish need tight spaces within which the hide and feed. Christmas trees, rock piles, and thin brush serve this purpose well. Adult bass preferred large interstitial spaces that allow hiding as well as freedom to maneuver and travel within the cover. As mentioned, brush and trees with larger, open limbs, large rocks, and PVC structures work well. When cutting and sinking brush, remember to use hardwood trees such as Mesquite, Oasge, Cedar or Oak, that will resist decay longer than softwoods like Ash, Pine, Elm or Hackberry.
Varied lake topography
Ponds in different parts of Texas experience varied annual rainfall and evaporation rates. While East Texas ponds are usually full most of the year, South and West Texas ponds tend to experience drastic drawdowns during the summer months. These drawdowns concentrate fish in small areas and current reduce populations through either predication or oxygen depletion. If building new, in designing your lake or pond, you can minimize the impact of such drawdowns by providing water 11 to 15 feet depth in one section of the pond, and by sizing the pond appropriately to the drainage area (the watershed), and by constructing a quality, well cored dam.
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