Don’t Forget the Habitat for Fish

Don't Forget the Fish

I had a listener from our radio show write in recently asking me if I had any suggestions for stocking a small farm pond.  What a timely question and a question that most people don’t think about as they head out to their favorite fishing hole.

To answer this question properly I don’t believe you can begin the question with “how many fish?” or “what kind of fish?” better yet, you start with the basics.  While there are numerous factors to consider when stocking fish I would like to address what I feel are the most important elements before we make that investment in livestock.

WATER RETENTION: Having adequate water all year long is the most basic component to consider before you invest in your fish. Three major factors determine whether your pond will hold water year-round 1) evaporation, 2) soil content and 3) the size of your watershed or the source of your water.  Because it’s fairly self-explanatory I won’t go into great detail on evaporation but it is important to understand how much water you lose from evaporation and know that there are measures to help reduce evaporation.

Soil content is extremely important because if your pond lacks a good clay or silty clay soil then there is a good chance the water in your pond will be lost to seepage. Sand, gravel, shale, limestone or sandstone soils or beds are not good for ponds because they allow water to seep into the ground.  If your pond has less desirable soil or bed types like these you will likely need a liner or a sealant such as bentonite.

The third factor to consider is the size of your watershed or the source of your water.  The watershed is the amount of the area that drains into a pond. This is typically a factor when your pond is fed by run-off water from rains. Believe it or not, too much drainage can be a bad thing for your pond because of erosion. Some ponds are fed by ground water sources as an alternative to watershed fed ponds so it is important to understand the underground water tables for your area as well.

SIZE & DEPTH: Farm ponds range in size from small to semi-lake status depending on the terrain and the conditions of the environment around those water features. In my opinion the best farm ponds cover two to five acres of surface area.  The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks recommends that a pond in that size range should be at least 10 feet over one-quarter of the impound area but not more than 15 feet.  Adequate pond depth is important to protect fish from winterkill but it can become a waste of time and resource if your pond is too deep because fish typically found in ponds will rarely use those deeper waters.

HABITAT: I consult with many clients who are eager to develop habitat for whitetail deer, turkey and upland game but it is less often my clients think about habitat that supports fish in a stocked pond. While ponds themselves are a great component of habitat for the species I mentioned before the fact that the fish and other residents of your pond need their own habitat is a critical component to long-term sustainability of your pond ecosystem. Planting grasses and legumes around your pond can help to provide food and cover for fish and they are also beneficial to assist in erosion control. Trees and brush can be placed in the basin of your pond to act as attractors because they offer shelter and provide food sources for your fish populations.  In some cases, manmade objects such as wooden pallets, tires, concrete blocks or pipes can act as fish attractors as well.  Commercial fish feeders are always an option but the expense and maintenance associated can sometimes become cumbersome.

Before you head out to stock your fish pond this summer do a little research and planning.  Consider the factors that will contribute to the long-term sustainability of your fish stock before you make that investment.

If you have questions about ponds, wildlife habitat, managing hunting properties or buying recreational and investment properties contact Nick Rhodes with WILDLIFE PROPERTIES by emailing him at or call (785) 282-6145. For more tips and advice or to view properties developed by WILDLIFE PROPERTIES which are currently available for sale visit

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