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College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension

School of Forest Resources

Pond Facts #11
Fish for Pennsylvania Ponds
Whether for aesthetics or for fishing pleasure, most Sunfish
pond owners are interested in stocking and Other types of sunfish are sometimes stocked
managing fish. Dozens of fish species are suitable instead of bluegill, usually with less success. These
for stocking in Pennsylvania ponds, but some tend to be harder to catch than bluegill and have
species are usually more successful than others. unpredictable survival rates. If your pond suffers
Too often, pond owners indiscriminately stock from swimmers itch, a rash-causing parasite
small numbers of many types of fish in the hopes of carried by waterfowl and snails, you can stock
having a diverse fish population. This often pumpkinseed sunfish in place of bluegills because
produces disappointing results. This fact sheet they feed on snails and reduce the parasite.
describes the common fish species that are most
suitable for use in small farm ponds in Trout
Pennsylvania. Most ponds cannot sustain trout year-round
because of warm summer water temperatures
Bass and Bluegill (above about 74F). Adult trout can be stocked
Bass and bluegill are by far the most popular and during spring or fall and harvested before summer
successful combination of fishes in Pennsylvania in a put-and-take fishery. Brook trout are
ponds. Either smallmouth or largemouth bass are preferred because they are generally the easiest to
suitable although largemouth bass are the more catch, but they are more sensitive to warm water
common choice. Both bass and bluegill thrive in the temperature. Rainbow trout are also satisfactory
warm water present in most ponds. Bass offer and are better fighting fish. Brown trout are not
excellent sport fishing opportunities, while bluegills recommended because they are difficult to fish out
provide a food base for bass and good fishing for of the pond. Permanent trout ponds are possible
youngsters. When stocking these fish together, where a continual source of cold water keeps the
bass should be one year older than the bluegill. A pond cool during summer or in especially deep
stocking rate of 100 bass and 200 to 500 bluegill ponds. Trout fingerlings can be stocked in cold-
has been successful in Pennsylvania. Care should water ponds, but they usually do not reproduce and
also be taken not to disturb bass during the spring rarely live more than three years. Restocking will
while they are on their nests. be necessary every three to four years.

With proper management, a bass and bluegill Perch

combination can provide an excellent pond fishery. Yellow perch may be stocked for ice fishing. Since
You can fine-tune the size and number of both each female produces over 75,000 eggs, they
bass and bluegill by regulating the harvest. quickly reproduce and often overpopulate the pond
Common mistakes are overharvesting bass and with stunted fish. They can produce more
underharvesting bluegill. See Pond Facts #12: satisfactory results if stocked in combination with
Pond Fisheries Management (available online at other species, like bass, that will help keep their for more details on population under control. However, little experience
stocking and harvesting recommendations for bass exists in Pennsylvania ponds with such a
and bluegill. combination of fish.

Black Crappie Darters
Black crappie are active throughout winter, making Many types of native darters are found in
them popular for ice fishing. They do best in large Pennsylvania. They are small, bottom-dwelling
impoundments with cool, deep water and forage fish. Since they are intolerant of high water
extensive underwater habitat. As such, they are temperatures, muddy water, and other problems,
usually recommended only for lakes. the presence of darters indicates high water
quality. Most darters will do well, but Johnny
Channel Catfish Darters and Tesselated Darters are recommended
Channel catfish have been somewhat successful for ponds.
in Pennsylvania ponds when stocked with
largemouth bass. A stocking density of 500 catfish Fish to Avoid
to 100 bass is recommended. Channel catfish can Walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, and pickerel
reach very large sizes, but their survival and are not suitable for small ponds in Pennsylvania
reproduction is unpredictable in Pennsylvania and should be avoided when stocking.
Where to Get Fish
Brown Bullhead Ponds may be stocked with fish caught from other
This small catfish rarely grows larger than 12 ponds, lakes, or streams as long as the fish are of
inches in ponds. It is an excellent panfish and legal size and were caught during the legal fishing
sport fish for many anglers. They tolerate low season. In addition, Pennsylvania has dozens of
water quality, such as high water temperatures, commercial fish hatcheries. A list of commercial
muddy water, and low dissolved oxygen. Brown fish hatcheries summarized by the Pennsylvania
bullhead are problematic because they are prolific; Department of Agriculture can be accessed online
the result is a large population of stunted catfish at
that stir up the mud on the bottom of the pond
while looking for food. They may be most useful in More Information
ponds that are unable to support more desirable More detailed information on pond fisheries
fish species. management can be found in Management of Fish
Ponds in Pennsylvania. This 30-page publication is
Golden Shiners available free of charge from your countys Penn
This large, native minnow can reach 10 inches. It State Cooperative Extension office. You can also
is a good forage fish that is often stocked as a download this publication and many others related
food source for bass. Like bluegill, they provide to all aspects of pond management at Penn State
good forage because some grow large enough to Cooperative Extension pond Web site at
avoid predators and breed. Shiners do best in
ponds with aquatic vegetation that provides cover
and breeding locations. They are also an excellent
baitfish for muskie, pike, and pickerel. Shiners can
be stocked with bass at a density of about 400
adults (2 to 4 inches) per surface acre.

Fathead Minnows
These minnow are also native to Pennsylvania but
are smaller (2 to 3 inches) than golden shiners.
Like channel catfish, fatheads are tolerant of poor
water quality. They breed prolifically, which makes
them an excellent baitfish. Bass easily prey upon
fathead minnows, so they must be stocked more
frequently than golden shiners. As a result, they
are not recommended in ponds with well-
established bass populations.

Prepared by Bryan R. Swistock, extension associate, and Jay Stauffer,
professor of ichthyology.

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research, extension, and

resident education programs are funded in part by Pennsylvania
counties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Department
of Agriculture.

This publication is available in alternative media on request.

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