It’s fishing season again, and if the fishing experience in your pond needs “tuned-up” this is the time to do that. My friend whose pond “turned” this spring, obliterating all his fish, got his pond restocked Friday; the fish came from Hartley Fish Farm 5 miles west of Kingman, KS. Hartley’s has been family owned and operated since 1946, and depending upon rain amounts, contains 300 to 600 acres of water in 100 different ponds. I spoke at length with Bill Hartley who talked me through all the questions he would ask a pond owner when deciding how to stock or restock their pond.  

First they need to know how deep the pond is and how big it is in acres. As long as it’s at least 6 feet deep, (which most are) the depth is not real important, but the size is important since the acreage determines the number of fish added. Next they’ll want to know if it’s a new pond or a pond without fish, or if it already contains fish. If it’s an older pond containing fish, they’ll want to know what is being caught and how healthy the fish are. Next they’ll want to know the clarity of the pond; is it covered with moss and/or other aquatic weeds or is it relatively moss and weed free. Then they will want to know your plans for the pond; do you want to fish only for bass or do you want a well rounded population of different fish like catfish and bluegills for family and grandkids to catch.

If the pond is new or if it contains no fish or very few fish for whatever reason, its relatively free of weeds and moss and if the owner wants a balanced population of different species, Hartley’s standard and least expensive recommendation goes something like this; in the spring, stock 300 fingerling bluegills and red ear sunfish per acre, 50 (8 to 12 inch) catfish per acre if they won’t be fed any commercial food or 150 per acre if they will be fed, and 2000 fat head minnows per acre. Creating and maintaining a large population of minnows as forage for the other fish is a key to a healthy, growing fish population Hartley says. These minnows will also spawn and multiply if conditions are right, and Hartley suggests sinking cinder blocks, old PVC pipe or car tires as objects to which they can attach their eggs. Feeding the minnows with the kind of catfish food that sinks to the bottom is also helpful. He also recommends 10 (10 inch) grass carp per acre if the pond is clean, more if the pond is weedy. Grass carp will control all aquatic plants that are rooted to the pond bottom and are the best long term solution for weed control, but any floating moss or algae will have to be controlled with chemicals, preferable in early spring. But be vigilant when killing moss and algae with chemicals, as the dying and decaying vegetation can sap the oxygen from the water and kill the fish, thus creating the very situation my friend had faced. When I was a kid we had a nice pond that the conservation people recommended stocking with largemouth bass and bluegills, and though some bass grew large, the pond filled with small stunted bluegills and always had big patches of moss which we struggled to control. Hartley says that moss and weed removal is essential for the large growing fish to be able to control bluegill and sunfish populations, as small fish are able to hide in any vegetation and escape the larger predator fish. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleyes and crappies should be added in the fall after the minnows have had the summer to multiply as forage for those more predatory fish. As an interesting trivia fact, Hartley says it takes 10 pounds of forage to add 1 pound of weight to a bass, and only 2 pounds of forage to add 1 pound to a catfish.

Although the above recommendations are pretty standard, Hartley says that every pond is different and their suggestions for each pond will differ according to conditions; for example whether the pond is moss and algae covered, whether it’s already full of stunted bass or bluegills, etc. He says they even find differences from one pond to another at their fish farm. Above all, Bill Hartley stressed that despite their recommendations, in the end they will do whatever the customer wants done. Oh, and by the way, they can even add some of their hybrid bluegills to a pond especially for the kids to catch. They get big and plump, are feisty and loads of fun to catch and are 90% males so they won’t overpopulate.

Hey its fishin’ season again, so whether you have a new pond just beggin’ for fish, or whether your older pond is dead and devoid of life, before the grandkids threaten to chuck you into the depths of Davey Jones Locker until they have fish to catch, get hold of the Hartley family at Hartley’s Fish Farm, www.hartleyfishfarmsinc.com. and let them help you put some life into your water to help you better Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.