Channel catfish are a popular food and sport fish, which means they’re stocked in ponds across the country. In fact, many private ponds are kept exclusively for these fish. When properly managed, a small pond can produce up to 500 pounds of fish per acre every year, providing endless recreation and plenty of top-quality dining. Here, you’ll learn about channel catfish and their effective management.
A channel catfish pond should be eight feet deep or more with sloped edges, which will reduce the overgrowth of aquatic vegetation and pond bacteria. When building a new pond, it’s important to assess the soil’s general and water-holding characteristics.
All debris and trees should be taken from the basin and dam area to create an effective seal and facilitate pond seining. Consider installing a turndown drainpipe to allow for easy water level decreases and simpler harvests. By removing objects that give fish a place to hide, you’ll discourage their natural reproduction and give the newly stocked catfish the best chance of success.
Existing populations of fish should also be removed from a new pond to minimize competition and allow for healthy, safe growth. Information on the production of channel catfish can be gathered from your local fish farming association or extension agent. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide information on pond preparation and construction, and your state’s conservation department will help with water quality assessment and the removal of existing fish.
Stocking Your Pond
Starting a healthy catfish pond requires a plentiful stocking of fingerlings, which are roughly five inches in length. A pond should be stocked during the spring when the water’s temperature is below 65 degrees, so the fish don’t become stressed. The number of fish stocked depends on how often they’re fed and the method to be used.
If you plan the occasional supplemental feeding it’s best to take a conservative approach when stocking. However, if you’re not planning to feed the fish, it’s a good idea to provide pond forage such as minnows before introducing the fingerlings.
Catfish food typically comes as sinking or floating pellets. While sinking pellets are more cost-effective for new pond owners, floating feed allows them to quickly determine the right amount of food per day (which is what the fish can eat in approximately 15 minutes). By observing the fish as they eat, you can determine their health and size.
Channel catfish bought from commercial sources can be harvested from ponds with various methods such as jugs, trotlines, traps, or seines. However, the simplest and most enjoyable way to harvest these fish is with a hook and line.
Pond owners can lure catfish with a range of commercially available baits. Known as stink baits, these are prepared from dough, blood, and cheese. Simply compress the bait around a hook, cast a line, and let the hook sit on the bottom of the pond. Other effective baits include chicken entrails and livers, beef hearts, and earthworms. For channel catfish, the best time to use a hook and line is in the early morning or late evening. While angling is fun, it produces an incomplete harvest. If it becomes necessary to remove all the fish from a pond, seining or draining is required.
To start, reduce the pond’s water level to three or four feet. Surround the catfish with a seine made of treated nylon or polyethylene, which prevents the fish spines from becoming tangled. Delay the harvest if the pond is murky or overgrown with algae, as these conditions will create off flavors in the fish.
If the pond has no drain, seining is an effective removal method. Place a seine or a lift net at the bottom of the pond near where the fish feed, ensuring that one edge is tethered to the shore and the other edge is tied to staked pulleys in the water.
Frequently Asked Questions About Channel Catfish
- Will channel catfish spawn in a pond? It’s possible, but it’s difficult, especially if there are other fish species in the pond. Because bass eat catfish fingerlings, channel catfish tend not to spawn often in highly populated ponds.
- What do channel catfish eat in ponds? Channel catfish eat animal and plant matter. Fingerlings eat mostly snails, crawfish, insects, aquatic plants, algae, and other small fish. These fish also consume commercially available pellet food.
- How fast do channel catfish grow in a pond? While fingerlings are often eaten by panfish and bass, proper pond management and feeding will help channel catfish reach eating size within a year.
- Will channel catfish keep a pond clean? Contrary to a widely held belief, catfish aren’t bottom feeders, so they don’t eat vegetation and muck from the pond’s bottom. These fish eat a range of plant and animal material, but they don’t do much to keep ponds clean. Therefore, you’ll need to take other steps to prevent fish kills.
- Are catfish bad for a pond? Channel catfish are ideally suited to pond life. Unlike bluegills or bass, they don’t affect the predator/prey balance of a body of water. Furthermore, they make for fun fishing!
- Should I put catfish in my bass pond? While bass often prey on catfish fingerlings, it’s possible to include both species in a healthy pond. Every pond can only support so many catfish per acre, and bass will help control the catfish population.
- How many catfish can you have in a one-acre pond? Channel catfish that are fed daily in ponds with no aeration system can safely be stocked at a rate of 500 average size fingerlings per acre.
Channel catfish are valued among recreational anglers. They grow big, fight hard, and are a tasty addition to any dinner table. Adding to their immense popularity, channel catfish can live in a range of conditions and are adaptable to numerous settings, including small ponds. These factors, among others, make channel cats a great choice among lake managers and private pond owners.