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What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Steven – Johnstown, OH

A: If you stock game fish in your pond or lake, you better know your baitfish. Used as food for larger predatory game fish, these small swimmers are typically common species that breed rapidly. They’re easy to catch, easy to supply and easy to stock.

Freshwater baitfish include any fish of the minnow or carp family, sucker family, top minnow or killifish family, shad family, and some fish from the sculpin or sunfish family. Some common types that you’ll see in a recreational lake include fathead minnows, golden shiners, creek chub and white suckers. Let’s learn more about these specific types of fish and how to fatten them up for your bass and trout.

Fathead Minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a species of temperate freshwater fish whose natural geographic range extends throughout North America. The golden, or xanthic strain known as the rosy-red minnow, is a very common feeder fish sold in the United States. In the wild, the fathead appears dull olive-gray with a dusky stripe extending down its back and side. These guys will eat just about anything, and they prefer a water temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH range of 7.0 to 7.5. Its main predator is the northern pike.

Golden Shiner

The golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) is a cyprinid native to eastern North America. In the wild, these bait fish grow to 3 to 5 inches long and have dark green to olive body with a silvery white belly. They prefer quiet, weedy waters and are fairly tolerant of pollution, turbidity and low oxygen levels. They can tolerate temperatures as high as 104 degrees F – which is unusually high for a North American minnow – and they nosh on zooplankton, insects, plants and algae. Predators include trout and bass.

Creek Chub

The creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) is another type of minnow that’s found in the eastern United States and Canada. Growing up to 6 inches, they typically have a dark brown body, sometimes with brown spots, with a white lateral line. These hardy bait fish, which prefer water temperatures between 35 and 90 degrees F, gravitate toward weedy areas and prefer stream or river environments rather than lakes. They’ll gobble just about anything – including fish, insects, larvae and vegetation. Predators include trout and northern pike.

White Suckerfish

White suckerfish (Catostomus commersonii) are found in small streams, rivers and lakes in the Midwest and east coast of the United States. Reaching lengths between 12 and 20 inches, the white sucker has a dark green, gray, copper, brown or black-brown body with a light underbelly. They’re bottom feeders, and they’ll use their fleshy lips to suck up bottom sediment and other organisms that live there, including small invertebrates, algae and plant matter. Predators include walleye, trout, bass, northern pike and catfish.

Using Baitfish

When it comes to using bait fish, you have two options: stock your pond with them and keep a separate supply on hand to use when you do some fishing.

To stock your pond with bait fish, purchase a supply from your local sports shop or pet store and introduce them to your pond or lake after acclimating them. Be sure to provide a fish habitat for them, like one of the Honey Hole Attractor Logs, Shrubs or Trees, so they can safely reproduce (and fatten up!) and keep the population thriving.

In addition, grow bait fish in a separate tub or tank for use when you’re fishing. Be sure to keep the water cool and fresh to reduce stress, and keep the oxygen levels high with a bubbler. They might be able to tolerate less-than-ideal conditions, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be without their O2!

Pond Talk: How do you stock your pond with baitfish?

Create Habitat for Baitfish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log


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Top Blog Posts of 2014

2014 brought lots of unusual weather, which caused some unique challenges and inquiries for pond owners. Thank you for all your questions and comments. Here are the top blogs for 2014, read by you! As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to send them our way! 

We wish you a safe and happy 2015.
From The Pond Guy® Staff

Top 5 Blog Posts in Pond & Lake

Top Blog Posts of 2014 - Pond & Lake

Q: We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Q: I added too much pond dye. What do I do?
Q: My pond is full of floating algae. How do I get rid of it?
Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?
Q: When should I stock my pond?

Top 5 Blog Posts in Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens

Top Blog Posts of 2014 - Water Garden

Q: I bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Q: I’m looking to cut back on energy costs. Can I shut off my waterfall at night?

Q: How do I know if it’s a leak or evaporation loss?

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be ok?

Happy New Year from The Pond Guy(r)

Do I really need to feed my fish? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Do I really need to feed my fish?

Do I really need to feed my fish? Joe – Little Rock, AR

Come And Get It
Those of us pond guys and gals that own large farm ponds have been feeding our fish for ages. Over the years, some of us have pondered, “Do I really have to feed my fish?”

“Fish” Food Versus Fish Food
There are two ways to keep your fish well fed: properly stock your pond or use fish food. We suggest both.

Properly Stocking:
To properly balance your pond, you should stock the water body with 3 prey fish, like Perch or Bluegill, for every 1 predator fish, such as Bass. This will ensure that your predator fish will have a bountiful selection of prey, while still giving the prey fish a sporting chance to mature and reproduce. If you stock too many prey fish, you will experience a very small number of big predators and a ton of tiny pan prey fish. If you stock too many predators, you will end up with very small predators and only a few big prey. When your pond is properly stocked, your fish population tends to keep itself in check. We suggest starting out with 300 bluegills and 100 bass per acre. You can add some feeder minnows into the pond to provide a nice snack that will be able to replenish itself. However, it is not uncommon for the fish in your pond to make short work of the feeder minnows you add to the pond.

Fish Food Pellets:
So you feel your fish should have a little more selection than their regular diet of … well … each other? You can control what your fish are eating by feeding them quality fish food like Game Fish Grower. Foods that are high in protein and low in filler promote rapid fish growth and optimum overall size. Pellet feeding also provides an opportunity to turn feeding your fish into an opportunity to have some fun. Pellet training your fish takes some patience and persistence, and while it can be trying at times, it is truly enjoyable once you get it right. Try to establish a daily routine feeding time and place so your fish will begin to expect your pond side presence. Start by throwing some pellets in the water from a distance, waiting for the fish to venture to the water surface to take the food. Repeat this process until your fish willingly greet you at feeding time. As time progresses, you can close the distance between you and the pond’s edge. Avoid making sudden movements, as this will scare the fish and they will be more hesitant to approach you at feeding time. You can then begin placing your hand into the pond with a fist full of food, opening your hand slowly to release the pellets which will float to the surface. You may not have any takers the first few days you try this, but if you are patient, they will eventually figure out where this food is coming from. As they grow more comfortable to your hand being in the pond, they will start eating from it. If you do not have the time or desire to feed your fish by hand, you can place a feeder, like the a directional feeder, at the pond’s edge to release food at programmed intervals.

What’s On The Menu?
While your fish always eat the food you throw in the pond like they haven’t eaten in years, the truth is, if your pond is stocked properly, they really don’t need any outside assistance. On top of having other fish in the pond to eat, they will also eat bugs from the surface of the pond, leaches at the bottom, and basically anything else they can find in the water. Try to catch some of the fish in your pond each season and record how many of each type you are pulling out of the pond while inspecting them for healthy color, weight, and size. Occasionally checking up on your fish will decrease the frequency and severity of population issues, while making your pond an enjoyable addition to your home with fun activities for the entire family.

POND TALK: How often do you feed your fish?

The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower - Fish Food

How Do I Stock Fish In My Pond? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Largemouth Bass

Q: How Do I Stock Fish In My Pond? – Ellie in Massachusetts

Where’s The Fish?
Both fishing enthusiasts and pond hobbyists alike can appreciate the presence of a healthy fish population in their pond. While they are fun to catch and entertaining to watch, they also help maintain a balanced backyard ecosystem. As is true with most aspects of your pond, the key to maintaining an enjoyable environment is balance. When stocking your pond, you will want to add a combination of both predator (largemouth bass for example) and prey fish (bluegill or perch). Your predator fish won’t fare too well without prey fish on their menu. If you stock your pond with prey fish only, there will be few factors regulating their population which can lead to an uncomfortably high fish population. When stocking your pond, aim for a 3:1 prey to predator ratio to ensure your predator fish have a reasonable meal selection. Maintaining a clean pond with plenty of aeration will promote a robust and healthy fish selection. Most man-made ponds lack adequate habitats, so make sure you provide options like a Fish Attractor that provides a retreat for the smaller up-and-coming fish.

Every Fish Has Its Day
Our local customers can take advantage of The Pond Guy semi-annual Fish Day, which takes place on the 8th of May. Fish Day is a great opportunity to meet with other pond owners, speak with the friendly and knowledgeable Pond Guy staff, and browse our wide selection of pond products from Pond Dye to aeration. Customers can pre-order online or over the phone until May 7th; orders will be available for payment and pick-up on May 8th between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will be a wide selection of both predator and prey fish available for purchase, including Hybrid Bluegill, Perch, Catfish and Bass. Walk-ins are welcome, but selection will be limited by availability.

POND TALK: What types of fish do you keep in your pond?

The Pond Guy presents Fish Day 2010 on May 8th

Fish Stocking Predator to Prey Ratio – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a Bass

Q: I am looking to stock my pond this year and in the past I’ve had trouble with keeping the fish population balanced. Any suggestions? – Ed of Kentucky

A: Initially, when stocking your pond, the biggest factor to keep in mind is the predator to prey ratio.

Predator to Prey Ratio: 1predator fish to every 3 prey fish is a great rule of thumb when stocking your pond. Predator fish are large mouth bass or walleye,
while prey fish would be perch, hybrid bluegill or redear sunfish. Also, add fathead minnows to feed the predator fish to allow the prey fish to get established.

Please note: Adding catfish to your pond does not have any effect on predator to prey ratio but they will cause your pond ‘s water to be cloudy.

Advantages of Stocking Your Pond:

  • Fishing!…Of Course! Why not have a great fishing area, right in your backyard.
  • Keeps frog and leech populations at bay. Do you stay away from your pond because of the annoying frogs or blood sucking leeches? Well, stocking your pond helps keep down that population.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding fish is aeration. Using an aeration system will ensure not only clean and clear water, but healthy fish as well.

Fish Day is Saturday, October 4th, 2008: If you’re in the Southeastern Michigan area and are looking to stock your pond with fish, our semi-annual Fish Day is here to help. Click here to read more.