FAQ & Tips

Quick reference and details

Fish are a popular item for lake and pond clients as fishing allows for continuous fun for children and adults alike. Whether the waterbody is designed or capable of catch-and-release fishing or for eating fish, fish stockings may be necessary to ensure those goals can be met. While completing orders for numerous lake and pond clients over the years there are similarities with the types of questions WLPR sees.

When is the best time to get fish stocked?
Fish stocking is typically done in two “seasons”. Spring and fall are widely the most popular times to stock fish; why? Hatcheries stock fish according to water temperature and stress on the fish. In short, cooler water temperatures reduce stocking stress on the fish. Stockings will take place April-June for spring and September-November for fall fish stockings. In terms of which is better (spring vs. fall), there are benefits to both times. In spring, stocked fish can grow fairly rapidly shortly after they are stocked due to readily available food and favorable warming water temperatures. Depending on the size/age of the fish you stocked, you could have spawning fish in your lake or pond the following year! If fish are stocked in fall, they are stocked at a time when diet is on a decline with falling water temperatures. Therefore, newly stocked fish may be less likely to be eaten than in spring. Hopefully, this translates into extra fish and minnows alive in spring for their respective spawning periods! Fish can be added in summer but this is less common with less-than-ideal water temperatures. Also, some species will be more available in fall such as Tiger Muskie, Muskie, Northern Pike, and Walleye.
What types of fish can I get in my pond?
In Wisconsin, we have the luxury (or curse, depending on your point of view) of shorter warmer seasons so our waterbodies can often support a certain array of fish. However, as your waterbody decreases in size and volume, the more “limited” the pond can be to the fish it can support. In general, the smaller the waterbody, the faster it can warm or cool. Often, Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, and Fathead Minnows make a great combination for smaller waters. As the size of the water increases, you tend to gain the availability for fish such as Black Crappie, Yellow Perch, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and Muskie or Northern Pike (and more).

Clients often inquire about various Trout species. Please keep in mind that trout require very high Dissolved Oxygen levels in addition to cool water temperatures. Water that reaches in the upper 60 degrees Fahrenheit range will cause some levels of stress for trout. The levels of stress will increase and lead to lack of growth/feeding and eventually death as the water temperature climbs into the upper 70’s and 80 degree Fahrenheit range. It is best to track your pond’s water temperature for a summer prior to stocking trout depending on your goals for the stocking.

Do I need any permits to stock fish?
Permitting for fish stocking is more simple than what most people would expect. Either a one-year fish stocking permit can be issued through the Wisconsin DNR or a Fish Farm License that many pond-owners already own is all you need.
What is the difference between delivery of fish and picking the fish up myself?
Delivery of fish tends to be a popular route for fish stocking. Delivery presents a more “hands–free” approach and devotes the least travel time for you. In addition, the fish are kept in as ideal conditions as possible prior to them getting stocked in your lake or pond. However, pick-up of fish is still an option even if you are up to a few hours from the hatchery you are getting fish from. Another recommendation is to keep the water cool throughout the journey. This often means keeping the fish (in the oxygenated bags likely provided) in coolers throughout transportation.
If I'm picking up fish, is there anything else I should know? What should I bring?
There are additional packaging costs from the hatchery (like double-bagging with oxygen). When you leave to pick up your fish, make sure you bring coolers to keep stable water temperatures for fish travel. Always bring more than you think you’ll need since it’s always easier to have an extra empty cooler on the ride back rather than making extra trips when you didn’t need to.

Aside from those FAQ’s, we also place numerous fish orders based on pre-recommended hatchery rates (see table below). There are many scenarios outside of these guideline so feel free to contact us to discuss. Most ponds in Wisconsin are considered warm water ponds which are best stocked with bass and bluegills. Not to say that those are the only species you can stock, these are just the species that will thrive in most situations.

The stocking recommendations below are rough estimates for ponds 1 acre, with an 8 foot average depth and adequate oxygen.

Species ListInitial Stocking RateSupplemental Stocking Rate
Fathead Minnows25-50 pounds50-100 pounds
Hybrid Bluegills500200-300
Largemouth Bass10025-50
Smallmouth Bass10025-50
Yellow Perch200100
Northern Pike2-41-2
Muskellunge or Tiger Musky1-21-2
Rainbow Trout (fall only)50 pounds20-30 pounds

Spawning Information

Many people often wonder when fish spawn and how often. Typically most fish spawn in the spring of the year when temperatures are between 40 and 65 degrees. Bluegills will spawn later in the spring when water temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees. Bluegills have been known to spawn more than one time in a season, but this is not typical. Largemouth and smallmouth bass will spawn when water temperatures are between 58 and 65 degrees. Once they reach maturity they will spawn every spring. Walleye typically spawn in the spring and look for water temperatures to be 48 to 55 degrees. Northern pike are typically the first game fish to spawn in the spring, needing temperatures of 40-48 degrees for spawning. They have been known to spawn under the ice in certain situations. Musky are another fish to spawn in early spring typically with water temperatures ranging from 48-55 degrees.

Water Chemistry

Water chemistry is very important to a healthy fish population. Most ponds and lakes in Wisconsin can have a healthy fish population without many problems. There are not many situations where water chemistry will not allow for the stocking and survival of fish. The major water chemistry factors involved in fish survival are temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, ammonia and nitrites. Each one of these presents its own danger when it comes to the health of your fish. All of these factors should be looked at prior to stocking any fish.

Temperature ranges for most fish are generally not a problem. Most fish that are stocked in ponds can tolerate most water temperatures we will experience in Wisconsin. During the summer months certain species may not survive as well due to high temperatures. These species would be walleye, perch, and trout. Once water temperatures reach 70 degrees these species will have a hard time surviving. Walleye and perch can survive in most ponds that have depths over 8 feet since the water temperatures at the bottom of a lake or pond will stay below 70 degrees in most cases.

Dissolved oxygen is one of, if not the most, important water quality parameter that needs to be looked at prior to stocking fish. Not only does it provide oxygen for the fish, but it also provides oxygen to many microbes and insects that help aid in the overall heath of lakes and ponds. Dissolved oxygen levels need to be at 3 parts per million (ppm) throughout the water column in order to sustain a healthy fishery. If your lake or pond struggles with dissolved oxygen levels, we can assist you with the installation of an aeration system for fish management in your pond.

Alkalinity is the measure of the waters capacity to neutralize acids. Alkalinity levels between 50 and 250 mg/L are considered acceptable levels. Most times this parameter is not an issue.

The pH of water is generally not an issue in most lakes and ponds. Typically pH levels in most Wisconsin waters range from 6-8, which is recommended for most freshwater fish species.

Ammonia levels can and will pose major threats to a fish population. Ammonia generally becomes a problem in smaller ponds that have problems with dissolved oxygen. With proper oxygen levels ammonia is less likely to become a problem.

Nitrites can cause major fish kills in ponds and are closely related to ammonia. As fish release waste into the water, bacteria (nitrosomonas) break down the ammonia into nitrites. These nitrites are then consumed by another group of bacteria (nitrobacter), which will convert nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates are then utilized by plant life within the pond.

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