Stocked ponds are, typically, small artificial bodies of water that contain a big population of fish, released and managed by humans for commercial purposes. Some anglers look down on the experience, and yet stocked ponds have their place in the fishing world. There are three scenarios where stocked ponds are especially advisable:
- If you just want to put some fish on the table
- If you have a youngster or a beginner, and want to make sure they catch something during their first trip;
- If you’re an expat or have just moved to a place where fishing and/or fishing laws is too complicated.
Let me give you an example. In Germany, where I live at the moment, you can’t just go and cast your line in any river or lake. You will have first to obtain the “Angelschein”, which has nothing to do with angels or shining, but is something like a driver’s license, only for recreational fishing. Even after you’ve got one, you will likely need to join a fishing club. Fishing rights on most rivers and lakes are secured by these clubs, and your club doesn’t have access to the place you’d like to fish, you’ll have to arrange it with the club that does.
Sounds complicated? Actually, the system is even more confusing than the paragraph above. Fortunately, stocked ponds are an exception and a breath of freedom for fishing-hungry expats: you come over, pay the money, and fish. As simple as that.
What kinds of stocked ponds are there?
All stocked pond operations can be roughly grouped in three categories. The first kind is commercial fish farms, that make most of their money from selling fish on the market, and will only let people fish as a means to get some extra money. The second are ponds that are created mostly with recreational fishing in mind. The third kind exists as an extra attraction on the territory of countryside hotels, spa resorts, etc., to offer the guests some additional entertainment. These differences are not absolute, and most stocked ponds are a little bit of all three.
What kind of fish can you expect?
As most stocked ponds exist not only for recreational anglers, but also (and often primarily) as suppliers for fishmongers and restaurants, you can expect that the most commercially attractive species predominate. Carp and trout are two favorites, as they are easy to keep and in high demand on the market. However, stocked ponds that are mostly focused on recreational angling typically offer more variety. Actually, the question is answered in the pond description.
The ponds who are mostly focused on the commercial market will periodically drain the pond, clean the bottom, and release the fish again. This means that all the fish in these ponds will be roughly the same size – the size that you usually see them come on the shelves of the stores. “Recreational” ponds don’t do this thing as often, and some fish may grow to trophy size. You can expect a wider variety of species as well.
Sometimes you may see the price list structured something like this:
- Pond A – trout
- Pond B – carp
- Pond C – trout, carp, bream, pike, perch, catfish.
It’s a no-brainer to tell which pond you want to choose if you are after some fishing fun, and which to go for if you want to put a particular species of fish on your grill.
How much does it cost?
There are three most common pricing systems. One is a flat fee with all you can catch is yours. The second is an entrance fee, with some fish by weight included in the price, and anything over that should be paid over per weight. The third is no entrance fee, all fish you want to keep you pay for by weight. In any case, you can count on the fish you bring home will cost you about as much as if you bought them at a local fishmonger, with the pleasure of the catch coming extra. Or, to put it another way, a day of fishing will cost you about as much as a supply of fresh fish that you can reasonably expect to eat before it goes bad.
As said above, most stocked ponds function at the same time as commercial fish farms. It’s only natural that they will try to price their service so that recreational fishing for them is at least as profitable as selling the fish at the market. Actual prices will, of course, differ from location to location, so, until you’re ready to .
How to pick the best stock pond
There are no hard and fast rules to choosing the best stocked ponds for you. The extra challenge here is that different anglers expect different things from stocked pond fishing. Some want fish to bait as soon as the line hits the water, and keep baiting like that all day. Others would prefer something that is closer to fishing in a natural river or lake, with a more limited catch and an extra challenge to make it more interesting.
One rough tip is to look at the pricing. If the pond operates on the second pricing policy, with entrance fee, some fish included, and the rest for extra price, you can expect lots of baits and easy fishing. An “all you can catch” approach may suggest that catching fish in this pond would be a bit more of a challenge. But this is not a given, I’ve seen fishing take the bait madly in the “all you can take” ponds, and pretty slow action in “by-weight” ponds.
Customer reviews may provide good insights too; look for them on local fishermen’s forums or Facebook groups rather than on the pond’s website.
What does fishing on a stocked pond look like?
Typically, on a stocked pond you don’t choose a place to stand on, the managers will do it for you. The ponds are often crowded, and, to avoid anglers’ lines to get tangled, most stock ponds prefer the classic hook-and-float, or bottom fishing rigs. Spinning and flyfishing gear, requiring more space, is not always tolerated. However, everything depends on the particular pond and as a rule, you should simply bring whatever rig that you think will work best on the fish you intend to catch.
Do I need to bring my own bait?
Most stock ponds will offer you a choice of their own baits and lures which, they say, work best for the fish the pond is stocked with. Maybe. In my experience, however, I’ve had more bites and better time with the bait I brought along. I guess the fish, like us humans, enjoys variety; they’ve seen the local baits hanging on hooks all their lives, and get attracted by something new and unusual. After all, if your own bait doesn’t work, you can always buy some at the stock pond; the other way around can be trickier.
Will it be easy?
My first attempt to fish in a stocked pond in Germany ended in a disaster. Everybody around me was catching one trout after another. A guy behind me, again and again, struggled with salmon of impressive size. My own elementary-school aged son caught a trout with his first cast. Me… I tried every trick I knew, all spinning lures in my box, float-and-hook, deep and shallow, fast and slow, and did not catch a single trout that day!
So, don’t think it is going to be easy – you may catch a truckload of fish on a stocked pond, but you still have to know how to fish. Nothing can replace a quiet early morning on a big river, or a long walk up into the mountains in search of trout in a noisy, merry stream. But a day on a stocked pond still beats a day in front of television or your phone screen, so if that’s the best of the available fishing options, by all means go for it. Tight lines!