Catfish seem to be a polarizing subject among pond owners, especially new ones. Either you love them and want to have them for catching in the pond, or you don’t want them near it.
Catfish are readily available and grow well in pond conditions. They readily accept commercial feed and have good feed conversion. They can survive temporary, poor water quality conditions. They are great to eat and a quality protein. This type of fishery is a “put and take “ fishery, meaning that you are not trying to develop a spawning, self-sustaining, balanced population type fishery. You simply add fingerlings, feed them, harvest them, and add more fingerlings in smaller batches to replace them.
Some of the perceived negatives:
- They taste muddy
- They are bottom feeders
- They muddy the water
- They are difficult to clean
- They overpopulate
So are these real concerns? They do eat some of the critters in the bottom of the pond including crawfish, worms, etc., but many fish do. They may just focus on that area to feed more than others. Does this mean they are unclean for some reason? No. Tasting muddy is a real issue and it is known as “off-flavor” in the catfish industry. It is a result of compounds getting into the fish and accumulating in the fatty tissue. This can happen with other species as well, and is most common with older fish. Harvest your fish at 1-2 pounds and control overproduction of algae in your pond, and this should be a rare occurrence. Catfish do hang around in the bottom of the pond, however that doesn’t make them unclean. It is simply their resting habitat. Large catfish do disturb the bottom muds more often, and if your pond was not packed well, a clay mud soup is ready to be disturbed. Go back 3 sentences… harvest early and eat them. That is the purpose of a production fish pond. They can overpopulate, as the spawned fry have a high survival rate. If catfish don’t have a “cavity” to spawn in, they will not lay eggs and spawn. No tires, no trash cans, no culverts, no hollow logs, no cut or eroded banks. Without a cavity to nest in, catfish re-absorb eggs and put that back into body reserves.
So after going through all the don’ts, let’s turn them into some do’s:
- Control overgrowth of algae in your pond and be prepared to start from the beginning.
- Prevent and remove, if there, containers from being in the pond.
- Plan to harvest fish at maximum 2 pounds.
- Build your pond with packed clay to avoid a potentially muddy pond.
- Feed your fish a quality feed so a majority of their diet comes from feed to develop a quality taste.
Would you like to increase production?
Add an automatic feeder to feed at regular intervals during the day when you are not present. Don’t worry, they will still enjoy a hand tossed cup of feed from you, but regular feedings will dramatically increase weight gain. Acquire and feed better feed. Quality matters for weight gain and health of the fish.
Aeration will improve the overall water quality in your pond.
Surface aeration and diffused aeration both work well. This will bring a conservative 20% increase in growth and it also protects your crop against naturally occurring low oxygen events. This can help prevent blue green algae and that is something you want to avoid. Test your water and lime with agricultural lime at a rate of 5 tons/acre. This will help increase alkalinity and hardness in the water chemistry. Both are positive.
The old textbook recommendation for catfish is 100 per acre, however, if your pond is dedicated to catfish only, you can easily double this. If you add aeration and a feeder, you can easily stock 500 per acre.
Different size fingerlings are available and the prices are affordable for increased size fingerlings. 2-3, 4-6, 6-8, 8-10. If you want to catch them and you can’t wait, stock larger ones. Just be prepared to harvest most of the remainder and call friends for a fish fry when they are all approaching 2 pounds. Also consider a staggered stocking plan. Stock some larger fish, then in six months stock some again, so that you can harvest in a staggered manner. Larger catfish can bully the smaller catfish and get most of the feed. Be prepared to harvest that big fish.
You can readily acquire channel catfish, and occasionally blue catfish, or a hybrid of the two. All work well with the hybrid being the fastest growing, and the channel catfish growing the fastest to 2 lbs.
Louisiana Pond Management provides fish stocking, feeders, feed, aeration as well as consulting and management services. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of service.