Building Your Own Hatchery Pond
Are you thinking about building your own hatchery pond to feed your larger sport fish? Find out what the Pond Boss, Bob Lusk, thinks, and hear his free advice.
Welcome to sunny North Carolina. It’s a beautiful day today. Behind me, you’ve got Richmond Mill Lake, a 125 acre well managed lake. Right beside us, we’ve got a couple of hatchery ponds. It’s pretty common for people to call me on the phone and say, hey pond boss, listen, I’ve git these fish in my pond and they’re not growing very well. I called the hatchery to see how much Bluegills cost to feed them. They cost so much, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to have a hatchery pond.
So the first question I’ll ask is how big is your pond. Well, it needs to be two or three acres or larger before you even need to think about having a hatchery pond.
Then you’ve got to do some due diligence. I mean, you might be able to buy those bait fish that you want to feed your bass for twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five cents apiece, compared to the cost of the bulldozer work.
And as you think about it, the due diligence you need to do is this, how tight are your soils? Do you have good clay soils that hold water or the soils sandy? You need good soil.
The second thing is can you get it close to the lake where you can get water to it? Because most of the time when I see a hatchery pond, a hatchery pond to grow bait fish, it sits adjacent to the bigger lake, and they use the water to pump from the big lake to fill up the hatchery ponds.
If you decide you want to do that, it takes maybe two or three days to build that hatchery pond, might cost around three or four thousand dollars, compared to the money you’d spend buying the fish, might make sense, but do that first. Make sure that it doesn’t cost more to build the pond and to fill it with water and keep it full of water then it would to buy the fish over a period of four or five years. That’s the first thing I look at.
Now let’s say you decide you want to build a hatchery pond. A tenth acre pond, maybe a quarter acre pond, this one beside is us a quarter of an acre. You can grow a lot of fish there. As a matter of fact, these two ponds here, in North Carolina last year, we harvested almost 40,000 little bitty Bluegill to supplementally feed the bass in the bigger lake. Well worth the time and the effort.
There’s several key components though that you have to remember. First of all, keep the water clean. You have to have a clean house for these guys to live in. Use good brood fish, matter of fact, I like to use Bluegill that are already in the lake. Catch some of those, use those to stock the pond. The third and most important thing is you’ve got to feed the fish. You’re not going to grow nearly as many fish unfed as you will fed. Let me tell you this, if that water is fertile and the fish are fed, you’re going to grow six or eight times as many fish.
Now remember, when a little bitty fish is first hatched, it has no body fat. So if it can’t glean what it needs to from the water, it’s not going to live very long. Feed a good feed. AquaMax is a great feed. They make them little bitty pellets for the little bitty mouths so the little bitty fish can eat it. So that’s a good thing, you just you got to feed the fish.
The next thing, you got to think about is how do I get them out. How in the world can I take all of these fish and get them out? So you got to have a harvest plan. So be sure that you’re in the position to either trap the young fish to move them or you can seine them and catch them and handle them properly. When you plan to harvest a hatchery pond, be sure that you’re ready to move a lot of fish because you may catch a lot of fish.
Remember to the number one point, handling fish, they love water. Keep them in water. Harvest them with dip nets and buckets, move them quickly. Personally, I like to kind of take a count and weigh them so I’ll know about how many fish we’ve moved.
This is a hatchery pond with no water in it. You see it’s not very deep, it’s pretty shallow actually, maybe three and a half, four feet deep. It doesn’t need to be any deeper than about five feet.
In the background you see a tarp. Well, that’s where the water comes in. The water flows in there, runs over that tarp, does not erode the bottom of the pond. We fill the hatchery pond up, add fish, feed them like crazy, and then before long you’ve got to crop.
You know you’ve done your homework. Either you want a hatchery pond or you don’t want a hatchery pond. Sometimes it’s wise to say no, but in this case you’ve said yes. Just follow those things that apply. Build a good pond, feed the fish properly, use the right kinds of fish, handle them right.
Heck, if you’re like me you might love it so much you’re going to name a few of those fish. You kinda hate to see them go when it’s time to send them to the big pond. If that’s the case, that’s okay. Just remember this, what you’re doing is good for the pond, it’s good for you, and it’s good for those sport fish in that bigger lake.