In the last couple of weeks I have assisted three property owners on how to raise catfish in their new or
First, let’s be clear that catfish do best in a pond that only has catfish. You’ll want to remove other
species, if practical, to get the maximum production from this endeavor.
Ponds are stocked with fish according to the surface acreage. It really doesn’t matter how deep your
pond is regarding productivity. Be sure to recognize exactly what size you have in front of you. While I
often hear “my pond is about an acre,” an acre is 43,560 square feet or about the size of a football field.
And not many ponds are truly that size or larger.
Let’s suppose that your pond is, if you measure it, is a little more than 10,000 square feet. That is
roughly 0.25 surface acres, a quarter of an acre. Without measuring, you can also think of a quarter acre
city lot that some homes are built upon. I’ve seen plenty of really small ponds that are 2,000 to 3,000
square feet. I have two on my farm that are indeed that small!
Without any inputs, the suggested stocking rate for a pond is 100 fish per surface acre. That means that
without you doing anything, we can expect your quarter-acre pond to hold 25 fish.
But you want to raise more? By simply fertilizing your pond (yes, similar to what you would do to your
garden), you could double the carrying capacity to 200 fish per surface acre. Doing our simple math,
that brings your quarter acre pond to 50 fish.
Still not enough? If you feed them daily with a quality floating fish feed (either by hand or with an
automatic feeder) you we can increase carrying capacity of catfish to 1,000 per surface acre or 250 for
our quarter-acre demonstration pond. Getting up to 250 will certainly give you a enough for a large fish
Both floating and sinking fish food pellets are available as catfish feed. While more expensive, the
floating feed is encouraged as allows it you to monitor how much the catfish are consuming.
Additionally, you can observe them for general health and vigor when they come to the surface to eat.
In general, you should not feed more than what the fish will consume in about 15 minutes.
For maximum growth, the stocked catfish should be fed once a day. Late afternoon or early morning is
preferable. There are several quality fish feeders that are almost identical to “deer feeders” except that
they send feed directionally, an important trait to get the feed into the pond and off of the bank or dock
that the feeder is setting on.
Fingerling catfish stocked in early spring should average at least 1 pound by the following fall if they
have been adequately fed. Before the following spring, at least half the year’s production should be
harvested. Failure to do so could result in more poundage of fish than the pond can sustain. Losses to
oxygen depletion are common in overstocked ponds each year, especially during the summer.
Catfish can be harvested by seining, trapping, trot lines, hook-and-line fishing, or a combination of these
However you decide to harvest your catfish, a properly stocked and well managed pond
makes catfish very easy to produce and is an excellent food source.