The Community Association Institute West Florida Chapter recently published the following article in their Community magazine. Aquatic Systems Sarasota Biologist Sarah Bowen penned the article for HOA and Community Board members about fish stocking for lakes.
Don’t forget one of the most important line items on your budget for next year: fish stocking for your pond! If you have wondered how fish get into ponds, you may not have realized that it can be the responsibility of the HOA or CDD to maintain healthy fisheries. Now is a good time of year to start budgeting for fish stocking as some species are stocked in the winter months. Aquatic maintenance companies can stock a variety of fish for different purposes.
As an added bonus, some smaller fish can even reduce certain insect larvae. Traditionally there are three categories of fish that can be stocked: Triploid Grass Carp, Bream, and sportfish.
Triploid Grass Carp are not native to Florida, which is why they have the funny ‘Triploid’ prefix to their name. This species is highly controlled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Therefore, all fish stocked are Triploid. This designates that they have been sterilized and cannot reproduce in nature.
Carp are stocked specifically to eat plant growth in the ponds. Some of these include Hydrilla, Musk- grass, Southern Naiad, Slender Spike rush, Duckweed, Azolla, and Slender Pondweed. These plant species can create very dense mats that provide platforms for algae to grow on. The target vegetation can also be unsightly when it reaches the surface of the water or covers the entirety of the pond. Some submersed vegetation has also been known to cause dangerous environment for watersports, can block navigation routes, restrict drainage, and decrease biodiversity. It is important to stock at the proper rate that takes into account acreage and target as to not overstock. Some of the vegetation targeted is native and provides good habitat for native fish populations, so the goal is to reduce vegetation, not eradicate it completely.
While there is actually a fish called a Bream, Bream also refers to all smaller fish that may be used for stocking. Stocking smaller fish increases the population of feeder fish for larger sportfishing breeds. Bream include all smaller fish that include Redear and Bluegill. One reason you might stock bream is to increase the population of feeder fish to prepare for stocking sport fish later. Bass need plenty to eat to grow big, so it is important to make sure their food supply is sizable before stocking. The more common purpose for stocking bream would be to decrease certain insect larvae. One of the main targets are called midge fly larvae. Midge flies lay their eggs in the bottom on ponds, and if left unchecked, can cause nuisance sized swarms. Appropriate stocking rates will consider the acreage of a pond.
Catching fish is one of the top recreational activities for both native Floridians and tourists, which is why stocking of sportfish is on our list. Common sportfish in ponds include Large- mouth Bass, Bluegill Sunfish, Redear Sunfish, and Channel Catfish. Both Bluegill and Redear were also found on the bream list as feeder fish, but as they grow large, are another favorite for fisherman. Other benefits include a more balanced fishery and reduction in exotic fish species due to natural native competition for food and habitat. Common exotic fish in Florida ponds include Tilapia, Mayan Chichlid, Osca, and Bullseye Snakehead.
To the detriment of the native species, many non-native animals or plants have made their way to areas outside of their normal range. Fish fry and mollusk larvae may travel thousands of miles aboard container ships in bilge water. Whether they were released purposely or accidentally from fisheries, or even from people who keep some of these creatures as pets, they cause problems. Throughout Florida, Tilapia, Bullseye Snakehead and Osca compete with native fish species for food and upset the ecological balance of our environment.
Now that we know what kind of fish you can stock, how do you know what kind of fish you already have? Aquatic companies can perform a fishery study to answer those questions.
Generally, they will start with a visual survey to assess habitat along shorelines such as vegetation, stumps, rock pilings, etc.
Next, a vegetation survey will use several samples to identify the dominate vegetation species. If included, pond mapping will determine vegetation biomass to show where the growth is the thickest. As a rule, minimal water testing is performed as part of the fisheries study to check for dissolved oxygen, nutrient, and turbidity levels.
Finally, an electro-fishing boat is used to complete a physical assessment of the fish in your pond. Sample data collected includes both the types and quantities of fish.
Once data is collected, recommendations can include fish stocking, fish removal, habitat enhancement, plantings, installation of feeders, or follow-up surveys.