We have had some recurrent rains with run-off that has contributed to the refill of some stock ponds in the county. However, as winter approaches and the holiday season begins, thoughts turn away from pond management and fish feeding.
It is true that catfish don’t eat much in the winter but, if the pond-owner has been feeding during the summer and fall, they should not totally stop feeding in the winter. Fingerling size catfish are especially susceptible to nutritional deficiencies caused by poor winter nutrition, including emaciation and increased susceptibility to disease and parasite problems. Foodsize catfish can lose up to 10% of their pre-winter body weight without winter feeding.
Pond-owners can feed a floating ration containing at least 28% crude protein during the winter months. Sinking rations should be avoided because of the difficulty in determining whether the feed is actually consumed. Pond-owners can feed up to 1% of the total fish weight present on warm afternoons. Catfish will respond best on days when the water temperatures are 54 degrees Fahrenheit or above at the time of feeding. If fish don’t respond to the initial feeding, landowners should discontinue feeding until the water temperature increases. Overfeeding may lead to water quality problems next spring. Although weather conditions will dictate the actual frequency of feeding, every other day feeding has resulted in as much as a 18% weight gain as a result of a winter feeding program.
Now addressing the bass needs; Bluegill species are an essential part of the bass forage-base because of their ability to spawn throughout the summer (May-October), and provide abundant forage for maintaining a bass population in any pond. The fall season (September-December) would be a good opportunity to stock one to three inch bluegill at a rate of 500 per surface acre on ponds that are one surface acre or larger and have not been previously stocked with this species. But be careful not to overstock. Overstocking will lead to unbalanced and overcrowded conditions and may result in stunted bass or bluegill populations. To prevent over-crowding, owners should be accurate about the size of the pond and when estimating fish populations.
Even though feeding fish during the winter is normally not a top priority for most pond-owners, it may allow them to get a head start in the following year in increased fish performance and more satisfactory “catch” in the Spring and Summer.
Eddie Baggs, Denton County Extension Agent-Agriculture
Texas AgriLife Extension – Denton County
(940) 349-2880 or Metro (972) 434-8812
Educational programs conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.