Trophy Pond specializes in fish stocking in private ponds and lakes in a wide region including Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Please call 931-374-0536 for current pricing and availability.
Trophy Pond is the only hatchery in the world that sells hand-painted bluegill. We have traveled to the Apalachicola River in the Florida panhandle for the past three years to capture brood stock of these beautiful fish. Like coppernose bluegill, these fish grow faster and get larger than northern-strain bluegill, and they make even coppernose look tame when it comes to their coloration.
In addition to these very special fish, we also raise our own coppernose bluegill from brood stock brought directly from Florida. We sell northern, F-1, and pure Florida-strain largemouth from the finest hatcheries in the South. We also stock all of the following fish species in private lakes and ponds:
Hand-painted bluegill are a subspecies of bluegill found in the wild only in the Apalachicola River drainage in the Florida panhandle. They are known for their vivid coloration. Like the coppernose bluegill, they grow faster and reach larger sizes than northern-strain bluegill. At present no hatchery in the country sells them; however, Trophy Pond has travelled to the panhandle the last three years to capture some of these fish for broodstock. We had our first crop in 2015 and sold out! We’re taking orders for spring for these amazing fish but already have several, so contact us today if you want some.
Bluegill are the forage mainstay in a trophy bass pond, as they spawn prolifically several times each year, stay in the ideal size range for bass to eat longer than species such as gizzard shad or tilapia, and are not subject to winter die-offs as are tilapia and threadfin shad. Their first spawn occurs in the spring when the water temperature reaches 67 degrees; after that, a portion of the population will spawn every full moon throughout the summer and into August or September. One female bluegill can lay up to 50,000 eggs – that’s a lot of bass food!
Bluegill are also a popular sportfish, and the primary target of many anglers for their excellent eating and unrivaled fight pound-for-pound. They readily consume pelleted food, and can reach two pounds or more in ideal conditions.
Coppernose bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus purpurescens) are a subspecies of bluegill native to Florida and the Atlantic coast up through North Carolina. In southern climates such as ours they grow faster and reach larger sizes than northern-strain bluegill. Bluegill are the forage mainstay in a trophy bass pond, as they spawn prolifically several times each year, stay in the ideal size range for bass to eat longer than species such as gizzard shad, and are not subject to winter die-offs as are tilapia and threadfin shad. Their first spawn occurs in the spring when the water temperature reaches 67 degrees; after that, a portion of the population will spawn every full moon throughout the summer and into August or September. One female bluegill can lay up to 50,000 eggs – that’s a lot of bass food!
Bluegill are also a popular sportfish, and the primary target of many anglers for their excellent eating and unparalleled fight pound-for-pound. They readily consume pelleted food, and can reach two pounds or more in ideal conditions. Coppernose can reach three pounds in properly-managed ponds (hint: none of the other pond management companies in our region know how to create those conditions, but we do – let us show you!).
Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) are a cousin to the bluegill and are commonly stocked in recreational ponds because they eat pond snails that other species do not. Pond snails are intermediate hosts for common fish parasites, so redear are stocked to limit the snails’ numbers so as to lessen problems with parasites on your gamefish.
Redear grow larger than bluegill on average; the world record has been broken twice in the last three years by fish caught from Lake Havasu in Arizona, and the current record fish weighed nearly six pounds. They are typically stocked at a rate of 20% redear to 80% bluegill in terms of total sunfish numbers.
Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) are stocked into a new pond to establish a more complete food chain, which in turn results in faster growth for the bluegill and bass. They reduce bass predation pressure on bluegill in a new pond, allowing the bluegill to build up better numbers which in turn sustain better long-term bass growth.
Fatheads have poor escapability response to bass pressure and as a result are typically eliminated from a pond within a year or so of bass being stocked into the pond; for this reason, they are not recommended for ponds with established bass populations. They are, however, a crucial element in stocking a new pond, whether said pond is managed for trophy bass or trophy bluegill.
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) is a member of the sunfish family and is hands-down the most popular gamefish in the U.S. Largemouth are a voracious predator and will consume anything they can fit into their mouths, ranging from fish to frogs to small birds and mammals. They spawn once a year in the spring when the water temperature reaches 63 to 65 degrees.
Largemouth grow best in ponds maximized for the proper-sized forage across multiple habitats in the pond; another key factor is the shape of the forage, i.e. fusiform versus compressiform. There are three strains of largemouth commonly stocked in Southern ponds: northern, Florida, and F-1. Northern-strain largemouth are more aggressive and hit artificial lures more readily than Florida-strain, but a ten-pounder is rare, as they more typically top out at six to eight pounds. Florida-strain largemouth routinely grow to twelve and thirteen pounds, and have been caught over twenty in recent years in California; but numerous studies by fisheries biologists have found them far less susceptible to being caught by lures than northern-strain. F-1 largemouth are a cross between Florida- and northern-strain; they take lures better than Floridas but have comparable top-end growth potential to the Floridas.
The world-record largemouth was caught in the far southeastern portion of Georgia where northern-Florida intergrades naturally occur, and many biologists believe this fish may have been an intergrade. Which strain of bass you stock depends on your personal goals for your pond: do you want lots of action on lures with plenty of bass in the two- to six-pound range, or would you rather fish mostly with live bait such as shiners, knowing that each time you fished your pond you had a chance at a twelve-pound bass?
Let us help you make the right choice for your pond.
Smallmouth bass (micropterus dolomieu) are, like largemouth a member of the sunfish family. Many anglers consider them the hardest-fighting of all freshwater fish. There are several hatcheries that raise smallmouth in ponds for the purpose of stocking in private ponds, and these fish can be grown to six pounds or more under ideal conditions. Smallmouth do not do well when stocked into ponds containing largemouth, as the largemouth over time will outcompete the smallmouth and prevent them from spawning successfully. Smallmouth have a strong preference for crayfish as a food source and therefore do best in ponds that have chunk rock habitat.
Threadfin shad and golden shiners are also important in a smallmouth pond; these fusiform prey species are easier for the smallmouth to consume with its smaller mouth size.
Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense) have been referred to as “bass candy” because of the largemouth’s strong preference for them as a prey fish. Shad are filter feeders, roaming open water to feed on plankton. For this reason they seldom do well in unfertilized ponds. They are very high in protein and are a soft-rayed fish, meaning they do not have the hard spines in their dorsal fin that a bluegill does; this trait combined with their fusiform shape (bluegill are compressiform, i.e. more rounded) makes them easier for a bass to swallow in larger sizes. They seldom exceed five inches in length, so they stay in the size range ideal for bass to eat. Largemouth will typically engulf several shad at once when feeding on them, attacking the middle of a school, oftentimes at the surface. The one drawback to threadfins is that they are subject to winterkill when the water temperature drops below 45 degrees, so they typically have to be restocked every two to four years.
Golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas) are another soft-rayed, fusiform prey species that is commonly stocked in trophy largemouth ponds. They fill an important niche in that they grow to large enough sizes, up to 12”, that they provide ideal-sized prey for larger bass, but not large enough that they cause biomass issues like those caused by gizzard shad, which can grow to 20”, too large for any bass to eat. Golden shiners are the preferred live bait for trophy largemouth fishing in Florida. Our personal experience has been that whenever a pond or lake is found that has a sustaining population of golden shiners, that pond invariably has trophy-size largemouth.
Crayfish (astacoidea) are a favorite food of both largemouth and smallmouth bass and can aid in growing bass to trophy size. They should be stocked at a rate of forty pounds per acre for establishment in ponds with existing bass populations; an ideal strategy is to stock them simultaneously with other supplemental forage species such as golden shiners or threadfin shad, as this spreads out the bass predation pressure and increases the likelihood that both species will successfully establish.
Some species of crayfish are known for consuming large quantities of aquatic plants, and in some situations they can help control weeds. They do best in ponds with chunk rock or significant weed growth.
Mississippi Grass Shrimp
Mississippi grass shrimp (paleomonetes kadiakensis) are a freshwater crustacean found from northeastern Mexico to the Great Lakes. They seldom exceed 1.5″ in size and are a preferred food of bluegill and redear. Their diet includes plankton, detritus, and other invertebrates and they strongly prefer aquatic vegetation as habitat. When stocked into ponds managed for trophy bluegill, they can make a major difference in the average size of the bluegill. They generally will not succeed in ponds with established fish populations unless significant weedgrowth is present.
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are highly prized as a food fish, and are also valued by many anglers for the sport they provide. They grow rapidly when fed a high-protein, fishmeal-based food, often reaching three pounds within a year of stocking. They are very prone to becoming hook-shy, meaning they learn to avoid angler presentations including live or cut bait, and for this reason can cause problems once they exceed five pounds in size. They compete with both bass and bluegill for food and can reduce the growth of both species.
Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) are a popular sportfish among anglers. They can be stocked in ponds under very specific conditions, but are not recommended for bass-bluegill ponds due to their tendency to overpopulate. They spawn in early spring when the water temperature reaches 62 degrees, which allows the resultant young-of-year to reach a size at which they are too big for young-of year bass, which hatch later, to eat.
Within two or three years of stocking they can reach a density at which they severely compete with bass for food, limiting or stopping altogether the growth of both species. However, there are new methods that have been developed in recent years for managing ponds solely for large crappie, and the early results indicate that success can be had with careful, precise management. Bluegill are not stocked in these ponds, and predators are stocked in much higher numbers than normal. If the idea of a trophy crappie pond whets your fishing appetite, give us a call and let us custom-design a plan for your pond!
Hybrid Striped Bass
Hybrid Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis X Morone chrysops) are a cross between striped bass and white bass. They have become a popular stocking option among pond owners in recent years due to their fast growth and hard fight. They commonly reach six to eight pounds in ponds with adequate forage, and take pelleted feed readily. They are sterile and do not reproduce.
Tiger muskellunge (Esox masquinongy x Esox lucius) are a cross between pure-strain muskellunge and northern pike. They are sterile and cannot reproduce. They are an apex predator and quickly grow to sizes at which they not only can effectively prey on gizzard shad larger than all but the largest largemouth can eat, but also largemouth bigger than all but the biggest bass will eat. They will thin the numbers of small bass at the same time they’re thinning the gizzard shad in a lake. Muskie do a better job of controlling small bass numbers than all but the most dedicated anglers; in a large lake of ten acres or more, they better control bass overpopulation than angling ever could. Various state game and fish agencies have successfully stocked muskie for the control of gizzard shad, and in every study we have seen, the average largemouth size in the lake improved, often by several inches. We have had dramatic success in improving the average size of largemouth in ponds and lakes by stocking tiger muskie. If you’re tired of mediocre results from the same old tired methods, let us put some teeth into your management plan!
Grass Carp/White Amur
Grass Carp/White Amur (Ctenopharyngodo idella) are an efficient biological method of controlling many types of submersed aquatic vegetation, and an ideal long-term solution for community ponds and lakes where sportfishing is of secondary importance. They can consume up to five times their body weight in vegetation daily. However, they do not prefer and thereby will not control some of the most common weed types in Southern ponds, specifically filamentous algae, duckweed, and watermeal. They are not desirable in ponds in which the bluegill are fed supplementally with pellets because they will eat the pellets rather than the weeds, not only failing to do the job for which they were stocked, but at the same time taking away food from the bluegill, which in turn takes away food from the bass via reduced bluegill reproduction.
Tilapia (oreochromis niloticus) are a tropical fish native to Africa and cultivated worldwide for table fare. In recent years they have become popular among pond owners for bass forage, and also for control of certain types of aquatic vegetation. They spawn every three weeks once the water temperature reaches seventy degrees, producing large quantities of forage for the bass. If stocked in sufficient numbers, they can control filamentous algae in ponds, and can provide partial control of duckweed and watermeal. In addition to plankton, aquatic invertebrates, and plant matter, they also readily consume detritus, and can help reduce muck build-up in older ponds.
They can grow from six inches to two or three pounds in the span of one summer and for this reason are an ideal fish for pond owners focused on fish for the table. They are not recommended for trophy bluegill ponds as they aggressively consume pelleted food, taking food away from the bluegill, and because their stocking invariably results in significant bluegill overpopulation in a matter of months due to reduced bass predation on the bluegill. They die when the water temperature dips below 55 degrees and thus must be re-stocked annually.