Many pond owners are under the impression that smallmouth won’t survive in ponds, or at a minimum, won’t thrive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Smallmouth are indeed found all the way to Canada, and some of the best smallmouth lakes anywhere are up north; but the world record came from right here in the South, near the Kentucky/Tennessee border to be specific, Dale Hollow Lake back in 1955. While it is true that smallmouth are more of a coolwater fish than largemouth bass, they’re not a coldwater species like trout are; studies have found that the optimal temperature for smallmouth growth is eighty-one degrees Fahrenheit. Smallmouth don’t have to have current to survive, or even to spawn successfully.
There are numerous commercial fish hatcheries across the U.S. that raise smallmouth exclusively in ponds. Some of these farms have been raising smallmouth for several decades. The smallmouth are completely adapted to the pond environment: they hatch out as fry in a pond, and live all of their lives in a pond.
However, these hatcheries do tend to be in more northern states. The closest one we know of is in Missouri. Within the next year or so we will be raising our own crop of smallmouth bass on our fish farm in Hohenwald, Tennessee, but our smallmouth pond is not ready yet, so at present we don’t have our own smallies. We have stocked them several times for landowners, but we get them from that facility in Missouri.
You might be saying to yourself, “Yes, but you’re in Tennessee and we’re in Alabama. They won’t do well here.” The first time we stocked smallmouth in Alabama was just under a year ago, in a ten-acre pond a few miles from Tuscaloosa that we had specifically prepared for the smallies for months beforehand. The landowner had to be convinced that smallmouth would survive in his pond; he told me that he loves smallmouth fishing but that it had never occurred to him that he could have them in his pond.
These fish measured from five to seven inches each when they were stocked into the pond on November 20, 2018, with most closer to five inches than seven. They’re slightly bigger than that now:
The average lifespan of a smallmouth is ten to twelve years, so these fish have roughly eight to ten more years left to get bigger. Imagine what this pond will fish like two years from now, or five.