With summer drought in parts of Kansas, many farm ponds either went completely dry or were extremely low. Recent rains have helped the situation in some locations, and many pond owners are now thinking about restocking.
In ponds that did not go completely dry, low water levels concentrated fish, and predators -- such as blue herons, raccoons and turtles -- and may have eliminated a lot of fish.
Big fish are usually affected more by low water than small fish although largemouth bass and bluegill are pretty tough and often survive in numbers adequate to repopulate a pond when it fills up.
If they don't die, fish often quit growing when conditions deteriorate, but as the pond refills, food becomes abundant again, and the fish soon begin to grow.
Stunted fish may often be the same size for years, but biologists routinely take small stunted bass from overpopulated farm ponds and stock them in other ponds or lakes, where they thrive.
And there can be a upside to low water level in a pond. If fish are stunted, the lower water may thin them down enough so they can grow once the pond refills.
If a pond has gone completely dry, either this fall or next spring is the time to restock. Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologists can provide free technical assistance -- including types of fish to stock, when to stock and what kinds of habitat to develop in a pond.
A list of commercial fish growers will be provided. Depending on the size of the pond and the equipment, it is also possible to stock a pond by catching fish from another pond and moving them.
Wildlife and Parks recommends four species of fish for farm ponds in Kansas -- fathead minnows, bluegill, channel catfish and largemouth bass. These are available from commercial dealers. Crappie are not recommended because they can quickly overproduce.
Pond owners who enroll their pond in the Fisheries Impoundments and Stream Habitats program for three years or longer may receive fish from the department for stocking. Now in its fifth year, the program features more than 130 sites in 48 counties, including ponds and lakes ranging from five acres to more than 100 acres.
The FISH sites are open to public access from March 1 through Oct. 31. (Some are open year-round).
There is a creel limit of two channel catfish and two black bass on all FISH waters. Anglers do not need to contact the landowner for permission on FISH waters.
Landowners who are interested in enrolling in this program should phone the nearest regional Wildlife and Parks office or the Pratt headquarters at (620) 672-5911.