by Ben Kirkpatrick
Across Texas, there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of stock tanks. Many landowners may not realize it, but there may be fish already in their stock tank or pond. So how do we go about checking our stock tank for fish? I would start with a minnow/perch trap or dip net. This will show you if you at least have a base of bait fish already in the tank. Normally in the warmer months when the fish’s metabolism is higher, it will not take long to catch them in a trap or dip net. I like to use a dip net with old bread or dog food softened in water before you get the tank. Toss out the dip net allowing it to settle to the bottom. Of course, it’s attached to a string and a broom handle for pulling the net up out of the water. Once the bread or soft dog food has settled to the bottom on top of the net the fish will start feeding. Give it 1-3 minutes then lift the dip net and see if you have baitfish.
If you have a good population of baitfish, you might want to see if you have any game fish. I would start out trying to catch bass or crappie. You don’t need to be a BASS fishing pro to catch bass in a non-pressured stock tank. As a matter of fact, I would rather fish in a stock tank than a big body of water that has 2-3 bass tournaments on it every weekend. Stock tank bass very seldom see a lure and they sure don’t read Bassmaster’s Magazine, so, you can get away with the most basic types of fishing lures. I would start out with a smaller lure like a small spinner bait or an in-line spinner. Remember the old Mepp’s spinner? I don’t know how many 5-plus lb. bass I have caught on one of those over the years. If the tank is full of moss/vegetation you might want to try a plastic worm. Normally a ¼ weight Texas rigged 5-7” worm will do the trick.
Now if you are not successful with lures it may be that there are no bass or crappie in your tank. Now is the time to see if you have catfish. Catfish are one of the heartiest fish in our tanks and can live through all kinds of conditions. Drought, floods, and low oxygen levels can hurt all species of fish, but catfish seem to be able to tough it out better than the others, so give the catfish a try before declaring you have no fish. I would try store-bought stink bait or frozen shrimp from the store. Simply tie a bell sinker weight ¼ - ½ oz about 12 “above a treble hook, bait your treble hook, cast out, and let it hit the bottom. Tighten your line so that when a catfish hits it will make the tip of your rod jump. Keep an eye on the rod because I have had fishing rods go for a swim and I never retrieved them.
Hopefully, this will help you assess your tank
If you find that you have absolutely no fish in your tank it’s time to stock it with bait. Start out the first year with bait fish only. Minnows and bluegill can easily be bought and stocked in your tank. In year two you should have plenty of baitfish in your tank. Now it’s time for bass, crappie, and catfish. There are several pond stocking companies that come to your local feed store or some location near you. Do some research online and you can find plenty of fish stocking companies. They are very helpful. These fish stocking companies will be able to assist you in stocking ratios, vegetation management, and supplemental feed if you choose to feed your fish.
Until next time please continue to pray for rain in this great state of Texas.