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Pond Stocking for Beginners

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Stocking your pond is a great way to increase your enjoyment of your water. You can support natural habitats and species, attract birds, build a waterfall, and catch your dinner (or at least work up an appetite trying). But before you purchase and release those trout, bass, perch, catfish, or sunfish into your pond, make sure you are doing it safely and legally.

You may need a permit!

Step 1: Determine if you need a permit

When you purchase fish for stocking, it is your responsibility to determine whether or not you need a permit – and, of course, to apply for it if necessary. The big question is: do you need one? In Michigan (we are only able to sell live fish to Michigan customers), you do not need a permit if there are no permanent inlets or outlets and no public access.

So, for example, if you built your pond, and it is self-contained on your property with no permanent inlets or outlets, you do not need a permit. But if your pond feeds into a year-round stream or it has public access, you do. In that case it is considered “public water” and the Department of Natural Resources is charged with protecting it. They do this to ensure that the fish released are healthy and do not pose management problems, or unbalances the local ecosystem. The good news is, we can help you though that process. It can sound intimidating, but it really doesn’t have to be, and the permit is free.

Not sure if your pond qualifies as private or public? Your Fisheries Management Unit can help (you can find an office near you on the permit application).

Step 2: Complete an Application

If your pond qualifies, fill out the application. You’ll need to provide information such as the species and number of fish, number of inlets/outlets, purpose of stocking, source of the fish, etc. The application will guide you through all the necessary steps. If you don’t know how many your pond will support, or how many to put on your permit, we can help with that too! If you click here for our contact information, we’d be happy to help you with that as well.

It’s just a hoop or two to jump through before you can stock your pond, but it’s well worth the peace of mind knowing that the fish you paid for are healthy, and you’re not going to accidentally stock any illegal or invasive species.