The Pros and Cons of Supplemental Fish Feeding
Written by Logan Cowan, Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist
Throughout the country, small ponds serve a variety of uses in our communities. Biologists help manage ponds for aesthetics, recreation, and stormwater collection—as well as for trophy fishing. Establishing a trophy fishery can be a complex endeavor that requires many tools and strategies to support the goals of the property owner. Supplemental feeding is one of these important tools, which is often essential to establish and maintain a productive fishery. However, the success of a supplemental fish feeding plan can depend on a variety of factors. Before implementing a fish feeding program, it’s important to confer with a professional Fisheries Biologist about the expected benefits and potential undesirable impacts.
Supplemental feeding with a high-quality pelleted fish food is a cost-effective technique to increase forage production. Feeding forage such as Bluegill and Golden Shiners can improve Largemouth Bass growth and condition. Depending on the unique goals and characteristics of the fishery, managers may also opt to feed Largemouth Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass instead of the forage base. No matter the approach, automatic fish feeders can be highly effective at providing consistent feed and attracting sportfish, including catfish and Rainbow Trout, to specific locations for improved catch rates.
Without the guidance of a professional Fisheries Biologist, supplemental feeding can have undesirable impacts on a small pond. Supplemental feed slightly increases levels of nutrients, like phosphorus, in the waterbody, which could result in water quality imbalances if managed improperly. Excess phosphorus accumulation is known to cause nuisance aquatic weed and algae growth, as well as the development of toxic cyanobacteria. Your fisheries manager understands these complexities and can use water quality testing, nutrient remediation products and other solutions to prevent imbalances. Likewise, low-phosphorus feed offers an attractive alternative to traditional options by better supporting balanced water quality conditions.
There are other considerations when choosing to utilize a feeding plan. Supplemental feeding congregates fish, making them more susceptible to bird predation. Feeders can also attract undesirable species such as Grass Carp, Gizzard Shad and otters. In these situations, your Fisheries Biologist can recommend or help implement prevention strategies, including electrofishing to selectively remove unwanted fish.
Finally, your goals and budget can have a significant influence on the decision to use supplemental feeding. It’s important to consider all factors before moving forward with this management tool. Small fisheries can often benefit from supplemental feeding while still keeping costs low. Large trophy fisheries, on the other hand, may elect to establish a productive fishery by any means or budget necessary.
The quality of fish feed can vary widely – as can feeding schedules and the types of automatic feeders available. To ensure your budget is maximized and your goals are achieved as efficiently as possible, it’s important to work with a qualified Fisheries Biologist who has studied the complexities of fisheries management and can design a custom plan for your unique waterbody.
Logan Cowan is a Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist working out of SOLitude’s Texas office. Logan helps develop individualized lake, pond and fisheries management plans for new and existing clients, and has a special interest in analyzing fisheries data from electrofishing surveys.
Logan earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University and is certified in Aquatic Pest Control in the state of Texas. After graduation he gained experience as a wildlife removal specialist in the greater Houston area before joining SOLitude in 2014.
Growing up along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Logan acquired a great appreciation for the outdoors and the beauty of the aquatic environment. He has enjoyed many years fishing the pristine flats of the Lower Laguna Madre and hunting the waterfowl of the lower Texas Coast. Logan is married to his wonderful wife Kelsey with whom he enjoys spending time, walking with along the beach, camping and fishing. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys pursuing better management through science as he seeks to steward our most precious natural resources.