Channel catfish are suited to almost any pond, big or small. Catfish require very little management, eat a wide variety of foods, are easy to catch and good to eat. They can also tolerate a wide range of water quality and can grow to large sizes even in small ponds. Channel catfish begin spawning when water temperatures reach 80 degrees. Males seek out nesting sites such as underwater cavities, stumps, old tires or barrels and begin cleaning the area with their tail. Females soon join them in the nest and lay a large jelly like mass of sticky eggs on the underside (top) of the nest. Males then guard the nest and aerate the egg mass until the eggs hatch. Eggs hatch in 5 to 7 days and the baby catfish settle to the bottom of the nest and remain there for 7 more days until they are strong enough to swim.
Baby catfish begin feeding on algae and zooplankton and for several weeks before growing large enough to eat insects and other baby fish. One year old catfish can range from 3 to 8 inches and can grow 3/4 to 1 pound per year after the first year. Often characterized as bottom feeders, catfish are omnivores eating whatever they can find and readily take to artificial feed, growing to large sizes if properly cared for.
Channel catfish will not spawn in most ponds unless nesting sites such as stumps, barrels, and tires are added. Spawning is generally not encouraged to prevent overcrowding. Many pond owners prefer a put/grow/take approach to catfish ponds. That is to stock 4-8 inch fingerlings, grow them to large sizes on feed, catch most of them out and restock periodically when fish numbers decline. This approach allows pond owners to regulate the number of fish in the pond and increase growth rates.
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