You have a farm dam on your property that you are thinking about stocking- whether for fishing or to improve the ecology of the environment- here is what you need to know-
Dam Environment- Firstly, we need to make sure that your dam is suitable for fingerlings. We recommend stocking dams that have been full for at least one summer to allow them to ‘mature’. This time period will allow the water parameters in the dam to settle, and the biological processes to ‘cycle’This time also allows you toestablish some aquatic and marginal plants (providing habitat for the fish and their food source) and some ‘fodder fish’ if you want to stock carnivorous species.
Aquatic and Marginal Plants can be obtained from your local nursery and they can advise on the best species and where to plant them. Stocking smaller ‘fodder’ fish into your dam is controlled by State fisheries regulations and you should check with your states regulations regarding suitable species. In South East Queensland suitable species include Crimson Spotted Rainbows, Pacific Blue Eyes and Firetail Gudgeons. Macrobrachium Shrimp also may excellent fodder. The fish and shrimp will breed in your dam if the correct environment is provided and should establish a self sustaining population. The fish and the shrimp can be obtained from good aquarium stores or contact us to check our availability.
Most of these fish species will not reproduce in a dam environment. When stocking farm dams it is important to stock species that are native and endemic to your drainage. Suitable species for your drainage can be found at- http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/28_15761.htm
Common species for South East Queensland include-
Bass are a common angling species and are very popular for farm dams.They can grow to 60cm and 4kg, although 40cm and 1.5kg is common in most dams. They are a hardy species, and are tolerable of most water conditions, but do best in Clear or Tannin stained waters. They don’t do very well in muddy or murky water. Their major food source in dams is live food such as Shrimp, Fodder Fish, and large insects. They will not readily accept pellet foods, but in some circumstances they will take them, although they shouldn’t be substituted for live food. Bass are a good fighting fish and will readily take lures or live bait such as shrimp. They have firm white flesh and present well on the plate.
Bass are spawned May – September and fingerlings are available November through January, but are very popular and we sometimes sell out before January.
Golden Perch, also called Yellowbelly or Callop are another popular fish for farm dams as they make good angling and nice eating. They can grow to 70cm and 24kg, but 40cm and 2kg would be a common size in most farm dams. They are hardy and do well in most farm dams, and are tolerable of most water conditions. They mostly forage on small live fish and shrimp, as well as large insects. They don’t accept pellets well and do best on the natural food available in the dams. Golden Perch can be caught after 18-24 months on a line, and will take lures and live baits. They can be eaten, they have firm white flesh, but larger models can be a little fatty and they can retain ‘off flavors’ from their dam environment. For example, Golden Perch coming from a muddy dam will retain a muddy flavor to the flesh. Soaking the fillet in brine or milk can help to improve the taste, but they are better caught a few times than eaten once.
Golden Perch are spawned September – March and peak supply of fingerlings is available from December through February. We usually sell out of stock by May.
Silver Perch are our most popular fish for farm dams as they are hardy and are available most of the year. They tolerate most water conditions within their range and can be stocked into smaller water bodies. Silver Perch can grow to 60cm and 6kg, although 35cm and 1kg is common. Silver Perch naturally forage on small insects and vegetation, and will readily accept fish food pellets. They are easily targeted on a fishing line, and are great fun for kids. A small piece of bait such and some peeled prawn on a small hook about 1m below a float is successful. Silvers have small mouths so a small hook (a no. 4 long shank is ideal) is necessary and won’t often take lures.Silvers present very well for the plate, although can retain some ‘weedy’ flavor.
We spawn Silver Perch in September through February and have fingerlings available from late November through to about September. Peak fingerling supply is December through March.
Eel Tailed Catfish
Eel Tailed Catfish or ‘Jewfish’ make great dam inhabitants, but aren’t considered a angling species. They are quite hardy and can be stocked into smaller water bodies. They will reproduce in farm dams given the right conditions. Catfish normally eat insects and worms off the substrate of the dam, and can be caught on a bait fished on the bottom of the dam. Live garden worms work well.Catfish have firm white flesh but can be difficult to skin due to their tough skin. They can retain some muddy or weedy flavors but generally present well on the plate.
Catfish nest late October- November and fingerlings are available in Late December through March.Fingerling supply is variable and we don’t produce fingerlings each season, and due to the way they breed, we don’t produce large numbers of fingerlings. Due to this, they are often sold quickly.
Stocking Rate/ Density-
When stocking farm dams there are a lot of factors to consider- aeration, food source, species stocked, etc. We recommend stocking farm dams at the rate of 1 fish per 5M2 surface area. Dams should also have a minimum 6’ or 1.8m depth. At this stocking density, it is a ‘set and forget’ stocking. This means that the fish will not require any supplemental aeration or feeding. It is difficult to stock dams according to the volume, as it doesn’t factor oxygen transfer across the surface of the dam. Also, deep dams can stratify, which means they can’t support any more fish than a shallow dam of the same surface area.
We don’t recommend stocking farm dams under 100 M2 with the species mentioned above. Dams this size are too small to support a population of fish and their food source.
Dams under 500m2 do best with omnivorous species such as Silver Perch and Catfish. Dams under this size are a little small to support Carnivorous species like the Bass and Golden Perch, and they do best in dams over 500m2 surface area.
Provided that the recommended stocking density is not exceeded the fish will not require supplemental feeding. If you do wish to feed the fish, please do not feed them bread, chook pellets or dog biscuits! The fish cannot metabolize the grains and heavy proteins in these foods and feeding them can be counter productive and hinder their growth by upsetting their metabolism. Feeding bread can cause internal bacterial infections and kill the fish.
If you wish to feed your fish, please feed them commercially available fish pellets. They are available from us, other fish farms, produce stores and aquarium shops. The pellets are designed to be a complete diet and we use them at the farm to grow our Silver and Jade Perch.The pellets do not have any preservatives and should be stored in a cool dry place and used within 3 months of purchase. Keep your food in an air tight, rodent proof container. Please don’t feed your fish wet, mouldy or rodent spoiled food- it can be toxic to the fish.
Small, freshly released fingerlings in a dam are ideal food for many predators, but the main one that can decimate a population of fish in a dam is cormorants and other diving birds such as darters.An adult greater cormorant can eat 4kg of fish a day, or 2,000 fingerlings! The best way to ensure that losses to cormorants is minimal is to provide the fingerlings with plenty of cover and structure in the dam- weedbeds and snags offer protection for the fingerlings.
In general, other birds such as ducks, herons and kingfishers don’t pose a major threat to the fingerlings. Eels and turtles also aren’t a big threat- they are poor hunters in nature and will generally only take sick or dying fish.
When you pick the fish up from us, they will come in a oxygen gassed plastic bag, packed in a cardboard box. If possible, please bring a large (30-60l) esky with a lid when you come, this will help keep the fish cool on your way home.
Care should be taken when releasing your fish. Float the bag in the dam, preferably in the shade for 10 minutes. After this time, remove the rubber band from the bag and start introducing some dam water into the bag. Do this for another 5 minutes before carefully releasing the fish into the dam.This process is called acclimation and is important to the survival of the fingerlings in your dam.