Date of this Version
The program of stocking farm and ranch ponds with fish produced at the national fish hatcheries was evaluated in January 1960 by a survey of 1,000 ponds. This sample, which was randomly chosen, represents 1/40th of the number of ponds stocked in 1957 by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife with bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and catfishes. A questionnaire, approved by the Bureau of the Budget, was employed in 25 States in connection with personal interviews of pond owners or managers by fishery biologists and hatchery personnel.
Pond owners reported that their principal reasons for building the ponds were to provide water for livestock (80 percent) and fishing (70 percent). Of those persons fishing the ponds, 52 percent were men, 23 percent women, and 25 percent children. Eighty-two percent of the ponds were described as providing excellent or satisfactory fishing. Ponds provided fishing in 1959 at the rate of 64 fisherman-days per acre. Bass and bluegill were the principal species, with an average catch of 54 bass and 276 bluegill and other sunfish per acre. Catfish, including bullheads, contributed to the fishing in 20 percent of the ponds.
Twenty-one percent of the pond owners had added fish on their own, and 30 percent of the ponds contained wild fish. In ponds where fishing was unsatisfactory, too many small bluegills, muddy water, and presence of wild fish were the reasons most commonly advanced.
Conservation programs of the Department of Agriculture provided financial assistance to 71 percent of the pond owners toward the costs of constructing the ponds; 84 percent reported they had received technical guidance from the Soil Conservation Service.
Assuming a productive life of at least 5 years, and projecting the findings on 1,000 ponds to all ponds stocked by the Bureau, from 1953 to 1957, it is estimated that more than 20 million mandays of fishing were provided to at least 5 million persons in 1959, as a result of this program.
These anglers are estimated to be 25 percent of all persons fishing in fresh water that year, and to have exerted 5 percent of the fishing effort. The cost to the Government for the fish stocked in the ponds was under 5 cents for each man-day of fishing provided. It must be concluded that providing fish from our national fish hatcheries to stock farm and ranch ponds is making a substantial contribution to the recreation of a large segment of our people, and at a relatively low cost.