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Feeding Trout in Recreational Ponds

Feeding trout is essential in recreational ponds which cannot naturally support large numbers of trout. Without adequate feed, the health of the trout will decline. On the other hand, too much feed will add nutrients to the pond and could cause aquatic weed problems. Aquatic weeds like filamentous algae, pond weed, and other submersed (underwater) plants thrive when water temperatures are warm and nutrients are available. Most, if not all aquatic weeds are undesirable if the pond is being managed for fishing.

Floating feed is best for recreational ponds. This gives you an opportunity to observe the fish and their feeding behavior while they are eating. If their behavior is different than normal (e.g. the fish are not interested in eating), this suggests there is a problem such as low oxygen. The problem would need to be corrected to avoid a fish kill.

The recommended method for accurately feeding trout in ponds relies on using a feed chart such as the one below. The trout are fed a daily ration based on fish size and the water temperature. Feeding trout at these rates will grow the trout at optimum rates. If optimum growth is not desired, the trout can be fed as little as 50-60% of the recommended rate.

Daily Pounds of Feed per 1000 Trout

Water Temp Average Trout Length in Inches
oF 4-5 5-6 6-7 7-8 8-9 9-10 10-14 14+
less than 45               1-5 pounds of feed, 1-3 times per week
45 0.7 1.0 1.4 1.9 2.5 3.1 3.5 5.0
50 0.8 1.3 1.8 2.3 3.1 3.9 5.5 8.0
55 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.7 3.6 4.3 6.5 9.0
60 1.2 1.8 2.5 3.2 4.2 5.4 7.5 10.0
65 1.5 2.2 2.8 3.8 5.0 6.2 8.0 11.0

* Care should be taken when feeding trout in warmer water (greater than 68oF). The additional oxygen demand, caused by the
fish eating the feed, may cause a fish kill.

* It is advisable to restrict feeding to 1-3 times per week when the water temperature is less than 45oF or greater than 68oF. Only feed as much as the trout will consume in a few minutes.

Example: 175 trout, 11 inches long, water temperature is 60oF

175/1000 x 7.5 pounds of feed per day = 1.3 pounds of feed per day

When the water temperature is greater than 68oF, signs that the trout are stressed and in trouble include:

1. The trout will gather at the inflow and/or around aerators if you have them

2. The trout will orient themselves with their head in toward the pond bank and may try to jump out of the pond

If you see these signs, discontinue feeding immediately. Trout can survive a month or more without any feed. If feeding can be resumed, reduce the amount of feed that you are providing – the idea is to help the trout survive until the conditions improve. Feed the trout only once per day and feed first thing in the morning when the water temperature is coolest. It would be best to feed the trout 2-3 times per week or less until the water temperature decreases and the flow increases. These stressful conditions may last until Sept or Oct.

If the signs of stress continue, remove/harvest 30-50% of the trout to provide better conditions (more oxygen) to the trout that remain. It is beneficial to pour a 50 pound bag of salt at the inflow once per week until conditions improve. Livestock salt (for cattle, horses, etc) is inexpensive ($5-6 per bag) and should be easy to find at a local Ag supply store. The salt does many beneficial things for the fish – relieves stress, makes more of the dissolved oxygen available, etc.

Feed Size
Appropriate feed size is as important as the amount of feed. Trout fed a larger pellet than they can eat will not grow and the uneaten feed will contribute to water quality problems. The appropriate feed can be purchase from the trout supplier.

Most agricultural supply stores or feed & seed stores stock 3/16 inch trout feed. However, to obtain the smaller sizes of feed, you may need to purchase the feed from the trout supplier when you buy the trout. Take care not to use feed which is older than 3-4 months (the manufactured date is usually on the tag) and do not use feed that is moldy. Store the feed in a cool, dry area.

Written By

Photo of John Dorner, IVJohn Dorner, IVArea Agent, Information Management (828) 290-9876 john_dorner@ncsu.eduMadison County, North Carolina
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