Land & Water FAQ

Private Fishing Ponds

Will TPWD help me build a pond or lake on my property?

TPWD does not have any grant programs for pond construction on private land. Free literature on pond construction is available via our private lake management page or from the Inland Fisheries office at 1(800) 792-1112, ext. 4 or (512) 389-4444.

Advice on water-conserving habitat features may be part of an overall wildlife management plan. For details, read about our Private Lands and Habitat program.

Does TPWD stock private ponds or where do I get fish?

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does not stock private ponds. Commercial fish farms raise fish for sale to private landowners. Check the Texas Aquaculture Association website for an availability list.

Can I catch fish in public water and take them home to stock my pond?

Fish that are legally harvested from public water may be stocked in a private pond. “Legally harvested” fish are caught by someone who holds the required fishing license, observing all applicable length limits, daily bag limits, and gear restrictions. For more information on licenses and regulations, see the Texas Outdoor Annual.

How can I estimate the weight of a fish that was caught and released?

You will need to have the length and girth of the fish to calculate an estimate. This formula works for all fish, although the example is for largemouth bass. To get weight in pounds, square the girth in inches (girth multiplied by itself) then multiply this times the length in inches. Divide this product by 800.

For example, we can use one of the recent ShareLunker bass. The girth was 20.25 inches and the length was 26 inches. First, take 20.25 x 20.25 to get 410.06. Multiply this times 26 to get 10,661.6. Divide this by 800 to get 13.33 pounds.

What do I do if my fish are dying or have sores on their bodies?

Fish can be affected by parasites, bacteria, and water molds. Just like humans, they are more likely to get ill if something stresses them, such as unusually warm or cold temperatures, overcrowding, poor nutrition, or environmental pollution. It is not usually possible to diagnose a fish disease without having the specimen at hand, and even then it can be tricky. Your county agricultural extension agent may be able to identify the problem and help you correct it. If you’re seeing large numbers of sick fish, you may want to contact a private pond consultant. The Texas Aquaculture Association has a list on its website; look for a link to "TAA Availability List."

Some of the fish I’m catching have small worms or grubs in their flesh.
What’s wrong with these fish? Are they safe to eat?

Although some parasites and diseases of North American fishes can be infectious, the vast majority will not develop in man even if eaten raw. All are killed by thorough cooking, pickling, or freezing. There is no danger of eating an infected fish if it is properly cleaned and prepared.

I've seen large wading birds in or near my pond, and suspect they're eating my fish. Can I shoot these birds?

Great egrets, snowy egrets, great blue herons, and other migratory birds are protected under federal law. It’s illegal to shoot, trap, or harm them in any way. However, there are steps you can take to protect the fish in your pond:

What if cormorants are eating my fish?

Cormorants are dark-colored, long-necked diving birds. They may be a bigger problem than wading birds, because they can dive down to 25 feet in pursuit of fish. Like egrets and herons, the cormorant is a migratory bird protected by federal law. However, a 2003 law allows states to establish rules for control of nuisance cormorants.

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My pond is overgrown with plants. What should I do?

Some vegetation is desirable; however, too much can be a nuisance. Pond managers use a variety of mechanical, environmental, chemical and biological techniques to control undesirable aquatic plants. For more information, see our online brochure about nuisance aquatic plants or try the links on our private lake management page.

My neighbor stocked his pond with a kind of carp that eats plants. How can I get some of these carp?

Since 1992, Texas has allowed stocking of triploid grass carp, a vegetarian fish native to Asia, with a permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This biological control method can be very effective for certain types of plants. For more information on this control method and the permit application process, see our triploid grass carp section.

There are many turtles in my pond. Should I remove some of them?

Studies indicate that turtles don’t usually harm fish populations. Their diet consists mostly of plants, insects, small crustaceans, and fish that were already dead.

Turtles can be trapped, but relocating them isn’t always a good idea. If an animal is released into a habitat that doesn’t already contain that species, it can unbalance local plant and animal communities. If an animal is removed from an ecological niche where it “fits,” another animal just like it will often move in to occupy the space. Therefore, it may not be practical to try to eliminate all the turtles from your pond.

I caught a snapping turtle. What should I do with it?

Two types of snapping turtle are found in Texas. Caution is advised when handling either type. They do bite, and their jaws are strong.

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) has an oval-shaped head and a comparatively smooth, rounded shell that appears too small for its body. The alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temmincki) looks more like a small dinosaur with three distinct ridges on its shell. An alligator snapper has a triangular head and one feature that is unique among turtles: a fleshy "lure" at the bottom of its mouth. When the turtle opens its jaws under water, the lure moves with the current and fools potential prey animals into thinking it's a worm.

Common snappers have no special protections, but the alligator snapping turtle is a threatened species in Texas. If you catch one, it should be returned to its habitat, as close as possible to the spot where it was caught.