Can a lake be too muddy for catfish?

Asked October 12, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

First time at this, thanks in advance for any pearls of wisdom that may come my way. I have a 3 acre stock pond on our property in Van Zandt county. Unlike all the other ponds on our property, this pond has always been very turbid and stained like clay-colored water. Fishing was never very good so we left it alone. Cattle would drink and wade in it. I can only remember catching one mud cat out of it maybe 25 years ago.

My goal is to make it a good catfish lake for the kids and produce some good fish for the table. I stocked it with about 400 - small 6 inch channel catfish and 12 pounds of Flathead minnows hoping they would take hold. I have installed a automatic fish feeder to supplement their diet with about 1 pound of floating fish food every evening. The first week or so I would see a few come up to eat, but the last few weeks I have seen only turtles feeding on the food. I was concerned the fish couldn't survive the muddy water or became food. I was curious to see if anything survived and after several hours I managed to catch one on a fishing pole. It was a channel catfish about 8 inches long, had a "full" looking belly and was almost white in color which I would assume is due to the high turbidity and lack of light?

Stats on the lake: pH = 6.2, Alkalinity 220, maximum depth 9 feet with thick clay and silt bottom, average depth 5 feet. Almost no aquatic vegetation. Water sample settled out after one week sitting still and almost instantly with a pinch of alum. No cattle have been on this lake to stir it up for 6 months. No signs of large bullheads - but then I just didn't catch any. This lake is on top of a hill, but two other ponds just a few hundred yards away are thriving, clear with lots of aquatic vegetation.

Any ideas on how I can improve this pond and what may be going on with the surviving catfish?

Thanks.


Van Zandt County Texas

1 Response

this came from our Wildlife and Fisheries specialist:

OK-Catfish do just fine in muddy water—All of the commercial aquaculture ponds that raise up to 10,000 pounds per surface acre tend to be muddy, too-- so that is not an issue. The lack of light penetration is the reason there are no weed problems and the fish are “washed out” colorwise. Are you sure the total alkalinity was 220 ppm? That sounds very high for East Texas ponds. Adjust the feeder so that it feeds all the fish will clean up in 15 minutes. You will never train all of the fish (400) stocked in a pond the that is 3 acres in size—they are pretty spread out in there.. The turtles are not impacting anything biologically but they will eat their share of food. They can be trapped or shot to reduce their numbers if you prefer. As cooler temps arrive and the water cools down, feeding activity will only decrease between now and next Spring. Continue to offer some feed up until the onset of cold weather, resuming either late in the evening after several consecutive warm winter days or wait until next Spring as the water temps rise again. You might go back in with another 400 6 to 8 inch fingerlings next Spring (March-April) as you have stocked at a pretty low density in 3 acres of water if you want to meet your goal to provide fishing recreation.