How to Get Free Fish to Stock Your Pond

How to Get Free Fish for Your Pond

Salmon swimming in salmon farm
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Have a pond on your property that you'd like to stock with fish? If you live in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Alaska, Nebraska, or Wyoming, you may be able to get your fish for free. These states all have free pond stocking programs. Check with your state's Wildlife Resource Agency or your local game and fish department to get all the details. 

In most instances, you'll be required to fill out an application and to have your pond inspected by a game warden or fisheries biologist. You may also be required to have a current fishing license on file or be asked to install screens to prevent your fish from entering the local waterways before they'll stock your pond.

Most state wildlife programs will not stock a pond that already has fish in it—and they will check—so don't bother applying if you already have fish (even if it's just a few). Also know that it'll take a couple years to stock your pond properly. They'll introduce certain species the first year, and others the second year.

Note: Alaska and Wyoming will only stock your pond if you allow the public access to it.

If Your State Doesn't Offer Free Fish

You may be able to stock your pond with fish that you catch in public waters. Just know that your daily catch limits will apply, and that this method of stocking your pond isn't allowed in all states due to concerns about spreading disease or introducing unfavorable species.

Get Free Advice

Not all states offer free pond stocking, but most are happy to advise landowners on proper pond management. Before you buy any fish, call your local game and fish department, and ask them for advice on what to buy. They'll be able to tell you what fish do best in your area, what quantities to buy, and when you should introduce them. They may even be willing to come out and take a look at your pond. Take them up on the offer, if they do. In one short visit they'll be able to tell you lots about the health of your pond and the steps you need to take next.