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Raising fish – Great recreation & a great survival resource.

In another discussion I mentioned I feed catfish, and I was asked to provide more info.

My farmstead did not have a pond when I bought it, so in the spring of 2013 I decided to put one in. I love fishing… even in small farm ponds. But as a prepper, I realized even a small, one acre pond could contain thousands of pounds of fresh meat that could be sustained indefinitely due to natural reproduction, as long as I fed the fish. Feeding them accomplishes two things. First it allows for a much larger population of fish than a normal pond could sustain naturally. Second, grain fed catfish are far superior to natural fish. The flesh is pure white, firm & has no fishy flavor.

My problem was, I didn’t have a ravine or gully that would allow me to simply, and cheaply, put across a dam. My only choice was to dig out the whole pond in a corner of my bottom pasture, where rain runoff naturally flowed. Then that created a new issue… what to do with all that dirt. Being an avid shooter, I had them build a large berm next to the pond, where I could set up targets. Then the rest of the dirt was spread out across the pasture in a way where any rain runoff funneled to the middle of the pasture & then would flow into the pond. Here are some pics & a rather poor video showing the construction.

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In the following pic, notice the trees that were knocked down & stacked in the pond. Also note where the trackhoe dug a bunch of holes and mounded that dirt. That is all structure to provide different habitats underwater & to provide safe areas for fish to hide. Also the pond is dug with different elevations where in spots it is pretty deep & then tapers to a water depth of 2 feet.

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Below is the shooting berm.

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Added a small dock a bit later.

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At our local farm supply, you can order fish from a company that comes a few times each summer. They put the fish in clear bags and then you rush them to your pond. The next spring, 2014, I brought in channel catfish, hybrid bream & fathead minnows.

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I then added an aeration system using Vertex bubblers to improve water quality.  I put in two of the dual units pictured below.  They sit on the bottom of the pond & put out millions of micro bubbles.  This adds oxygen directly to the bottom of the pond & keeps the water circulating throughout the whole pond.  I put a small compressor in the tack room of the horse brn & ran the pvc piper out to the edge of the pond.

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This pic was taken in July 2016.  These fish are two years old.

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  • Comments (22)

    • 7

      Truly an impressive project.  I wish I had gotten a large excavator for my pond project.  I used a regular sized backhoe and made three ponds on a small stream that runs across the front of my property.  It is visually attractive with spillways and water splashing into them but they are a bit small and shallow to be really practical for farming fish.  That was a great idea to set up a shooting range while working on the project.  I always try to plan out whatever project I’m working on to avoid waste and be efficient.

    • 6

      Here is a video of them feeding.

      • 4

        I like their little catfish lips when they come up for food! That made my day, thanks for sharing that video.

        I also like Stanley. He looks like a good boy.

    • 5

      I’m totally stealing that hanging gong design, I like that with the 8″ ones up front and 3 or 4s spaced between. Also jealous of the whole setup really.

      • 5

        Here are some more old pics.  I love my range.  Those small ones are welded onto a stick of rebar.  At the top we welded a horizontal piece of rebar.  We use pipe clamps on each side of the horizontal pieces, so that it swivels back when hit.  Also, the way the chain hangs the larger gongs, puts them at a bit of an angle, which of course you want so that ricochets head down… and not back toward the shooter.

        both-guns

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      • 3

        Awesome setup man. I had a few of my gongs stolen a year ago off my hunting/shooting property, really pissed me off. Not like I could afford to shoot at them right now anyway….

      • 3

        Thanks.  When times are good, I load up on ammo, so I have plenty to keep shooting.  I sure wouldn’t be buying now.

        Just took a current pic of the berm.  You can see now that it is starting to blend into the natural setting.  BTW, that is a Great Blue Heron wading in the pond in front of the berm.  That too is a very big bird.

        berm 2021

      • 3

        Gorgeous birds, I see them pretty often when duck hunting. Make the weirdest sounds though. 

        I tried to stash up as much as I could at the beginning of the year when I saw prices starting to creep up but I’ve already eaten in to more of my stash then I’d like. I actually just bought an AK so I’d have something to keep shooting, I managed to snag some 7.62×39 for a decent price not too long ago and you can still find it for 40-50cpr right now

      • 4

        Ain’t that the truth with their sounds.  A few weeks ago, I noticed one was sitting in the top of a sycamore tree close to the pond, and was it ever making a lot of noise.  After I finished with the horses, I drove the Gator closer and saw a juvenile bald eagle in a tree about 100′ away.  I figured that was the issue so I drove right up to the tree with the eagle and made it fly off.  That solved the problem & soon the heron took off too.

        I purchased several cases of CCI Standard Velocity 22lr a few years back.  That is what I shoot now at around .05 ea.

      • 3

        This is the Way – I’m sorry you had your gongs stolen. That sure is low of someone to do something like that. 

        If it helps you feel any better: One time I went out shooting with some guys in my church and their friends who were members of a Free Mason’s club. I trusted the guys from my church, but didn’t know much about these Free Mason guys. They were really serious about gun safety, so I felt good hanging out with them. 

        Anyways, I brought a brand new spinner target that I had just gotten for my birthday. Everyone was shooting at paper targets, so a reactive target that moves and makes a noise was pretty cool. I told everyone multiple times that they could only use calibers under a 9mm on it, as the AR’s they were also shooting would punch right through it. People took turns shooting at the spinner with their .22lr and other pistol calibers. There was one of the Free Mason guys that comes up to the spinner and shoots it with a .223 rifle round and punches a hole straight through it. I asked why he did that and that I said nothing under a 9mm. He just laughed and said that it isn’t as wide as a 9mm. He gave me like $4 to “cover the damages”. So now I have a spinner with a hole in the center. I’m never shooting with people I don’t know and fully trust again. I’m still bitter at that guy.

      • 2

        I understand how that feels. Whenever I want to introduce a new shooter I take them to a range I’m a member at and let them shoot at their targets. My secret spot in the woods is reserved for me and my crew alone lol. 

    • 3

      Super cool project Redneck! Does the bubbler run all year? Is the air compressor running 24/7 or does it only come on every hour or so?

      What size tank is the air compressor? Is it oilless or oiled? Sorry I have so many questions… I’m interested in getting a air compressor in the future though, and am curious about them.

      • 4

        No problem.  It is a Brookwood Com 106 continuous duty, oil free compressor.  It does not have a tank.  Yes, it runs year round and I have it on a timer so that it runs around 18 hours a day, with it off during the day.  The oxygen level in water drops at night, so that it is most important for the aeration to run overnight.  I purchase a rebuild kit and use that about every 18 months or so.

        Another big reason to run aeration is to keep a pond from turning over in the summer.  In a pond in the heat of summer, the bottom water is cooler than the surface.  Without aeration, this bottom water is very low in oxygen plus can be toxic from the decay of organic matter.  A pond turns over, meaning the water at the bottom rapidly goes to the surface and the surface water sinks to the bottom.  This can occur if say a thunderstorm drops a lot of rain, which can be cool water & this runoff is cooler than the water on the bottom.  As we know, heat rises & cool sinks.  When a pond turns over, it can kill most, if not all the fish.  You will see them all come to the surface trying to find oxygen.

        With aeration, this can never happen.  First of all, the water is being stirred by the action of the bubbles.  Not only is the water moving vertically, but the pond water is stirred horizontally.  You can see this in the summer when you have an algae bloom on the surface.  When I look at the pond, it looks exactly like satellite pictures of two hurricanes… the water is spiraling out around each bubbler.  So with aeration, the water is constantly moving.  The water from the bottom is constantly brought to the surface, so you don’t end up with a toxic, dead zone at the bottom.  Oxygen is in all layers.

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      • 5

        That is super interesting about the pond turn over, I would not have known that that is a thing. It is good that you did your research beforehand and were aware of that and didn’t lose all your fish. 

        A good example of doing your research before you tackle a project like this. 

        Is your pump connected to the grid? I see that you have solar panels in some of your other posts, it would be good to make sure that they or a generator could cover that pump if the power goes out, because you don’t want to lose all those fish. I’m sure you’ve thought of that though.

        Thanks for the great post! Pretty neat, but I think all I personally can handle right now is my beta fish…

      • 2

        I do have gas generators & solar generators, but doubt I’d need to use them for the aeration.  First of all, a pond will only turn over during certain parts of the summer & with specific weather conditions.  A pond gets toxic and/or with low oxygen levels over a long period of time, so an outage of a few days would have little impact.

        Aeration is not essential for raising fish, but it keeps the water much healthier and eliminates the possibility of a fish kill.  I would not let not having aeration keep me from having a fish pond.  However, if like me you artificially raise the population density of the fish, then it would be a good idea.

    • 3

      Great setup Redneck! Thank you for taking the time to share those pictures and videos with us. 

      That is cool how just a few bubbles can really create a strong ecosystem and help those catfish to really thrive. That along with daily feedings, those little guys are living the good life.

      I’m jealous of your gun range as well. Have you heard of a dueling tree? That is something I want to get for my family’s gun range. It is a vertical post with round targets on a hinge coming out either side of the post. You have two people shooting at the same target and trying to flip the round discs to one side while the other person is trying to flip them to the opposite side.pistolduelingtreefront

      • 4

        Yes, I have one and they are great fun when you shoot with someone of equal skill.  The guy who helps me on Saturdays is a much better & quicker shot than me, and he kicks my bootie.  🙂  I leave it as a portable target, along with some others, as opposed to a permanent mount at my range.

        I have also permanently put in a rimfire plate rack down on the range.  This pic is not mine but it does show the targets.  It has a lever on the bottom that you can attach a rope.  By pulling the rope, it resets the targets. 

        I like reactive targets that let you know quickly how you are doing.  I mainly shoot 22s and most of that steel is designed for only 22lr.   When I shoot others, such as that 300 Blackout pictured, I use the cardboard torso targets.  300 Blackout costs me around .75 each round while my 22lr runs around .05… so I shoot a lot of 22lr.  🙂  My S&W 15-22 pictured is my favorite gun to shoot, by far.  It is suppressed and a SBR… 2 stamps.

        plate rack

        300 Blackout on top & 15-22 beneath.  Both have suppressors & both are SBR (short barreled rifle).

        both-guns

    • 2

      I’ve seen your John Deere golf cart thing in a couple of your other posts. Is that gas or electric powered? Smart to have if you have a large property. 

      What is the lifespan of a catfish? That is if they aren’t fished or eagle food before then.

      • 3

        That is a gas powered Gator and yes, it comes in very handy.  Twice a day I go down to feed horses.  When warm, I then feed catfish in the evening feeding.  This time of year, I bring down 2 or 3 bales of hay from the upper barn.  It sits in our garage… my truck stays outside.  🙂

        Had the back full this weekend when I planted 6 Jujube trees and 2 more muscadines.  It had the shovels, trees, & potting soil in back.  It is just so convenient… much more so than using my pickup.

        Online says around 20 years but in the Mississippi river they can get over 100 lbs, so I think maybe longer.

    • 5

      If you like horses.

      • 2

        WOW! Those are so beautiful!!

        Those horses really look so happy. They have friends, good water, and looks like some good grass to eat too. You must take such good care of them.

      • 2

        Oh yes, they are well cared for.  We even have overhead fans on the covered porch of their barn.  On hot, summer days they will graze a bit, then head for the shade & fans.  Makes me jealous while I’m out in the sun cutting pastures.  🙂

    • 3

      This is a truly inspirational project. Great work and thanks for sharing!