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Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I have a pond on my property I would like to put trout in. Are there any rules about stocking my pond with fish?"

Answer: Yes there are. Idaho law in part states: "No person shall establish and maintain a private park or pond on premises owned or leased by him and obtain, possess, transport, propagate, and process for his own personal pleasure and use only fish approved by the commission, . . . in this state unless he has first obtained a permit from the director (of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game)."

Additional rules require private ponds to be "posted" in at least three locations. All water inlets and outflows must be screened to prevent fish from going into or out of the pond and the Department must approve all fish species. No private ponds will be authorized "in or across any natural stream bed, lake or water course containing wild fish."

The law requires you to license any pond on private property you want to stock with game fish. The pond cannot be part of a natural stream or lake and must be posted to prevent trespass. Some kind of barrier must be installed so your fish don't escape and wild fish can't get in. And lastly, you are only allowed to stock fish species approved by the Department.

In a licensed private pond, Idaho Fish and Game fishing rules no longer apply. The fish in the pond are private property and are subject to rules of the pond owner. Holding or raising fish in a private pond for monetary gain requires a different license. If the owner wishes to charge a fee for fishing, the pond should then be licensed with the Idaho Department of Agriculture as a commercial fish facility. Applications for private ponds require inspection by a Fish and Game representative to ensure compliance with the rules. Private pond permits are free of charge and last five years.

The Department will only approve fish species that pose no disease risk or threat to wild fish populations. We request pond owners obtain "certified disease free" fish for their ponds to help maintain the health of their fish and reduce the risk of transmitting fish diseases to wild populations. For a list of certified disease-free commercial fish growers, contact the College of Southern Idaho's aquaculture program or the Idaho Aquaculture Association.

Requests for fish imported from other states or species of concern must follow a strict application process. For example, species such as grass carp are requested to reduce summer vegetation. A special request must be made for this species. These fish must also have their genetic makeup certified as triploid so they are incapable of reproducing.

Most people purchase fish for their pond from local commercial fish growers. The commercial grower delivering the fish should verify a permit has been issued for a private pond before transporting and stocking any fish. Without this verification, the commercial grower risks a citation for an unlawful fish release. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has stocked some private ponds. To do this we require a written agreement with the pond owner to allow public access for fishing.

Maintaining a licensed private pond is usually much more complicated than "digging a hole, filling it with water, and stocking it with fish." Water quality and quantity may not be sufficient to support the kind of fish you want. Moss and algae growth during the warm summer weather sometimes turns ponds into smelly mosquito factories. Low dissolved oxygen levels and high water temperatures are lethal to most fish. Winter kills are common. All these issues mean restocking on a regular basis. For technical assistance about water quality and species selection, you may contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, your county extension agent, the College of Southern Idaho's aquaculture program, or a commercial fish grower that is a member of the Idaho Aquaculture Association.

Reference Idaho Code 36-706

If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at www2.state.id.us/fishgame.