Ever heard the expression "Big fish in a small pond"?
It's a known fact small ponds don't produce large amounts of big fish. Hence the expression. It's also proven, an overstocked pond will severely stunt the growth of the pond's overall fish population. So why do so many Ohio Valley paylakes continue to post Facebook photo's of "big fish, caught in their small pond"? Well, it's not because that paylake grew all those fish. And it's not because they bought them from a fish farm (they cannot grow these fish either). It's ONLY because they overstock RIVER netted catfish.
Now just because they stocked 100's of large river catfish into their small pond. It doesn't mean they've beaten Mother Nature. Obviously, there's a reason why small ponds don't naturally produce a lot of large fish. Such lakes simply don't support the growth of many big fish. Therefore transplanting a lot of trophy size river fish into the paylake, doesn't change the fact their not meant to be there. Actually, it just compounds the problem and a majority of these long-lived river fish, die rather quickly. This is Mother Natures way of evening things back out. Of course, dead catfish don't bite baited hooks. So the paylake must continually reload their lakes, with another load of OUR river's large catfish.
Overstocking is the biggest problem with paylakes stocking river catfish. Paylakes overstock for a few reasons. The main reason to ATTRACT customers. The picture above is a paylakes Facebook post. This advertisement will surely get folks flocking to the lake looking to win money, all while catching a once in a lifetime fish. And while that sounds good, it's coming at the expense of our rivers large catfish populations.
Which brings us to the next reason for overstocking. To make SURE folks catch a big fish. A person that catches a big fish will most definitely provide free advertisement, telling their big fish story on social media. And of course, that person will almost surely return to fish again.
Now for the most important reason they overstock. THEY HAVE TOO! As mentioned above, Mother Nature didn't intend for all these big fish to be there. So the lake must replace the fish that died from the last overstock. Thus ensuring big fish are still caught. And conveniently advertising a bunch of large fish, again.
While they may be called pay "lakes", this is almost always not the case. A more fitting term would be pay-pond. These "lakes" are notorious for being small, shallow, stagnant and lacking of structure. Exactly the opposite of where these fish commonly reside in their natural environments.
While there's no doubt a small pond can successfully hold a SMALL amount of big fish. This doesn't support the growing trend of paylakes. That's if they want to compete in a "trophy" driven paylake market.
Therefore, these small lakes tend to overstock large, river catfish. Of course, these small ponds don't provide the basic needs of large catfish - flowing oxygenated water, structure, depth and forage fish to name a few. This leads to disease and starvation of the overcrowded, over-fished paylake catfish. But the paylake must keep the customers coming back. So it's back to stocking from the slowly depleting trophy RIVER catfish populations.