The Missouri Conservation Department provides fingerling fish at no cost to owners of new or renovated ponds. Not all ponds qualify, however, and the fish do come with a few conditions. Application deadline is July 15.
Pond owners who accept fish from the Conservation Department retain full rights to control access to their ponds, but ponds stocked with state fish are subject to provisions of the Wildlife Code of Missouri. The fish can't be bought or sold, and statewide fishing regulations must be observed. Those restrictions don't apply to pond owners who buy fish from commercial sources.
To qualify for Conservation Department stocking, a written application must be completed. Conservation Department personnel visit each pond to be sure it meets the following requirements: The pond or lake must be at least eight feet deep; if the pond is smaller than five acres, livestock must be excluded from the pond area; ponds must not have existing fish populations, except for fathead minnows; the dam must be built for permanency and water-tightness.
Pond owners who qualify can receive bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish. Sunfish and catfish fingerlings are distributed from a central location in each county in September or October.
Largemouth bass are distributed the following June. This gives the other fish time to grow before the hungry, predatory bass arrive.