How to Tell if a Pond Has Fish in 3 Easy-to-Follow Steps

Small bodies of water like ponds are just as capable of supporting life as large lakes and rivers. Whether natural or manmade, a pond can provide a good supply of fish if it’s well-stocked. But before you start pond fishing, you need to know if there are actually any fish to catch under the surface.

You can find out if a pond has fish by using fish food, lures, live bait, and by scanning the pond with radar. The condition of the pond can also clue you into whether or not there are any fish inside.

Here you will find what to look for in a good fishing pond, what kinds of fish you will most likely find in ponds, and tips on how to fish in ponds. And if you’re hoping to start fishing in a new spot, test the waters first by using one or more of the methods found below. 

Best Pond Conditions For Fish

Ponds are relatively small compared to other bodies of water. However, they can vary in size from as shallow as 5 feet to as deep as 30 feet. Every pond will be different but there are still a few things you can look for that hint at the presence of fish.

A nice clear pond is a good sign for fishing. Clear water allows sunlight to feed aquatic plants, which means fish like bass have enough food to eat.

On the other hand, a murky pond isn’t necessarily bad for fishing. Murky water could simply be a sign that bottom-feeding fish like catfish are living in the pond. They kick up a lot of mud while they eat, leading to murky water.

Aquatic plants are a good sign for a healthy fish population. But a fishing pond shouldn’t have more than 20% plant coverage.

Too many aquatic plants can clog the pond and deprive it of oxygen. Fish simply can’t thrive without enough oxygen in the water. So if your pond is mostly weeds, there’s a good chance you won’t find any good fishing there.

If a pond is stocked by someone who looks after it, then the condition of the pond is more than likely being closely monitored and taken care of. But if you stumble upon a pond that’s not being kept up by human hands, the conditions can make the difference in a lot of fish or none at all.

Common Fish Found in Ponds

Small bodies of water lend themselves best to bass, bluegills, and catfish. While there may be other types of fish found in ponds, especially ponds stocked by people, these are by far the three most common.

Bass, especially largemouth bass, are extremely common in ponds and also extremely sought after. They can most likely be found in shallow parts of the pond. Bass also enjoy hiding around fallen trees, stumps, plants, and docks. They are most easily caught in the late spring or early summer during the early morning or late afternoon.

Bluegills are smaller fish and a good food source for bass. It’s easiest to find them in the spring and summer during cooler times of the day. They also enjoy spots in the pond with covering that are near deeper drop-offs where they can swim deeper when it’s hot.

Catfish stay deep in the water where they can feed off the bottom of the pond. During lower light times of the day, such as early morning or just before sunset, they may come up closer to the banks.

The best part about fish found in ponds is that they tend to grow to good sizes because they can find all the food and resources they need in a small area.

3 Ways to Tell if a Pond Has Fish

One of the easiest ways to determine if a pond has fish or not is to simply walk around it and watch the water. You may be lucky enough to see bubbles or fins breaking the surface and there you have it – there’s fish! 

But a lot of the time it’s not that simple.

If you can’t figure out whether or not there are fish lurking beneath the surface just by the condition of the pond or by staring into the depths for a while, here are three ways you can try to determine if a pond has fish.

1. Sprinkle Fish Food

No fish can resist a bit of fish food.

This is basically like feeding fish in a tank at home. All you need is some fish food to sprinkle on top of the water and a little bit of time to wait. 

Sprinkling fish food near the banks will often let you know if there are any bass in the pond because they will usually be lurking near the banks in the shallow water. If that doesn’t bring up any results, you may need to take a boat to the middle of the pond and sprinkle some food there to see if you get any nibbles.

2. Try a Fishing Pole

One surefire way to tell if there are fish in a pond is to try to fish for them.

Use a fishing pole strung with live or artificial bait to test the water. Search for bass close to the banks in the shallow water or cast out into deeper waters if you’re hoping to find some catfish.

Keep an eye on your line and bobber to see what happens. If you get some bites then you absolutely have your fish. If artificial bait doesn’t yield anything, try live bait before you give up completely. If you still aren’t getting any bites, chances are the pond is empty.

3. Use a Fish Finder

This method is a little more technological for anyone who has access to a boat and the necessary equipment (which can get pricey).

A fish finder is a SONAR device that you can use to identify things below your boat, including fish. Using a fish finder takes some know-how and may require some practice. But once you get the hang of it, it can be an incredibly useful tool for finding the fish you seek.

Tips for Fishing in Ponds

Ponds may be relatively small bodies of water but that doesn’t mean that pond fishing is completely straightforward. If you’re new to pond fishing, here are a few quick tips to get you started.

  1. Be quiet when approaching the pond so you don’t scare the fish away. Crouch or sit while pond fishing to keep them from noticing you and swimming off. A longer rod may work best.
  2. For the same reason, use a quiet boat when fishing in larger ponds.
  3. The best time to fish in ponds is during the early morning or in the evening.
  4. Pond fish are mostly found around structures or under cover of plants, logs, or stumps.
  5. Simple lures are often best. Anything flashy might keep pond fish away.
  6. Floating lures are better than sinking lures in shallow ponds or ponds with a lot of plants at the bottom.
  7. Avoid pond fishing for a few days after heavy rain to give the new water time to stabilize.
  8. Wait a few days to a week between fishing excursions to the same pond so the fish don’t get too used to you and learn to avoid your lure.
  9. You may want to bring something to sit on because you might be waiting for a bite for a while. Patience is key!

Don’t think too hard about pond fishing. It’s a simple environment that requires a simple approach to catch any fish that inhabit it. Pond fishing can be an incredibly relaxing pastime for any angler. Just make sure your pond of choice actually has fish in it before you start!