Profiting From Your Pond

Stocked Fishing PondOne of the Five Benefits of Rural Ponds is profit. Although ponds have long been present in the American agricultural landscape, now more than ever there exists a diversity of profitable pond endeavors for the rural entrepreneur. Rural System hopes to encourage the use of such diverse alternatives to traditional agriculture as part of Redefining the Farm. The following list serves as a few suggestions and considerations for possible profitable pond activities.

Aquaculture is the practice of rearing animals or plants in an aquatic environment. The breadth of possible “crops” in aquaculture is almost as numerous as those possible on land. In the U.S., more than 100 different organisms are cultivated at different life stages by aquaculturists.  

Fish-farming is broader than raising “food fish” that can be sold in restaurants and supermarkets.  It includes rearing eggs and fingerlings (2-4 inch fish) for sale to food fish producers, fingerling and fishable-sized sport-fish for stocking streams and ponds, bait fish (or frogs, crayfish, worms, and aquatic insects) for anglers, and even tropical fish, goldfish, and other aquatic animals for aquariums and landscape ponds. Fish farming can be a time-consuming, expensive, high-risk business with success dependent upon solid planning, knowledge of fish biology, and business management skills.  Water temperature typically decides the best adapted species of fish(es) to raise for a specific pond, and fish can be generally grouped as warm-water and cold-water species. A few examples of fish-farming include catfish, largemouth bass, sunfish, trout, crawfish and even shrimp (spawned in saltwater but matured in freshwater).

Mariculture, derived from the words marine and aquaculture, is saltwater aquaculture which can be conducted in captive pond structures or in cages in open water.

Aside from fish and invertebrates, plants can also be grown for resale as a form of aquaculture. Water lilies, rushes, reeds, bog plants, and water irises seem to have a ready market among homeowners. Wild rice, watercress, and water chestnut can also be grown for stocking natural wetlands and marketed to birders and hunters who wish to attract waterfowl.

Recreation and leisure activities can be offered for a usage fee but are likely profitable only when ponds are large enough, easily-accessible, and can draw visitors on a regular basis. Legal liabilities are also an important consideration when offering water activities, especially swimming, and costs of insurance and/or lifeguards should be factored into any venture.  Offering bathrooms, change facilities and/or showers, cleaning tables with running water, trash cans, grills, and other amenities are also important initial cost considerations.

Private fishing ponds may be more appealing to fisherman than public areas because they are managed specifically for the fish population and provide an area of concentrated bites. Ponds for profitable pleasure fishing tend to be at least 1 acre in size. Opportunities for increased profit exist such as selling drinks, food, bait and tackle, renting poles and coolers, and offering camping in close proximity.  Offering fillet and/or cooking and grilling services may also be a consideration to draw customers to your pond.  Options for community wide benefits include partnering with local restaurants that will cook up the catch.  Also, partnering with other local and established attractions, for instance wineries or a local music hall, for advertising services and events could increase business for all involved.

Swimming and other leisure activities such as canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boating, and tubing could be offered on site and rented by the hour or by the day. Providing these services draws those wishing to try their hand at different watercraft, but who do not wish to own the devices or the means to transport them.

It is important to remember, however, that with each possible endeavor, economic considerations, especially product demand, financing, production costs, and marketing should be made before investing heavily in a commercial operation.  Beyond those economic considerations, ponds must be built and/or managed differently to accommodate different objectives. Consider your options carefully before deciding on which profitable activity to pursue.

Jessica Furlong contributed to this post.

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About Risa Pesapane

Risa is the Project Director for Rural System, Inc. and is an experienced research biologist and wildlife ecologist.

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