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Private Waters Program

Privately owned waters represent an appreciable portion of Nebraska’s fishable waters. This includes flowing waters (excepting the Missouri River), privately owned natural lakes, constructed lakes, sandpits and farm ponds. Nebraska’s private waters provide a substantial amount of fishing opportunity, produce quality fisheries and are important habitats for native wildlife species. Surveys indicate that roughly 25 percent of licensed anglers fish private waters, and more than 25 percent of Master Angler fish are caught from private waters.

The Private Waters Program provides:

  • Water quality and fish community assessments
  • Management and technical assistance for developing or restoring aquatic habitat to produce quality fish populations
  • Fingerling bass and bluegill for stocking in water bodies that meet minimum requirements
  • Increased fishing access to private waters

Pond, lake and sandpit information

Publications such as the Pond Management Book and the Nebraska Pond Management Guide series are good resources for landowners looking to manage existing ponds and lakes or construct new ones. Information provided pertains to construction, aquatic species, habitat modifications, fish stocking, fishery management and potential maintenance problems.

The Managing Sandpits for Better Fishing provides management information on existing and/or new sandpits.

Nebraska Pond Management Book

The Nebraska Pond Management Guide book contains information on pond construction, stocking, environmental modifications, managing a bass-bluegill-catfish pond, pond maintenance and resolving common pond problems.

You can view a digital copy of the book below. To request a hard copy of the book please complete this form. Hard copies are available at Nebraska Game and Parks district and field offices, where fisheries personnel can assist with private waters management questions.

View Nebraska Pond Management Book

Managing Sandpits for Better Fishing

The Managing Sandpits for Better Fishing provides management information on existing and/or new sandpits.

View Managing Sandpits for Better Fishing

Private waters specialist

A private waters specialist is available to discuss requests for technical assistance. When applicable, staff may make site visits, fish community assessments or present management recommendations. The private waters specialist can also guide landowners in utilizing a variety of state and federal programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), conservation buffers, NGPC’s WILD Program or Open Fields and Waters Program.

Inquire about utilizing the Private Waters Program
Jeff Blaser, Private Waters Specialist
Phone: 402-471-5435
Email Jeff Blaser

Inquire about obtaining water quality analysis
Katie Pekarek, Extension Educator – Water Quality
University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Phone: 402-643-2981
Email Katie Pekarek | Visit website

Inquiries about various conservation practices and cost share potential for constructing or restoring ponds can also be directed to local Natural Resources Districts (23 field offices), Natural Resources Conservation Service (81 field offices) or a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission district office.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission does not promote or endorse none-State of Nebraska personnel/agencies/companies but provides a listing of private aquatic consultants as a service. Water body owners should also research them.

View list of private consultants

Private waters FAQ

Do anglers need a fishing permit to fish on private waters?

Yes. Under most circumstances, a valid fishing permit is required of anyone over 15 years old, including the pond owner. The only exception is when a body of water is entirely on private land, has been entirely privately stocked with private hatchery-reared fish and doesn’t connect by inflow or outflow with other waters outside the pond owner’s property. An unlicensed angler who catches fish from such a body of water and wants to remove them from the premises must have a written statement from the pond owner listing the pond owner’s name and the number of fish taken.

Am I eligible to receive fish from a state hatchery to stock in my pond?

Each year, the owners of new or newly renovated private ponds across the state apply to the Commission to be stocked. These ponds are inspected by a district biologist. When fish are available, those meeting the following minimum requirements receive largemouth bass and bluegill from state hatcheries.

      • Pond must be one-half surface acre or larger
      • 25 percent of the pond must be at least 10 feet deep (exceptions at biologist’s discretion)
      • No other fish can present at the time of stocking (with the exception of recently stocked channel catfish)
      • Minimum water clarity of 12 inches
      • Fencing to exclude livestock from the pond required under certain instances
      • State fishing regulations apply

If I receive state hatchery fish, am I required to open my pond to the public?

No. Anglers are required to obtain permission before fishing.

Do statewide bag and possession regulations apply on private waters?

Yes. Anglers must observe statewide bag and possession regulations, except when a body of water is entirely on private land, has been entirely privately stocked with private hatchery-reared fish and doesn’t connect by inflow or outflow with other waters outside the pond owner’s property. At their discretion, pond owners may set more restrictive regulations.

It is important for anglers to remember that it is a privilege to fish private ponds, and they must respect the land they are on and the pond in which they are fishing.