The Farm Pond Doctor is retiring

John Stahl is retiring after 35 years with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
by Ed Godfrey Published: August 10, 2013

The “farm pond doctor” will no longer be making house calls after this month.

John Stahl, known as the “farm pond doctor” across northwest Oklahoma, is retiring from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on Aug. 30.

For 35 years, Stahl has worked for the Wildlife Department, the last 34 as the fisheries supervisor for the northwest region.

It's been difficult at times being a fisheries supervisor in a part of the state known as the great Oklahoma desert.

“There's not much water up here, so every drop is precious,” he said.

Stahl's work, however, extends across the state. If you ever caught a walleye at Broken Bow Lake or a saugeye at Lake Thunderbird, chances are Stahl had something to do with it.

For 33 years, one of his duties has been collecting walleye and saugeye eggs from Canton and Fort Supply lakes, where they are grown to fingerlings in the Byron Fish Hatchery and then released to waters across the state.

He helped develop the striped bass hybrid fishery on Canton Lake and, against conventional wisdom, stocked Florida bass in Lake Watonga.

Florida bass generally don't do well in waters north of I-40, but Stahl had read a 1994 Outdoor Life article which predicted the next world record largemouth would come from a small, canyon lake in California that was full of trout and bass with Florida genes.

Lake Watonga already had two of those ingredients, Stahl thought. It was a canyon lake and stocked with rainbow trout in the winter, but it didn't have Florida bass, which grow faster and bigger than northern bass.

Lake Watonga was north of that imaginary magical line where state wildlife officials didn't really want to put the precious Floridas.

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by Ed Godfrey
Reporter Sr.
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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