It is hypothesized that the stocking procedure influences survival, growth and distribution of introduced fishes; however, there is still limited information on the effect of various stocking strategies on recaptures in natural freshwaters. The present study aim was to investigate how the rate and distribution of anglers' catches of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) vary with the stocking season (spring, summer and autumn), lake area, method (shore and offshore releases), and fish size (≤500 and >500 g) in the large and shallow Lake Balaton, Hungary. In 2010, 4500 two-summer-old individually-tagged common carp were stocked to test 36 release set-ups (three seasons × three lake areas × two methods × two size groups). Anglers reported the date, location and fish size (standard length and weight) on 787 recaptures within 2 years after the release. Recapture rate was highest in summer and lowest in autumn stockings, but was not affected by the stocking area, method or fish size. Regarding space, the widest dispersals were in recaptures in autumn and in the centre of the lake, but fish movement was not influenced by the stocking method or fish size. In conclusion, in summer the stocking quotas should be evenly distributed along the entire shoreline; early spring stockings may be optimized for transport costs and concentrated by each lake basin. Late autumn stockings should be avoided, and the capacity of effective wintering ponds should be developed. This study also provides a good framework for testing fisheries management alternatives in other intensively fished habitats.