It seems that every rural or “nearly-rural” landowner wants their own farm pond for the kids to fish in, livestock to drink from, and just its natural beauty. Ponds certainly add beauty, function, and value to one’s property.
Keeping ponds healthy and useful is possible through following a good management program. Good management includes controlling weeds, harvesting fish in appropriate numbers and sizes, and keeping ponds stocked at recommended rates.
If fishing is your main concern, stock only with fish from reliable fish hatcheries. This can greatly reduce some of the common problems that can occur naturally. Contact your favorite, local feed store and ask about the schedule and pricing for the fish hatchery that delivers at their store.
Fishing experiences can be enhanced by creating fish attractors, such as shelter, in strategic locations in ponds. The easiest option is to sink a fallen tree. Shelters provide spawning areas and harbor invertebrates and insects that small fish feed on. They also serve as areas where prey fish can hide from predators.
Estimating the number of fish in your pond is a difficult proposition. Unlike counting livestock in the pasture, you can’t see the fish. But a great way to estimate population density is to study the condition of fish caught. Thin, diseased fish or lots of small fish that never reach a desired size are good indicators of overpopulation.
What can you do to remedy an overpopulated pond is simply to go fishing more and, once caught, don’t throw them all back! IF you have seriously over populated pond, your best option may be to harvest so many fish that a fish-fry for your family and neighbors is possible.
Water clarity is very important with many pond owners- – more so to landowners than the fish are concerned. Having a clear pond may be more visually appearing to the landowner, but fish, especially catfish, can get around just fine in muddy conditions.
To clear up muddy pond water, the simple solution is to add gypsum. The easiest was to do this is to buy 100 to 200 pounds at a time and add to the pond every week. Continue to do so until the water reaches a clear state.
Keep in mind that when you increase water clarity in your pond, you will have more vegetation in the pond as more sunlight reaches the bottom, encouraging the seeds aquatic vegetation to sprout. Weeds are not your enemy. Some aquatic vegetation is beneficial and enhances the pond’s ecosystem. Too much vegetation can be unsightly and cause stress on the fish population.
Lastly, test your pH every few years. East Texas farm ponds can develop acidic water. The minimum pH for maximum fish production should be around 6.5. While correctable with the addition of ag lime, it is imperative that only ag lime be added so that the water can change slowly over time.
Never use pickling lime, pelletized lime and other quick liming agents will kill fish as they rapidly change water conditions. One way to make sure is to buy it in bulk and stay away from the bagged lime for use in your pond.
The next Homegrown to Homemade Seminar will cover Pond Management with a focus on fish production. This event will be at the Angelina County Extension office Monday on May 18 at 6:30 pm. Cost is $10. Topics include water quality, fish management and vegetation control.
The featured speaker is Ken Hale, owner of Boatcycle in Henderson, Texas. Ken has been working with commercial fisheries as well as small pond owners for years. He brings a great deal of knowledge on farm ponds. Call 936.634.6414 for more information.