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Texas Agricultural Extension Service

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Management of
Recreational Fish
Ponds in Texas

Joe T. Lock, Associate Professor
and Extension Fisheries Specialist
The Texas A&M University System
I

Texas Agricultural Extension Service •Zerle L. Carpenter, Director
The Texas A&M University System •College Station, Texas

Alkalinity and hardness are important in providing Differences affecting management are those associated adequate natural food and in maintaining a healthy fish with water quality. therefore. Algae release this oxygen directly into the water during photosynthesis. receive acid runoff. Recreation is probably the most important reason for building a pond in Texas. Ponds are sprayers and paddlewheels can be used to increase usually built for several purposes: irrigation. most ponds are poorly managed for In this process. producing carbonic Water Quality acid.000 private ponds. plankton and fish populations. as in low alkalinity ponds with excessive algae blooms. dissolved oxygen and pH will change or Because of this. Since photosynthesis is driven by the Properly managed ponds provide excellent recreational energy of sunlight oxygen production occurs during opportunities. Hardness. Mechanical aeration using pumps. limed and fertilized correctly. pH. This publication will target fishing and attracting wildlife. fish will be stressed and Oxygen Cycle can die. population. Unfortunately. Bases react from the air as the two are mixed together through wind to neutralize acids and. becomes temporarily more acidic. as carbonic acid is formed the pH is lowered or the pond Water quality factors such as temperature. Temperature. and pH very different in appearance. It is difficult to manage for all of these recreational activities equally well. Oxygen dissolves into the pond water Alkalinity is a measure of bases in the water. a pond pH normally fluctuates between cycle each day and alkalinity can change over longer 6. but the most important can be emphasized. alkalinity. Oxygen is dissolved in water from two sources-air and photosynthesis. insects. Ponds can be managed for fishing. A good fishing pond must be managed daylight. Therefore. As and wave action. Under normal conditions dissolved oxygen concentrations should not fall below 3 or 4 parts per million (ppm). bases react with the hydrogen ions present. they buffer or . appropriate timetable. Carbon dioxide released from respiration reacts with water. If the pH drops below 5. or rises above 10. weeded now and oxygen slowly declines as fish. At night dissolved properly. water becomes less acidic with the decline of carbonic acid. even though as much as 25 percent of all from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight. The only practical method to manage for abnormal pH changes is to increase the alkalinity of the pond.5 and 9. and differences in watershed and soil characteristics are particular to each pond. These factors are rarely constant in a pond. The pH scale measures the acidity therefore. as it does in ponds that periods of time. The purpose of this publication is to provide the owner or Oxygen concentrations below 3 ppm stress fish and manager with guidelines for correct pond management. then. Even ponds in the same watershed and built very close to each other can be Alkalinity. Photosynthesis is the other source of dissolved oxygen. directly influence pH. and harvested in the correct numbers and on an bacteria and algae consume oxygen through respiration. livestock dissolved oxygen levels during periods of low oxygen. plants produce oxygen while making food recreation.Texas has more than 800. watering and recreation. zooplankton. The pH of the pond cycles daily because of respiration and photosynthesis. Pond Dynamics No two ponds are ever exactly alike. Algae use carbon dioxide hardness and dissolved oxygen affect fish health and for photosynthesis during daylight hours and the pond production. fishing takes place in private ponds. dissolved oxygen concentrations in like a vegetable garden: It must be seeded (or stocked) ponds tend to rise throughout the day. swimming. wildlife attraction and aesthetics. many fish will suffocate at concentrations below 2 ppm. The first step in recreational pond management is to decide what kind of recreation is desired.

Plankton algae blooms “die-off” rapidly. by small fish (fry). Some alkalinity is necessary for algae. An alkalinity of 20 ppm or more serve as the base of the food chain. (if derived from limestone) but can be different especially Managing planktonic algae is essential in providing the in coastal areas.” or to suspended Blooms and Pond Color sediments and organic matter. Water color changes if these microscopic living things that float in the water. turning the water brown. the green color comes from billions of Plankton is a term used for all microscopic and near suspended microscopic algae. algae provide almost all Hardness is a measure of calcium and magnesium ions. called “blooms. A lack of hardness can reduce plankton food to produce an abundant and healthy fish population. therefore. Small fish are then eaten by larger fish (Figure 1). includes both tiny aquatic plants called phytoplankton or . Water which is good for fish production is green. Zooplankton and is necessary for proper algae growth and. Directly or indirectly. Planktonic algae good algae production. good aquatic insects feed on algae. and they in turn are eaten fish production. the basic food for the pond except for a small quantity Hardness concentrations are usually similar to alkalinity of insects and worms that fall or wash into the pond.suppress pH changes. production and cause muddiness. and animals called zooplankton. Changes in pond water color can be related to planktonic algae concentrations.

Color should return to normal within All ponds should be designed and maintained with the a few days as settling occurs. lime to reduce acidity and to settle suspended clay. Pond construction and watershed management. Pond banks should slope rapidly (2:1 or 3:1 ratio) to a depth of 2. contact your county Extension periods of heavy runoff. contamination from the watershed may make good suffocation or disease in fish. Sediments washed into ponds after heavy rains will also change pond color. Many chronically muddy ponds need the dam. contact your local USDA Soil Mechanical aeration may be necessary after algae die-offs Conservation Service (SCS) Office. from flushing too rapidly. For assistance in pond deep ponds or in fish ponds receiving too many nutrients. Drains allow water levels to be regulated for better control Even though ponds are never exactly alike. Construction). Ponds that receive sediments from surrounding ● The dam should have a compacted clay core. When this happens. The SCS can provide to keep fish alive. management will increase pond productivity and decrease problems. decomposition of may grow rapidly in shallow areas. Algae die-offs are common in management impossible. Pond balance management. The guidelines are discussed in the following Texas ponds generally need 4 to 100 acres of watershed sections per acre-foot of pond storage. Liming and fertilization. If your ✎ An emergency spillway should be constructed for pond is always muddy. Aquatic weeds . Bare pond banks should be covered with ✎ Pond size should be matched to watershed area. Heavy sediment loads can following guidelines: stress fish by irritating the gills and reducing oxygen production. grass strips 50 to 100 feet wide between the field and the Water levels may fluctuate radically because of pond pond reduce soil erosion and pesticide contamination that seepage or inadequate watershed (area that drains rainfall can kill fish. a diversion species of fish. The basic guidelines for good pond or renovate the pond. Pond dams must be constructed with a compacted clay core that is trenched into an impervious soil or rock layer below the Essential Ingredients of Pond pond bottom. because roots will Management eventually penetrate the core and cause the pond to leak. more area is needed if the watershed is wooded 3. Aquatic weed growth occurs most easily in shallow water. slope 1. 5. Removal of unwanted and overpopulated than if it is open. Generally. A pond that ✎ Banks should slope rapidly to a depth of at least receives sediment only during heavy rains may need a 2. office for help. Aquatic plants do not easily Pond Construction and Watershed establish themselves at this depth. hay to establish sod and reduce erosion. and vegetation covering the watershed will affect run-off. Weed control. If the watershed is too large. fields may need a wide sod strip around the pond to help ✎ Soil lining the pond should be a minimum of 30 trap the sediments before they enter the pond (see Pond percent clay.5 feet or more. 7. or both of these conditions. The office is listed under your county name in the telephone book. Sod or Poorly constructed ponds are always difficult to manage. all can be of weeds and fish populations. into the pond). Harvesting and record keeping. and for easy access to repair managed for fishing. Trees or other woody vegetation should never be allowed to grow on the dam. 2. assistance in design.black. 6. Erosion and the dead algae consumes oxygen. construction or renovation. ditch around the pond may be needed to keep the pond 4. Pond leaks caused by poor construction are common. diversion ditch built around it to channel excess water ✎ Drains and overflow pipes should be built through away from the pond. especially if a good algae bloom is maintained (see Fertilization). leading to possible stress. milky or clear. layout and monitoring construction of ponds. Soil types. More watershed is required in West Texas and less in East Texas.5 feet. Species selection and stocking. Management Fields next to ponds should have sod borders.

It is very difficult to bluegill the pond can maintain. bluegill Fisheries Society. Many offer survive bass predation to provide good bluegill angling.” for more detailed information. for the bass. The combination generally works well to stock. If bass are not over-harvested. See Extension publication B-1319. forage fishes and catfish for stocking new or with the abundant food and provide excellent forage (food) renovated ponds can be obtained from private hatcheries. slightly reducing the total pounds of bass and goals and on the resources available. If your pond is less than 1 acre.Cutting a trench for the clay core of the pond dam. See “Stocking and Management Recommendations for Texas Farm Ponds. be plentiful enough to supply food for bass fry and all sizes of bluegill. The bluegill will reproduce and grow rapidly Bass.000 bluegill fingerlings (or 60 adults). “Catfish in Farm location and condition of the pond and the desires of the Ponds. 100 In a well-fertilized pond. they will keep Private hatcheries will deliver directly to ponds and can the bluegill from overpopulating. Species Selection and Stocking Channel catfish may also be added to a bass and bluegill pond. Texas Parks and Wildlife for both species indefinitely. varieties or hybrids that have been selected for rapid . but the catfish will consume a portion of the food The choice of fish to stock depends on the pond owner’s supply. zooplankton and insect larvae will largemouth bass and 100 channel catfish per acre. A typical pond larger than 1 acre that will be fertilized should be The beauty of the bass and bluegill system is its simplicity. Department and USDA Soil Conservation Service. choice. catfish is probably your best Recommended stocking rates in Texas vary with the size.” Special The most common stocking strategy is to combine Publication No. The publication is available from the Texas in ponds larger than 1 acre and provides excellent fishing Agricultural Extension Service. Some large bluegill will provide fish at almost any time of the year. manage a pond of less than 1 acre for bass and bluegill. pond owner. 1 of the Texas Chapter of the American largemouth bass and bluegill (or largemouth bass. stocked with 1. to determine the number and species and redear sunfish).

feeding on the new bluegill fry. providing adequate forage for the bass. — growth. Bluegill Largemouth Bass Catfish Redear Sunfish . Contact your county Extension office for lists small to be harvested. If stocked together always stock catfish as large common carp and bullhead cattish. Bluegill to control crappie numbers. will spawn two or three more times before fall. Catfish usually cannot successfully overpopulate rapidly. Bass are stocked in late May or June be carefully controlled to ensure enough bass in the pond and grow rapidly. The bluegill will grow and spawn by spawned several times. Catfish can be stocked in fall species that should not be stocked into farm ponds are or spring. cannibalistic. and 1/4 to 1/2 pound in the first year and can approach 2 grow large enough to prey on even large bass. Also. Bass growth should average Flathead catfish are voracious eaters. Other pounds if forage is plentiful. Under these conditions they of private hatcheries that sell fish in Texas. compete with both bass and bluegill for food. Crappie can be stocked in larger farm ponds (more than 25 acres). These species also compete for the available food resources and that can affect the survival of desirable fish. Common carp can or larger than the bass. compete for reproduce in ponds with bass and bluegill populations and food and muddy the pond through their bottom feeding will have to be restocked as they are fished out. Texas ponds often become become stunted at sizes too crowded with small or stunted bass or bluegill populations Black Crappie ‘ish species most commonly stocked in Texas ponds. Stocking of 3. activity. common carp and green sunfish. largemouth bass harvest must the following spring. Species that should not be stocked into farm ponds or should be stocked only under certain conditions include crappie. Removal of Unwanted and Overpopulated Species of Fish Crappie (both black and white) may pose management Fish populations in poorly managed ponds usually problems in small ponds in become out of balance and may become contaminated that they overpopulate and with unwanted fish species. eat eggs of other fish. flathead catfish.to 5-inch bluegill is most often done in the but only after the largemouth bass initially stocked have fall or early winter.

Rotenone should be applied at a rate of 10 pounds per acre-foot. Rotenone is usually applied in the summer or fall when Fertilization. no matter how small! of run-off. even if they drink the water. rotenone for pond renovation can be purchased from most farm supply or feed-and-seed stores. check the alkalinity of the pond first. Rotenone comes in liquid or powder formulations. Fish will survive in very small pools or puddles away from the main body of water. fisheries biologist or county Extension agent for In East Texas. add agricultural limestone to rotenone. might be affected by Fertilization provides planktonic algae with nutrients for the rotenone formulation. The best management weather conditions. Rotenone will dissipate within 3 to 10 days. much the same as fertilizing pasture increases if they gorge themselves on dead or dying fish. will not stimulate a good algae water temperature is above 70 degrees F. bullhead catfish. Caution: grass yields. Liquid rotenone also should be diluted with water at a rate of about 10 gallons of water to 1 gallon of rotenone. Generally it is safe to restock 2 to 3 option in these situations may be to destroy all fish in weeks after applying rotenone. use a hose to pump rotenone into deep sections of the pond. To get a Application of rotenone to kill unwanted fish populations. Do not use quick or slaked 8 . If the pond is more than 4 feet deep. depending on shiners or other unwanted species. One gallon of the liquid rotenone formulation (5 percent) is sufficient to treat approximately 1 acre-foot. even those in Pond was partially drained to concentrate fish and reduce risk the watershed. place a few small bluegill in a minnow bucket population usually is much easier and less expensive if and float it in the pond. complete kill you must treat all puddles. Proper fertilization increases available food Make sure no water containing rotenone runs off your throughout the food chain. If the fish are still alive after 24 the pond can be drained dry or partially drained and the hours it is safe to restock. fish concentrated. Removing or killing the fish of rotenone. sprayers or pumps. Pigs. If additional information on purchasing and applying alkalinity is below 20 ppm. Rotenone is a registered aquatic chemical that is used to kill fish. however. Contact a bloom if the total alkalinity of the water is below 20 ppm. For example. The acre-feet in a particular pond can be calculated by multiplying the surface area in acres times the average depth in feet. or that remaining after drawdown. and would require 12 gallons of the liquid 5 percent formulation to treat. however.or become populated with green sunfish. a 2-acre pond with an average depth of 6 feet would have 12 acre-feet. The volume of water in the pond (in acre-feet). at a concentration of 5 percent active ingredient. Rotenone applied properly and at Fertilization and Liming recommended rates will not harm most livestock. In Texas. neutralize acidity in the soils. and ducks and geese may suffer growth. To check for the presence the pond and start over. thus increasing the amount property to kill fish elsewhere! of fish the pond supports. You must have a private applicator license to purchase and use this chemical. Apply rotenone evenly over the pond using buckets. must be estimated so this concentration of rotenone can be calculated. Powdered rotenone should be mixed to a “soupy” consistency with water (about 2 gallons per pound of powder).

Well-managed. This means that ponds usually istics of mud in the pond bottom. Send this sample to the Texas A&M recommended lime (agricultural lime only) will not harm University Soil Testing Lab in a soil-test box (available from the pond. out with overflow water. Combine This increases the length of time between lime applications. Infertile ponds will seldom produce more than it can react with the bottom mud. Fertilizing ponds will increase fish production two to Lime must be applied evenly over the entire pond so that threefold. these samples and spread them out to dry. the pond is naturally fertile and is not going washed into the pond from a boat. recommend the proper liming rate. Take mud samples from many places in the pond. half the recommended rate. a spreader truck could distribute the lime. The analysis will will not respond well to fertilizer. it may not require management consultants in Texas will lime ponds at a fertilizer.lime. Many pond be analyzed to determine the amount of lime to add. I . A mud sample should need to be relimed every 2 to 4 years. mix them together thoroughly and take one 2 years to maintain alkalinity. managers find it practical to increase the liming rate by one and a half or two times the amount recommended. these will cause a rapid pH change that may kill fish. Lime slowly dissolves into the pond water and is washed The amount of lime necessary depends on the character. however. Adding more than the sample for analysis. After samples Some managers reapply half the recommended lime every are dry. however. Mark the sample “fish pond” surface acre of pond. If the pond is thoroughly 50 to 100 pounds of fish per acre. If the pond receives only minor fishing (or modest cost. do not fertilize or fertilize at only of Texas Fisheries Consultants. if a pond needs lime it so that the proper tests can be run. is full. Several pond to receive much fishing pressure. A typical liming rate in East Texas is 2 tons per your county Extension office). Ask your county Extension office for a list harvest) pressure. fertile dry. Remember. Lime application using a pontoon barge and water pump to evenly distribute the lime. If the pond ponds can maintain 300 to 400 pounds of fish per acre. the lime will have to be shoveled or If.

the bloom is too dense do not liquid-phosphorous per acre per application is commonly fertilize and watch the pond closely. Apply fertilizer mixture as evenly as possible note that depth. phosphorus (P2O5).watch closely will be absorbed and trapped in the mud of the pond 12 inches or less bloom too dense . 18 and 24 inches from the disk. Granules will sink to the bottom and the phosphate will be absorbed directly into the mud and lost. Dense blooms 16-20-5 40 lbs. Dilute liquid fertilizers about penetrate to a depth of 18 to 24 inches. Be 18-46-0 18 lbs. do not Table 1 lists recommended rates for commonly available consider low Secchi readings that are the result of fertilizers. metal or plastic. If the disk disappears recommended. new ponds need nitrogen. Mark the disk into quarters and paint the spread throughout the pond by water currents and two opposite quarters white and black. Granules placed on the platform dissolve slowly. Usually one pond is a measure of the algal density or bloom. Occasionally. Phosphorus is the 18 to 24 inches good bloom . prepared to aerate at night if the visibility is low and Liquid there are consecutive days of cloudy weather. is too rich in nutrients. A Secchi disk reading of 12 inches or less means the pond Table 1. Liquid fertilizers are dense and must be diluted with water I before applying them or they will sink to the bottom and The optimum algae bloom is one that allows light to be absorbed into the mud. Light platform is needed for every 10 surface acres of pond. At that point you need to determine where excess nutrients are coming from. muddiness rather than algae.Once fertilization is started it should be continued. 0-46-0 18 lbs. Attach stimulate a bloom. it is not and be prepared to aerate at night available to planktonic algae but can promote the growth 6 inches or less oxygen depletion imminent of weeds and filamentous algae. Liquid fertilizers can be easier to apply and in less than 12 inches. If Table 2. If the disk disappears The equivalent of 8 pounds of granular-4 pounds of between 12 and 18 inches. 13-38-0 1 gal. and potassium (K2O). the disk to a yardstick or to a pole marked at 12. Nitrogen is seldom needed in older ponds. Follow Table 2 as a guide to fertilization. action. 10-34-0 1 gal. A Secchi Place the platform in an area of the pond that has wave disk can be made from an 8-inch diameter disk of plywood. If the Secchi disk disappears between 18 and 24 inches there is no need to fertilize. Granules should A simple method of knowing when to fertilize is based on be placed on a platform or in a permeable sack that is water clarity. the phosphorus 12 to 18 inches dense bloom . Recommendations for Fertilization and fertilization is stopped the fish will be stunted because Management Based on Secchi Disk Readings. over the pond surface. can consume most of the pond’s oxygen at night. but once a pond is established nitrogen usually is abundant. respectively. if the disk is visible past 24 inches. Recommended Fertilization Rates for Ponds. Once trapped. Remember. It is time to fertilize again if Fertilizers are labeled with N-P-K ratios or percents of the disk visibility is increasing rapidly toward 24 inches or nitrogen (N). The depth that light can penetrate into the submerged about 12 inches underwater. Greater than 24 inches fertilize Not all fertilizers work well in ponds. Have you over- Fertilizer formulation Amount/acre/application fertilized? Are livestock manures or crop fertilizers entering Granular the pond? If you are feeding the fish.determine source through chemical processes. are you overfeeding? 20-20-5 40 lbs. Given time. This makes them more Secchi Disk Reading Recommended Management susceptible to disease. penetration can be measured using a Secchi disk. Granular fertilizers should not be broadcast into the pond. severe oxygen depletion could occur. Try to discover the source of the problem. of the reduced food supply. . Submerge the 10 to 1 (water to fertilizer) and spray. splash or mix them Secchi disk into the pond until it just disappears and into the pond.do nothing nutrient most needed in ponds. the bloom is very dense and a may produce blooms quicker than granular fertilizers.

One important word of caution: Do not fertilize ponds that are infested with aquatic weeds. This allows bluegills to overpopulate in the pond. This first A Secchi disk can be used to determine when to fertilize. This recordkeeping system provides an estimate of the size composition and relative abundance of game species over time. Use the Secchi disk guide in Table 3 to help make fertilization decisions. This practice is. however. Harvesting and Record Keeping Improper harvest of largemouth bass ruins future fishing in more Texas ponds than any other cause. Many ponds will flush repeatedly in winter and early spring but respond well to fertilization in late spring. Muddy ponds (12 inches or less visibility) usually will not respond to fertilization. summer and fall. Once a bloom is established. The pond owner should encourage all anglers to record their catches by species and size. Continue fertilizing until late October. Control weeds before fertilizing. Establishing a good fertilization program before weeds appear is one of the best methods of weed prevention. A pond owner can reduce the likelihood of bass overharvest by making his pond off limits to everyone. he should not deny entrance to a responsible sportsman asking permission to fish if he follows a few simple regulations regarding catch and release of certain sizes of fish. In some established bass populations. Fertilization should begin in early spring. Pond owners and other anglers frequently overharvest the bass population in the first season of fishing. bass harvest is too low to remove a surplus of bass less than 12 inches long. . the addition of lime to reduce acidity will settle a muddy pond. fertilizer application does not always stimulate a bloom. Continue to fertilize at 2. fertilize as necessary to maintain it. The fertilizer will only stimulate growth of the weeds. Ponds that are flushed by large volumes of water will lose fertilizer more rapidly and may not sustain a bloom. in most cases. however. Although the pond owner controls access to his pond.to 3-week intervals until the pond blooms green. not encouraged because underfishing can lead to almost as many problems as overfishing. In this case fertilization is usually ineffective and should be discontinued unless the excess water can be diverted (see Pond Construction). Several methods have been used to clear muddy ponds.

to 12-inch bass (weighing 10 to 15 pounds) size. and/or inadequate food supply (corrected by increased feeding frequency). Approximately 25 depend upon what kind of fishing is desired. at least one-half of the original fish should be caught before restocking.to 15-inch bass are released from the third Catch records are important for determining when supplemental stocking of catfish is needed. Statewide average growth rates for bass have been calculated: Age I -8 inches. If it seems that many catfish caught are from stocking.to 12-inch bass must be harvested. Bass pond abide by the restriction and release all bass less than less than 15 inches long should be released until small 15 inches. and community may have to be adjusted. If those who fish the rectified by stocking 40 8. It is likely that bass Age V. 12. bass less than 12 inches all species.Largemouth bass growth rates are influenced by a number year on.to 5-inch After 3 years a decision must be made. Begin catfish harvest whenever the fish reach an edible About 25 8. The removal of these small bass reduces “skinny” it could be an indication of poor body condition competition and allows some fish to attain lengths of caused by overcrowding (corrected by increased harvest) 12 inches. the few bass must be returned to the pond bluegills. Age II -12 If bass have not been harvested properly. All these small bass will effectively control bluegill numbers of larger bass and bluegills rather than numbers and the pond will have plenty of 7. Releasing bass of this size will also ensure that of factors including genetics.000 pounds per surface acre during the warm months to decrease the risk of fish losses from oxygen depletions. Total weight of catfish in these ponds should not exceed 1. harvest of bass has not been adequate. Catchable size catfish should be checked for body should be harvested per acre each year after the third year condition. period and there may be a surplus of young bass. If Bass larger than 15 inches should be released if “trophy” unharvested. Age IV -17 inches. water quality. Again. restock catfish at least 8 inches in length at the rate of 50 to 100 per surface acre at 2. have to support the majority of the catch for 3 years. In catfish- only ponds. the fish inches. incorporate a “slot limit” where 12.to 15-inch bass should be released.to 12-inch bass should be harvested per acre each year have reproduced two or three times during this 3-year thereafter. habitat and some bass will grow to more than 15 inches. Age III -15 inches. One cannot afford to lose the few original fish.to 4-year intervals. forage availability. This problem can be for a period of 3 years after stocking. If the pond owner is interested in catching bass more than 12 inches long.18 inches. The most sensible way to prevent bass overharvest has occurred if primarily 3. Then. The bass that were originally stocked will and more than 15 inches long can be harvested. Bass will 8. 8. The result will be a bass population comprised primarily of individuals less than 12 inches When a decision is made to stock a pond with limited long. If only small bass and few bluegills are caught. In this case. .to 8-inch fingerling fish. In these ponds. However. The decision will bluegills should be stocked per acre. To keep bluegills in good condition. so they have to be used wisely. the pond should begin producing good fish of bass become abundant. 30 3. poor growth rates occur because of bass are the goal.to 5-inch bluegills overharvest is to establish a 15-inch minimum length limit and few or no bass are caught.to 12-inch bass per acre. excessive competition. and carefully protected. In ponds where catfish were stocked in combination with largemouth bass and forage species. occasional restocking may be necessary to maintain catfish populations over time. the total weight of catfish in “combination” ponds should not exceed 250 pounds per surface acre in order to decrease potential competition for food between species.

Managers should assess fish populations in ponds every 1 to 2 years. Seine several (at least three) shallow areas of the on larger bream. The best time to check is early in sizes that allow for bass predation. Seining a pond in early June to check pond balance. 3 to 5 inches. Allow the seine to arch or cup slightly as it is pulled. More detailed information is given If fishing is adequate and seine data show both young in “Assessment and Corrective Management for Fish bass and recently hatched bluegill fry. Also look at bass condition (that is. 2 of the Texas Chapter of the American many 3. the pond is probably Populations in Small Impoundments. Private fisheries consultants also can probably out of balance. evaluate fish populations. If no young bass and bluegill fry are found but Publication No. plumpness) and for unwanted species. pond that are clear of brush and weeds. Sampling with a 30-foot or larger (1/2-to l-inch mesh) seine will provide further data for evaluating pond balance. and longer than 5 inches. Samples from seining provide information on reproductive success and the presence of unwanted species.Evaluation of Pond Balance Refer to Table 3 to analyze pond balance from seine and catch data. . If you find undesirable species. Pond balance can be checked by using a 15-foot minnow A balanced pond means that bream are available and abundant seine (1/4-inch mesh). it is time to poison and restock.” Special in balance. so that fish cannot easily swim around it. Seine one or two 50-foot areas in the pond. As a bass grows it preys June. Record the number of bluegill captured in groups: less than 3 inches.to 5-inch bluegill are caught your pond is Fisheries Society.

Table 3. Woody disturb the nests of other fish. The grass carp. Aquatic weeds are a common problem in farm ponds. If too many weeds become established in the pond. protect yourself and others by strictly Vegetation also provides small fish with places to hide from following all label directions. pondweed and milfoil is to stock sterile triploid forage species. Evaluation of Pond Balance Using 15-foot Seine and Catch Data. etc. stock 20-30 adult (>12”) bass large bass per acre Seine Data– few intermediate bluegill. which reduces algae production (food). for aquatic weed control. chemical and reach 10 inches in length. shiners. They will not reproduce in the biological means. green sunfish. percent of their body weight in weeds every day during I Chemical control with herbicides is possible but few herbicides are approved for aquatic use and the type of warm weather. bullhead. Type of Fish Caught Conclusion Recommendation Seine Data– fish populations in balance no additional management small and intermediate necessary bluegill and young of the year (YOY) largemouth bass Angler Catch Data- bass and bluegill of various sizes Seine Data– many intermediate bluegill and bluegill-crowded remove intermediate bluegill by few or no young of the year bass shore line rotenone in fall or Angler Catch Data- few harvestable size bluegill. The simplest and most economical long-term aquatic too many small fish survive (overpopulate) and predators weed control method for aquatic weeds such as duckweed.numerousbut smalland thin. which adds to the food chain. When using chemical small aquatic animals. or white amur. Rooted aquatic vegetation does provide habitat for herbicide recommendations. no recent bluegill fish populations dominated rotenone and start over hatch. which . stock 200. will not muddy the pond like common carp. brought to this county. The problem with weeds is uncontrolled growth. Grass carp consume vegetation almost exclusively after they Aquatic weeds can be controlled by manual. become thin because they are not able to prey on the hydrilla. few intermediate bluegill by unwanted species Angler Catch Data- few harvestable size bluegill and unwanted species (crappie. will not is practical when they first start to colonize a pond. if the pond is heavily infested with weeds.) Weed Control leads to oxygen depletion. larger predators. The use of grass carp is regulated by the Texas Parks aquatic vegetation must be accurately identified before it and Wildlife Department. and they consume 30 to 40 vegetation along the dam also can be controlled manually. pesticides.) bass recently hatched bluegill per acre AnglerCatchData- bass. Large growths of weeds also remove grass carp. Herbicides can kill planktonic algae. or in both conditions. few but large and robust Seine Data- unwanted species. Manual control of species such as cattails pond. many bass-crowded remove 50-75 (35 lbs. Oxygen depletion after herbicide I treatment is particularly common in hot weather. Check with a fisheries biologist or your county Extension although some aquatic vegetation might be good for the agent for plant identification information and current pond. Contact the Department or your is treated. 3-5”bluegillper acre bluegill. is an Asian carp nutrients.

constructing fish shelters. These include how to reproduction. These structures should be at a depth of 2 to 6 feet. rock piles and tire reefs are also good shelters. aerating and be necessary to fertilize. Fatheads will weeds if stocked at recommended rates. Discarded Christmas trees and cedar trees make excellent shelters if anchored to the bottom. stimulates plankton blooms in the same way as fertilization. more than 10 pounds per acre per day. Fatheads should be stocked in February or Grass carp grow rapidly and will control most underwater March before the bass are stocked in June. A turn-over occurs The protein level of the feed is not very important. Provide one feeding station for two layers no longer mix. spawn and produce abundant forage for the young bass. how to check balance. Feed in the same area and at about the same time of day. but not rotting vegetation from herbicide treatment. These are not simple problems. but best results are obtained algae bloom die-offs. how to harvest harvestable fish and total pond production (up to about to maintain a balanced population. Studies when the warm upper layer suddenly cools and mixes with have shown that low protein feed (25 percent) will produce the stagnant layer. Feeding can double the average size of maintain a good food supply for the fish. Feeding is expensive and can be justified only when there is an Enhancement Strategies obvious need to increase production above that which can be supplied by fertilization and controlled harvest. This causes the cooler water every 3 acres of pond. feeding rings to contain the feed can be made from PVC surface water is warmer than the water below and the tubing anchored in place. hard rain. Feed three and commitment to manage properly. If a turn-over occurs. If feeding is not done on a regular basis it may feed for fish. it is not necessary to purchase have enough oxygen to support fish and they die. providing supplemental regularly. Usually only one reef is placed for every 1 to 3 acres. by feeding from March through May and October through Ponds are complex systems that take understanding November when most bluegill growth occurs. A good rule of thumb be caused by oxygen depletions from a bloom die-off or is to feed all the fish will eat in 10 to 15 minutes. Stake beds (stakes driven into the bottom). Bass do not readily consume Many of the basic problems of farm pond management artificial feeds but benefit from the increase in bluegill have already been discussed.000 per acre the first permits. near the bottom to stagnate and become depleted in oxygen. Use the Secchi disk to determine destratifying. Fish shelters or “attractors” can be made from many different materials (Figure 2). The two layers mixed together may not excellent growth. Turn-Overs Supplemental feeding of commercial fish feeds increases bluegill and catfish growth. year of a new or renovated pond will improve bass survival and growth. Bass will eliminate the fatheads within a few months and then turn to bluegill for forage. Similar fish kills also can It is very important not to overfeed. Feeding can be done One common problem in Texas is pond “turn-over.county Extension office for information on required Fathead minnows stocked at about 1. The purpose of a fish shelter is to provide a place for some small fish to escape predation and attract fish for anglers. that is. Feeding Many techniques can be used to enhance fishing in ponds. if fertilization is needed (see Fertilization). Fish can be fed throughout the how to control weeds and how to avoid fish kills from warm months of the year. quick aeration may save the fish. This high protein feed. Winter feeding is not necessary but may increase bluegill growth. usually occurs after a cold. Floating Turn-overs occur when ponds are stratified. Therefore. fertilization is usually unnecessary if feeding is done forage. 600 pounds per acre). Some of these include stocking fathead minnows for thus. or four times per day if possible. manipulating water level. and no more than three per acre. stocking rates and lists of available sources. . Fish avoid this layer of water.” by hand or with demand or automatic feeders.

. . Reefs used as fish attractors.. . .Figure2. .> .

Nesting boxes (in this case selectively harvested) and protected from placed in the pond can provide artificial nesting cavities climate-related catastrophe (for example.to 20-feet wide) All fishing should be recorded (see Table 4).. 2 feet deep. Or. In the mudflats natural vegetation may grow or specific plants can be planted. require food. No more for more information on maximizing wildlife around a than half of the pond area should have water less than pond. ponds can provide fishing while at the same time providing food and shelter for a variety of wildlife species. One person should initial each entry in case further information is needed.“ . Ponds are watering sites for a variety of wildlife species. Ideally. turn-overs) in for wood ducks. . while the lower areas adjacent to the dam benefits of ponds. wildlife can enhance the recreational for wildlife. weeded. . water watch them. they flooded in the fall and provide habitat and a food source are the work of human beings. Shallow areas attract wildlife (top). while deeper pond areas are typical fishing pond. Draining and flooding can be productive and provide good fishing. Think of a pond be accomplished by fitting the standpipe with two valves. Figure 3 Whether it is waterfowl to be hunted or nongame species depicts how the upper reaches of a pond can be managed to be watched. All of this takes time and effort but the rewards are outdoor recreation and good food. These mudflats are then Small farm ponds are not mother nature’s creations. pruned one to drain the pond completely and the other positioned to drain only the upper reaches of the pond. Wading birds. Draining exposes an area of Summary mudflats. Figure3. . Write in the provide an unobstructed view of the pond and attract number of fish caught under the various species fished for. . Contact your county Extension office have the characteristics of a typical fish pond. aquatic reptiles and amphibians are a Wildlife Enhancement natural part of any pond. and shelter to survive. both game and nongame. It must be properly laid out. Cleared and sodded shorelines (15. the shoreline or zero if none were caught. as you would a garden or orchard. fertilized. If managed properly. the pond should be constructed so that the shallow areas can be dried by draining during May through October. These animals can provide many hours of enjoyment to those who have the opportunity to Wildlife. order to be bountiful. planted (stocked). They must be managed to for ducks and other waterfowl. can be planted with native trees and shrubs that provide seeds and fruits for wildlife to eat. mourning doves and other bird species.

if no fish caught place zero under species fished for. All fishing should be recorded. Table 4. Catch Record.. provide number of fish caught. Bass Bluegill Catfish Other Number 12'' Date Initials 12-15” 15'' 6'' 6''+ Fishing Length Number k r k r k r k r k r Species k r k = kept or taken from the pond r = released back into the pond . record time spent in hours-one person initial in case further information needed.

Carpenter. for providing the bulletin “Management of Recreational Fish Ponds in Alabama” on which this publication is based. and Carol Whatley. Texas Agricultural Extension Service. Acknowledgements A special thanks is extended to artist/naturalist Rick Hill. for the use of his illustrations. Director. color. disability or national origin. Extension Fisheries Specialist. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics. race. Extension Communications Specialist. as amended. 1914. 20M—9-93. Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. sex. Thanks also to Mike Masser. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.Revision FISH 5 . religion. Acts of Congress of May 8. 1914. and June 30. Educational programs conducted by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level. The Texas A&M University System. in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Zerle L.