Ponds can provide a fantastic fishing opportunity, especially for kids. Because they are smaller and shallower, ponds are usually more productive than larger bodies of water. However, it is this small size that can make ponds difficult to keep in balance once stocked.
Here are some common mistakes which need to be considered for the conservation of these unique systems:
Stocking the Wrong Species
For example, stocking crappie in small ponds generally leads to stunted crappie. These fish reproduce quickly and because of their relatively large mouth size, they can out-compete young largemouth bass for food, if bass is also one of the goals of the pond.
Channel catfish are a good addition to pond stocking but don’t release flathead catfish or bullheads in there. The flathead can consume anything that it can fit in its giant mouth and bullheads are notorious for stunting.
Sometimes pond owners will add trout to a pond. However, with the limited oxygen and warm temperature, these fish may eventually die and create a sudden load of nutrients in the pond that can lead to excessive vegetation or a detrimental algae bloom.
Overlooking the Habitat
Aquatic vegetation is beneficial but as mentioned above, you can get too much of a good thing. For example, “weed” choked ponds can lead to thin, stunted largemouth bass because there is too much cover for hiding bluegill. Grass carp can be one method to control excessive vegetation. Another way is to examine the watershed and make sure there is a buffer strip to slow, catch silt and fertilizer runoff.
Channel catfish usually need to be restocked because they require a cavity to spawn. Some pond owners sink buckets, sections of large pipe, or old milk jugs to encourage natural reproduction.
Harvesting the Wrong Fish
Perhaps the biggest mistake an angler can make is to remove a whopper largemouth bass from a pond. The system needs these large predators to keep smaller fish in check. If harvesting fish, consider removing those stunted crappie or something in the neighborhood of 4-5 pounds of bluegill for every one pound of bass.
Because ponds lack the buffering features of larger lakes, even small changes to these systems can disrupt the balance in a short period. By monitoring your pond and making good management decisions, it can remain a fun, productive place to fish. What is your favorite place to fish?