By far one of the most common questions I get asked about is how to manage a pond. I am not talking about a small backyard koi pond, but a larger farm pond that is found on almost every piece of acreage owned by East Texans.
Many folks have a hard time determining what they should do since you are not able to see what’s going on underwater. We deal with questions regarding weeds, muddy water, fish that are stunted in growth or fish that we just don’t want in there. Many folks also are worried about water quality and the potential for pollution. For the record, in all my years of looking at ponds, I have never seen a pollution problem. That is not to say that it could not happen, but I have yet to see it.
I encourage most folks to allow for a few “weeds.” Aquatic vegetation can be a central part of a pond’s health. They can serve not only to beautify the edges of a pond but provide valuable habitat for the fish. The problem comes when weeds overtake the pond and you cannot see the surface of the water because it is covered with green floating masses.
There are biological treatments and herbicidal products that safely will do the trick for most ponds. The first step is properly identifying the weeds you wish to control. I strongly suggest you go to the following website, aquaplant.tamu.edu, to first identify what you have and then learn what control measures can be taken.
Muddy water is also a common farm pond issue in East Texas. It often results from a healthy population of catfish that tend to keep the water muddied.
While there are products such as agricultural limestone and gypsum that can be added to the water, I must warn you that once you have a clear pond, you will have some vegetation growing. Not only does lime improve the environment for vegetation to grow, but you have allowed sunlight to penetrate to the bottom of the pond where seeds can, and will, germinate.
It is a common occurrence that we trade a muddy water pond for a weedy pond just by the clearing of the water. If you want to clear up your muddy water, be sure to only use agricultural limestone. Any other limestone may clear the water, but it will change the pH so quickly that death of the fish is almost guaranteed.
Finally, fish production, and the ability to catch healthy fish, is a big perk of having your own pond. Unlike your pets or even livestock, the problem is you cannot see the fish you’re trying to manage. Going fishing frequently and pulling them out to check on their health is vitally important. One of the most common errors that pond owners have is that they do not remove enough fish from their pond each year.
It’s normal for grandparents to take grandkids fishing. They will catch fish, say they’re too small and be thrown right back into the pond. This failure to remove fish can easily result in an overpopulation and stunted fish where nothing gets big. Perhaps the easiest solution is to eat every catfish that you catch or at least throw the stunted perch over the pond dam and feed some of the local raccoon population.
Pond management can be complex, and there’s no shortage of materials to study. It is important to realize that you are not in the fish production business so you don’t have to take care of raising every pound of catfish you may be capable of. Enjoy the natural cycle of a pond. Enjoy the variety of creatures that use your pond.
And at least once a year, have a big fish fry to keep fish numbers in check.