All aspects of fish habitat are important and beneficial when it comes to fisheries management. From vegetation and cover to water quality, it's important to take every aspect of your aquatic ecosystem into consideration.
Fish Cover provides needed refuge to small fish and the desired hunting grounds for larger fish. Successful pond managers maintain a healthy balance of cover relative to the overall pond size and depth. Cover such as logs, rocks, old farm equipment and more modern habitats can serve as great attention-getting locations for aquatic life. Too much cover will spread fish out, making it difficult for predator fish to feed and fisherman to catch. Too few will make it easy for predators to "gang up" on smaller fish. Although vegetation is often considered a nuisance, it can play an important role in the health of your aquatic ecosystem. During the cold months when vegetation falls to the pond's bottom, fixed cover will become more important.
Water quality plays a large role in keeping both the fish and the surrounding aquatic ecosystem healthy and productive. Good water quality will set the foundation for an ecologically balanced fishery. Proper water quality management considers many parameters such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, ammonia, alkalinity, phosphorus, nitrogen, and visibility. Knowing the highs and lows of these parameters throughout the course of the year provides a good indication of any improvements needed. Poor water quality significantly stresses your fish. Even with plenty of available food, fish will not grow and develop properly in unhealthy water.
Aeration is a great tool for pond managers who wish to properly manage their overall water quality, while increasing productivity, and serving as an insurance policy against declines in dissolved oxygen and summer fish kills. SOLitude Lake Management offers an extensive line of powerful and reliable aeration systems. For those who want to go green or don't have access to power, windmill and solar powered aeration systems are available to meet the needs of most ponds. With all forms of aeration, a properly sized system must be selected to ensure superior results. Installing an aeration system that is inadequately sized for your pond, will greatly hinder the overall management and long-term success of your pond and related fishery.
Managing aquatic vegetation and algae is essential to overall lake and pond management, and greatly impacts the success of your fish habitat. Left unmanaged, it will often become problematic and will eventually threaten the productivity of your aquatic ecosystem. Five common methods used to proactively manage your ponds vegetation and algae are:
Properly managing nuisance vegetation and not letting it become a problem is important. If you have invasive, exotic species make sure to control them before they take over the pond. Herbicides will often be needed, but with proper management they will be utilized less frequently and in smaller quantities. Increasing the beneficial plankton in the pond will also help to shade out sunlight and reduce the likelihood of nuisance algae and submersed weed growth.
Stratification can be an issue as spring temperatures warm up. Water temperatures within ponds become layered with warmer water at the surface and cooler, more dense water at the bottom. This difference in density between the warm and cool water creates a temperature barrier that actually prevents the upper and lower water from mixing. As a result, cooler water is cut off from a primary oxygen source (atmospheric air) and oftentimes left with a limited oxygen supply until the fall season. Over the course of the growing season (spring, summer and fall), organics settle to the bottom of the pond creating a demand for oxygen that exceeds the limited supply. As this occurs, a "dead zone" of anoxic water forms at the bottom of the pond.
During the growing season this dead zone will continue to enlarge, often taking up 25% to 50% of the ponds volume. These anoxic conditions often force fish to live in warmer than desired water temperatures, resulting in slower growth rates.
Once fall temperatures decrease, ponds and lakes turn over and the toxic conditions built up in the bottom layer over the summer mix throughout the entire water column, putting additional stress on fish during a time when they should be focused on growing.
Most bodies of water experience issues with algae and vegetation growth as a result of all of the organics that accumulated during the growing season at times where anoxic conditions persist. The best way to prevent ponds from stratifying is to utilize a bottom diffused aeration systems. Properly sized units can greatly improve a pond's ability to sustain a healthy environment that promotes much more rapid fish growth.
Water quality monitoring and testing is essential when looking to improve your pond's productivity. To manage fish habitat productivity properly, you must have water quality profiles of the water column. Proper water quality testing will give a good indication of what water quality parameters are limiting fish production.
Liming is a very important aspect of pond management that greatly influences the productivity by restoring pH and alkalinity to proper levels. Alkalinity levels directly affect the availability of nutrients to aquatic organisms. Low alkalinity levels reduce productivity in ponds and are also responsible for broad swings in pH which are very stressful to many aquatic organisms. When creating or maintaining a productive fish habitat it is important to know your water's alkalinity level. If it is determined that the alkalinity level is low, agricultural limestone should be applied properly throughout the pond.
Fertilizing your pond is another great way to increase the biomass of fish the lake or pond can support. Properly fertilized ponds can sustain 3-4 times the biomass of fish than that of unfertilized ponds.
Clear water may be appealing to the eye, but it lacks the backbone to the aquatic food chain: phytoplankton and zooplankton. Creating a plankton bloom is most important in the early stages of the growing season when newborn fish must feed and avoid predation. Adding the proper amounts of fertilizer to the pond at the correct time each year will encourage plankton to establish. Ponds with low alkalinity levels should have agricultural limestone added prior to implementing a fertilization program. It is imperative that you test your pond water quality and know each of the limiting parameters if you want to have a successful fertilization program.
Fertilizing improperly can have devastating results. Major algae or vegetation growth can occur and fish kills are always a possibility. Be sure you understand the risks and take the precautions needed to keep your pond safe. It is best to combine fertilization programs with the use of properly sized aeration systems rated to handle the volume of water within your pond. Fertilizing poses great risks if not done properly and should not be performed without the proper knowledge or the help of a professional.
Want to learn more about how to properly balance your fish habitat? Contact the fish habitat professionals at SOLitude Lake Management.
In support of our belief that lakes and ponds are a precious natural resource requiring protection, SOLitude is committed to providing sustainable and renewable solutions that maintain ecological balance in the workplace and beyond.
When you partner with SOLitude, a dedicated field technician visits your lake or pond twice a month, leveraging extensive knowledge and training to carefully maintain ecological balance and preserve the appearance of your aquatic property.
Utilizing the latest GPS aquatic mapping technology and our own proprietary lake and pond management software, the experts at SOLitude collect all the data necessary to provide comprehensive analysis and in-depth solutions.