Building The Fish Pond of Your Dreams By Following These Guidelines
Pursuing your dreams is an incredibly gratifying experience that has a way of bringing out the best in yourself. For some of us, that involves creating a trophy fishery where kids and adults alike can spend time together bonding in the essence of nature. Spending a day on the water with loved ones, in pursuit of the next fish that family and friends will be talking about over dinner or around a campfire, can provide just enough motivation to keep someone from settling when it comes to building the pond of their dreams.
Developing A High-Quality Fishery May Prove Risky If You Don't Understand The Facts
Developing a high-quality fishery comes with a high risk of failure. Although this landowner did an outstanding job buying the correct property, as well as constructing what appeared to be a great pond, he was still several years away from understanding how successful the project would be. This lack of certainty, teamed with his passionate desire to reach his goals, motivated him to minimize assumptions and make good decisions.
Getting Started: Fish Stocking & Fish Feeding
Fast forward to the spring of 2016. Water temperatures were beginning to rise thanks to the warm southern winds, and the pond was prime to become a productive fishery. Golden Shiners and Fathead Minnows were stocked in April to help the forage base establish. To provide the forage with exponential growth, the pond was fertilized to produce a plankton bloom. Using a Secchi disk, the owner monitored the bloom and added additional fertilizer as needed. Using two automatic fish feeders, over one and a half tons of fish feed was fed to the forage base that first summer. To help support the productivity from the fertilizing and feeding program, a bottom diffused aeration system was also installed.
Stock Fish to Establish A Forage Base
Automatic Fish Feeder Installation
Supporting Fish Life Using Supplemental Feeding
A Trophy Fishery In The Making:
Combating A Pond Leak Using Bentonite
The first year the pond was on a fertilizing program, we took a slightly less aggressive fertilizing approach, and developed and maintained a bloom of approximately 24 inches. Much of this relaxed fertilizing approach was related to a slow leak that was discovered near the pond’s outflow. When building the pond, the clay soil around the bottom drain outflow pipe was not sealed as well as necessary. As a result, the head pressure of the pond at full pool, teamed with a slight drought, made it obvious that the pond was leaking. A leaking pond was not part of the dream for this landowner, and resolving the leak was paramount. Since the location of the leak was known, the best solution, in this case, was to add a slurry of bentonite to the water in that specific area of the pond. After two applications and less than a pallet of bagged bentonite, the golfball-sized leak sealed up tight, allowing the owner to sleep a bit easier.
Based on the owner’s goals and his willingness to be patient, the plan was to let the forage base establish for an entire year prior to stocking Largemouth Bass. Although waiting an entire year is not necessary for all landowners, there are times when it is advantageous. The benefits of waiting an entire year can include the production of more forage fish per acre of water. Additionally, when growing species such as golden shiners, the additional time helps them to achieve a larger size, which can cater to the forage needs of bigger Largemouth bass.
Animal Predation & Mother Nature Provide Challenges
A notable downside to waiting a year is the vulnerability to Mother Nature, who always seems to be waiting to take advantage of a pond full of forage fish. During the first growing season at this site, in particular, the owner dealt with water bugs, frogs, blue herons, great egrets, king fishers and cormorants—all trying to take advantage of the abundant forage base. Since this owner was building a home within a hundred feet of the pond, he was in a position to keep a close eye on the fishery and ensure that the forage base was on track, and mitigate the predation issues as they arose.
Great Blue Heron
Proactive Lake & Pond Management & An Ongoing Fisheries Management Plan Is Key
Fish Feeders Feed An Aggressive Amount Of Fish
For the entire growing season of 2016, the pond maintained a high-quality plankton bloom, and fish feeders fed an aggressive amount of high-quality fish feed. By that fall, the forage base had reached significant biomass. Throughout the water column, and across the entire pond, you could visually see forage fish everywhere you looked.
Stocking The Proper Largemouth Bass
With the forage fish on track, it came time to decide what type of Largemouth bass to stock. The owner had two good options. One option was to stock rapid-growing fingerlings in the early summer of 2017. Rapid-growing fingerlings have the greatest chance to reach their full potential, in part, because they would grow faster in the owner’s pond than they would at a fish hatchery, since fish hatcheries grow their bass at much higher densities with less available forage. A second option would be to stock an all-female population. All-female populations are desirable because they give the owner more control over the numbers of predators, and, as result, help reduce assumptions made when managing the fishery. The downside to all-female populations is that most female bass are grown at relatively high densities at a hatchery, and often do not reach their full size potential
Stocking Female Bass Was The Ideal Strategy
Despite the limitations some owners can experience when stocking all female bass, this fish stocking strategy best met this particular pond owner’s goals of regularly catching five-pound bass when fishing—and having the potential to catch bass in the eight-pound range.
Thanks to the heavy biomass of forage fish, 24-month-old all-female bass were stocked at a relatively heavy rate of 40 fish per acre in the spring of 2017. They were grown on fish feed in the hatchery for the first two years of their lives and averaged one and a half pounds each when stocked. Using GoogleEarth, we accurately determined the owner’s pond was four acres and required 160 female bass.
Electrofishing Provided Valuable Data Like Bass Growth Rate
In October, just six months after stocking the bass, the fishery was electrofished to better gauge what was going well, and what was in need of attention. To the owner’s enjoyment, the bass averaged three pounds, with an average growth rate of one and a half pounds per bass, or a quarter pound of growth each month. The average relative weight (Wr) was 123, and average length was 16.2 inches. The top performing bass recaptured weighed 4.7 pounds and was 17.9 inches long. The bass looked great and the owner is currently on track to achieve his long-term goals.
Providing Anglers With Truly Exceptional Fish
Based on the recent positive results and high odds of success, the owner now has the option to take his foot off of the gas and let his bass growth rates slow. This gets to where you are going as a fast management approach, followed by the opportunity to coast for five to seven years, is an incredibly effective approach to creating an action-packed fishery for friends and family, while still meeting a realistic budget. For those with additional discretionary income, as well as loftier goals, fish growth can continue to be pursued at an aggressive rate throughout the life of your bass to provide anglers with access to truly exceptional fish.
Adding Aquatic Vegetation Cover For Fish
Although this owner’s pond is doing great, it still has challenges that it must overcome, as expected. The aquatic vegetation that was planted two years ago has struggled to establish. Attention needs to be given to the aquatic plants so that the forage base has a better source of refuge. Getting the aquatic plants to establish will also help improve the angling experience since fishing through or around vegetation can add another layer of enjoyment to the fishing experience of an avid fisherman.
Tackling Invasive Green Sunfish
The most disappointing issue the fishery is currently facing is the presence of green sunfish. At some point over the past two years, green sunfish entered the waterbody and have successfully spawned. Based on the watershed, the sunfish most likely entered from upstream. Eradicating them from the system is not practical based on their numbers, but with some active management their numbers can be suppressed.
Don't Give Up On Your Fishery Dream
Despite these hurdles, hard work and dedication have started to pay off for this particular land owner. He set the bar high, and then pursued his dream, regardless of what others thought of his big ideas. Looking back at the process, it is incredibly gratifying to see someone work hard for several years to achieve a goal. Although the process has taken around five years from the time he started searching for the right property, he is in a great position compared to where he might be if impatience took over. If he had instead opted for the easy route, he could have purchased the wrong piece of land or bought a property that already had an existing, yet broken fishery. With a bright future ahead, and much of the hard work behind him, this pond owner can start spending quality time fishing with family and friends in a setting that will hold a special place in their hearts for generations.
SOLitude Helped Us Achieve Our Community Goals
As the manager of wetlands and open water for my community, I work with SOLitude Lake Management closely. They have helped us define our vision and achieve our goals. Every wetland area and body of water has different uses and different needs. SOLitude understands that and ensures those needs are met all the while keeping the budget in mind. We have annual fishing tournaments and they come out and talk with the anglers, explaining what we’ve done during the past year and what our future steps will be. Management of wildlife and waters is an ongoing and long-term commitment, SOLitude understands this. They have a dedicated staff that not only manages these areas but also helps educate their clients.
Our Fishery Is In It’s Best Condition Ever
Thank you to SOLitude for all your help at our Fishing Club. Our hydrilla problem is practically non-existent now. The fish survey you completed for us, the recommendations on slot sizes, and the stocking and feeding program you developed are producing outstanding results. Our club’s fishery is in the best condition it has ever been! Your presentation to our stockholders at our annual meeting was extremely well received. We are getting ready to enhance our fish attractors as suggested. We appreciate that a management program was developed that fits within our budget and that you are available to talk with us when we have questions. We look forward to continuing our association with SOLitude.
A Huge Improvement with SOLitude
I wanted to let you know how pleased we are with the results of the algae treatment. We noticed a huge improvement very quickly, and at this point, the pond looks really, really great. Also, the fish are thriving – some of the bass are over a foot, and the Bluegills have also gotten big. We are just thrilled. Thank you so much for your responsiveness.
From an Eyesore to Thriving Ecosystem
In one season, SOLitude Lake Management turned the two lakes on my Virginia property from dead, weed-infested, eyesores into thriving, fish-filled, ecosystems – and they have maintained them as such ever since!
Excellent Pond and Fisheries Management Experts!
After I had to drain my pond in 2010 to fix the dam, I took the opportunity to start from scratch. I contacted SOLitude to begin feeding the bluegill and to begin an electroshocking program to help guide my long-term management. Two years after my original stocking, we electroshocked for the first time. I was very surprised to find that the predator-to-prey ratio was dangerously lopsided and my pond goals were headed toward failure.
Based on the electroshock survey and Dave Beasley’s advice, I restocked 10,000 larger bluegill. Now I have 3 feeders feeding 3 times a day while the water is warm. My friends call me when they have “Daddy day” because they know they can come to my pond and their kids will catch bluegill bigger than my hand until they get tired of it. After 4 years, the bass are reaching 6 pounds and in an hour enough heavy bass can be caught that would beat a full day’s fishing on any lake in the region. Without SOLitude and Dave Beasley, despite all my research, my pond would be in an ever-worsening downward spiral. Now SOLitude and annual electrofishing surveys to keep me on track are a permanent part of my pond management plan.
What A Great Company!
When looking online for a new fish feeder, we had unpleasant experiences with two local fisheries. I decided to call a feeder manufacturer in San Antonio, who recommended SOLitude Lake Management. They were terrific! Paul Dorsett called me directly and was so kind and helpful. He arranged for a feeder to be delivered and set up for us. Although Paul was out of town, he sent his “ace” out, Ryan Young. Ryan and Alex Harrison were efficient, answered all questions, and were very nice young men. Paul even followed up to make certain that everything went smoothly. What a great company! Customer service is what it’s all about these days and SOLitude Lake Management knows exactly that.
In Awe of SOLitude’s Knowledge
I want to thank you all for coming out and for an excellent report and meeting. SOLitude’s knowledge about the industry and all of the different species, habitats, and needs was impressive. We were sitting there with our mouths open in awe of SOLitude’s command of the subject. You all really know your species and their requirements. It was excellent!
Proof Is In The Pudding
Paul Dorsett and the rest of the team at SOLitude have done an absolutely wonderful job in helping us to create Lake Willis! In just a few short years we have gone from having just a few baitfish and perch, to catching a nearly 9-pound bass (our new record). Now if we could just have more time to fish as recommended, we could take out the 300 fish that need to come out. As far as we are concerned, we followed SOLitude’s recommendations and our fish have averaged growing of 2 pounds per year…proof is in the pudding!
A Truly Valuable Investment
We began with two small lakes that were never managed 10 years ago. With SOLitude’s help and expertise we expanded both lakes from 2 acres to 6 acres and began a monthly management program. We went from a spotty fish population to trophy bass with some over 10 pounds! SOLitude is efficient and really cares about the lake ecosystem. Seeing my three-year-old granddaughter catch her first bass makes the investment truly valuable. Thanks, SOLitude.
From Frustrating to 100% Fishable
When we hired SOLitude, our 12-acre lake was about 1/3 full of lily pads and hydrilla which were frustrating to the fish. Within 4-6 months, the lake became 100% fishable and the coloring and bloom were much more attractive. The recent addition of 8 or so built brush piles has added much-needed structure for bait fish and is now a great target that is producing bass on every other cast! A very common afternoon will produce 100 fish a day.
The Best Choice Is SOLitude Lake Management
If you’d like to manage your waters (or watershed) professionally – then the best choice is SOLitude Lake Management. If you fish, then it’s more important. I had the good fortune to fish a property managed by SOLitude BEFORE I needed a pond management company…those excellent results made my final choice easy. I’m sure that every firm is good – but if the phrase “by fishermen for fishermen!” rings true with you – then there is one choice: SOLitude Lake and Pond Management. They care and it shows.
Responsive to Our Needs
SOLitude manages our 28 lakes at our Country Club and we have formed a great partnership with them and in particular Christina and Garrett. They are responsive to our needs and take the time to explain their process and ongoing management plans to staff, board members, and owners as well as answer their questions.
Professional & Knowledgeable
Working with SOLitude has been a great experience! Their professionalism, knowledge, response, and timing are the qualities that will give you peace of mind.
A Pleasure to Work with SOLitude
For the past 2 years as a member of our neighborhood board, I worked personally with Mitchell of SOLitude Lake Management. Our neighborhood has over 40 lakes & ponds. I can honestly say it was a pleasure to work with this vendor. Mitchell provided weekly updates and as our aquatics expert, he helped educate us and assisted in developing a restorative approach to our lake & pond management. It was a pleasure to work with such a knowledgeable representative. Thanks!
Reliable and Quick to RespondSOLitude Lake Management has been managing our lake/stormwater pond, and fountains since 2005. Their team has always been reliable and quick to respond to any issues. They are all very knowledgeable, able to explain what is happening with any situation and find solutions to problems as they arise. Overall, I have been very pleased with their work and would highly recommend them to anyone with lake, pond, and other BMP management needs.
The SOLitude Team Is Absolutely Fabulous!SOLitude consistently provides top-notch customer service and performance, whether it is over the phone or in person on-site. My questions are always answered promptly by your professional and knowledgeable staff. The SOLitude Team is absolutely fabulous!
SOLitude Helped Relieve the Pressure of Maintaining My Pond
Working with the team from SOLitude Lake Management took away the pressure of dealing with an issue that I had never specialized in. The knowledge of everyone involved helped keep the process moving, from engineering to local code compliance. They knew the course that needed to be taken and it was implemented in a timely manner, causing the project to come to completion well within our expectations.
Hat’s Off to SOLitude!
SOLitude Lake Management has consistently performed to a high standard within the three communities they currently service for my clients. Whether it is routine maintenance or a major issue, I can always be assured that when I call or email we will have almost immediate communication and actionable timelines. In a busy industry such as this one, having someone that stays in touch is critical and appreciated. Hat’s off to SOLitude for a job well done!
We Are In Good Hands with SOLitude
We were presented with the challenge of dealing with our stormwater basin, which is regulated by EPA standards that we were not familiar with. SOLitude came in and guided us through the entire process. Our basin went from an eyesore to a spectacular main selling point for our community. We are in good hands with SOLitude and cannot thank them enough!
Who We Are
SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty, preserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint. SOLitude’s team of aquatic resource management professionals specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, pond, wetland, and fisheries management programs that include water quality testing and restoration, nutrient remediation, algae, and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, bathymetry, shoreline erosion restoration, mechanical harvesting and hydro-raking, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat evaluations, and invasive species management. Services and educational resources are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, drinking water authorities, parks, and state and federal agencies. SOLitude Lake Management is a proud member of the Rentokil Steritech family of companies in North America.