Habitat Management: Preservation And Enhancement Strategies
All aspects of fish habitat are important and beneficial when it comes to fisheries management including cover and water quality. When building a thriving, healthy fishery, it’s crucial to consider every aspect of your aquatic ecosystem.
Here are some of the key factors fisheries management professionals take into account when designing a custom management program:
Fish cover provides necessary refuge for small fish and the desired hunting grounds for larger fish. Fisheries management professionals work diligently to 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 popular locations for aquatic life. However, too much cover will spread fish out, making it difficult for predator fish to feed and fisherman to catch. And too little will make it easy for predators to “gang up” on smaller fish. Although vegetation is usually considered a nuisance by most lake and pond owners, it can play an important role in the health of a fishery. During the cold months when vegetation falls to the pond’s bottom, fixed cover will become more important.
Water Quality Monitoring
Water quality monitoring and testing are essential when looking to improve your pond’s productivity. Poor water quality significantly stresses your fish. Even with plenty of available food, fish will not grow and develop properly in unhealthy water. To support fish habitat productivity, you must collect water quality profiles of the water column on a recurring basis. Professional water quality testing will give a good indication of what water quality parameters are limiting fish production. Fisheries scientists consider many parameters such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, ammonia, alkalinity, phosphorus, nitrogen, and visibility when designing a management program. Understanding how these different parameters fluctuate over the course of the year provides a good indication of any improvements needed.
Stratification usually becomes a concern during times of significant temperature change. Water temperatures within ponds become layered with warmer water at the surface and cooler, more dense water underneath. 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 pond’s volume. These anoxic conditions force fish to live in warmer than desired water temperatures, resulting in slower growth rates. Once temperatures begin to decrease, these layers mix, bringing the toxic conditions from below to the surface. This puts additional stress on fish during a time when they should be focused on growing. The best way to prevent ponds from stratifying is to utilize a bottom diffused aeration system, which creates bubbles that consistently mix the water column as they rise to the surface. Properly sized units can greatly improve a pond’s ability to sustain a healthy environment that promotes much more rapid fish growth.
Liming is a very important aspect of pond management that greatly influences 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. But when done improperly, fertilization efforts can have devastating results. Major algae or vegetation growth can occur and fish kills are always a possibility.
What is fish habitat and why is it important?
Managing aquatic vegetation and algae is essential to overall lake and pond management, and greatly impacts the success of your fishery. But without proper management, 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:
- Stocking herbaceous and omnivorous fish such as triploid grass carp and tilapia.
- Decreasing the sunlight’s ability to penetrate deep into the water by promoting a plankton bloom or by applying eco-friendly pond dyes.
- Managing nutrients through aeration, biological augmentation, alum, and Phoslock.
- Proper selection and application of aquatic herbicides and algaecides.
- Redirecting the nutrient load by promoting beneficial native species of emergent aquatic vegetation that do not grow in water greater than two feet deep.
Effectively managing nuisance vegetation is important. If you have invasive and exotic species, make sure to control them before they take over the pond. EPA-registered herbicides may be required, 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.
Maintaining A Productive Fishery
Cultivating a healthy, productive trophy fishery is a science, not a one-size-fits-all formula. Like most lake and pond management efforts, you can’t cut corners if you want to create a sustainable, long-lasting environment. That’s why it’s important to work with a professional who understands what your waterbody needs and the potential challenges you might face throughout the process. Contact our Fisheries Biologists and being building a Fisheries Management Plan that fits your budget and fishery goals.
Healthy Water Quality & Fish
SOLitude has been managing our lake for the past two years. Through their efforts, the lake’s water quality has improved tremendously. Even with one of the hottest and dryest seasons I received nothing but compliments on the water clarity as well as positive feedback from fishermen about the abundance of healthy fish.
SOLitude Takes Sincere Interest In Our Needs
Noel has been helping our fly fishing club stock rainbows and cut bows in our river and lake. He takes a sincere interest in our needs, understands our unique situation, and always delivers great fish.
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.