Written by Industry Expert Dave Beasley, Lead Fisheries Biologist
Maintaining a balanced fishery is both challenging and fun. The standard requirements for any fishery management plan are good water quality, proper fish species, balanced predator to prey ratios and suitable habitat.
Water quality is a given, just like humans do not do well in poor air quality, fish do not do well in poor water quality. So if your pond does not have an ample clean water source, you most likely to need to aerate. A simple water test will take the guess work out of the equation. If aeration is implemented, not only will the fish benefit, but the whole ecosystem will as well.
With an environment fit for pond fish, having the proper species is a must. The size of the pond along with water temperatures throughout the year will have a direct impact on what fish should reside in the pond. Fish species have different life cycles that need to match the pond’s environment. Most fish are very picky, relying greatly on proper water temperature and the ideal environment in order to successfully reproduce.
Once the fish species of choice inhabit the pond, they need to be managed. Naturally the predator fish will feed on the smaller fish, reproduce, and over time overpopulate, forcing the pond out of balance. Without baitfish the predator fish can’t grow and as a result predators become stunted and skinny. This common problem can be corrected, but is best if prevented. Professionals have the tools and knowledge to keep ponds from getting out of balance.
Supplemental fish feeding is a great option. Most fish species can be trained to eat pelleted feed. Feeding predator fish artificial feed will relieve pressure on the bait fish, in turn keeping the pond from getting out of balance as quickly. The baitfish will also eat the artificial feed, creating healthier bait with better reproduction rates and better survival rates. As an added benefit of feeding, the pond will be able to support far more fish.
Whether you feed your pond or not, the fish population will still become predator heavy. One tool used to remove over populated fish is an electrofishing research vessel. Using this type of vessel, excess fish can easily be removed from a pond.
The electrofishing research vessel’s primary use is to assess fish populations. Using Direct Current produced on board, the fish are stunned in a safe, harmless manor. The fish are then brought onboard using electrofishing dip nets and placed into a holding tank. While aboard, the quantity of each species is recorded along with their length and weight. Using the data to determine the pond’s relative abundance and relative biomass we are able to make accurate fisheries management decisions.
With the populations in check, the fish habitat within the pond needs to be maintained. A pond consisting of 15% vegetation is good for a healthy fishery. Fish use plants as a source of cover when avoiding predation. Other fish use the vegetation to hide when preying on fish. Some species of fish even lay eggs on plants when spawning. Unfortunately many plants have the tendency (just like predator fish) to take over the pond. Using Grass Carp and/or aquatic herbicides, vegetation can be controlled and maintained as desired.
Creating and maintaining a balanced fishery can be a great deal of fun and a rewarding process. The benefits will be quality fishing time with your family and friends.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond and fisheries management needs.
David Beasley is a Fisheries Biologist with SOLitude Lake Management. Since 1998, SOLitude Lake Management has been committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Services are available throughout the Eastern United States. Fisheries management consulting and aquatic products are available nationwide. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at www.solitudelakemanagement.com.