People like to enjoy the outdoors in the summer by fishing.
In the Ozarks, we are blessed with beautiful rivers and there are also several reservoirs within driving distances. Private farm ponds can also provide great fishing opportunities right out your back door. Properly constructed and managed ponds can add beauty to the landscape, provide habitat for wildlife, water for livestock, as well as good fishing.
The most common, tried-and-true fishery in ponds consists of bluegill and largemouth bass. This combination of species in ponds goes back to the 1930s when research was being done on how to make farm ponds more productive and self-sustaining. It was found that the largemouth bass and bluegill create a predator/prey relationship that can reproduce and maintain itself in the closed system like a pond. Such a system sets up a food web where plankton and insects are eaten by the bluegill, which in turn are eaten by the bass. When the productivity of the pond and the fish populations are in balance, these ponds can provide excellent fishing opportunities close to home.
Too often, however, these ponds end up with fish populations out of balance that result in a poor fishing experience. You often hear the term “overstocked,” but what is actually happening is that the fish are unable to find enough food to continue growing.
Ways to insure good farm pond fishing include:
•Maintain good water quality. Water quality is the cornerstone for productivity in the pond. It insures adequate oxygen levels to support the fish and nutrients to support the plankton-based food chain. Proper pH and fertilization is key.
•Control aquatic weeds and algae. Aquatic weeds and algae can not only make fishing a headache because of tangled line, but also impact the productivity of the pond. Aquatic plants can tie up nutrients and block sunlight, limiting plankton growth and oxygen availability in the pond.
•Stock additional species of fish. Although largemouth bass and bluegill have proven to be good base-line species for ponds, the fishery and overall productivity pond can be enhanced by adding other species. Prey species such as fathead minnows and golden shiners can be added as additional food sources for the bass. Channel catfish, hybrid sunfish and red ear sunfish can also be good additions to ponds. These species can create additional fishing opportunities, but typically won’t reproduce to overcrowd a pond.
•Feed. Supplemental feeding can add to the productivity of a pond. Largemouth bass typically won’t take a pelleted feed, but the others species will. This will increase fish grow and reproduction (which in turn feeds the bass), but also contributes to the overall productivity of the pond. Caution should be used feeding in ponds with poor water quality or weed and algae problems, because the added fertility from the feed can make the problem worse.
•Monitor fish harvested. Over-harvesting the bass and bluegill in the pond can lead to population imbalances, but under-harvesting can as well. In general, keeping about 20 bass, and 80-100 bluegill per acre per year is a good guideline to maintain productive fish populations.
For more information, you can refer the MU Guide sheets, Fish Selection and Stocking for Sport Fishing (G9475) and Pond Dynamics and Water Quality Considerations (G9474), as well as the Missouri Pond Handbook published by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
For specific questions and inquires, you can contact me at the Texas County Extension office in Houston at 417-967-4545.
A two-session online class on Pond Construction and Management is being offered by MU Extension on June 30 and July 2. You can get more information at the Texas County Extension office or register online at https://extension2.missouri.edu/events/pond-construction-and-management-class.
Eric Meusch is an agriculture educator with the University of Missouri Extension. To contact him, call the Extension office in Houston at 417-967-4545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is at 114 W. Main St. in Houston. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.