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I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Joe – Alhambra, IL

A: Bass – both largemouth and smallmouth – make excellent predator fish. These strong, scrappy guys keep your bluegill population in check. They chase frogs, eat crustaceans and snails, and even catch unsuspecting birds and rodents like small muskrats. They’re a definite asset in your pond or lake.

These two fish cousins, however, have their differences. Read on to learn which is better suited to your pond or lake.

Distinct Differences

Though they’re both species of fish in the sunfish family, largemouth and smallmouth bass have different physical characteristics. The largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, sports a big grin that extends way back beyond its eye, while the smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu, has a smaller smile that reaches only to the middle of its eye. They also differ in their color and color patterns; the olive green largemouth has dark blotches of scales that run horizontally down its flank, and the brassy brown smallmouth has dark scales that run vertically.

Happy Habitats

These freshwater fishes both thrive in lakes, ponds and rivers, but each species has its preference. Largemouth bass favor crystal clear lakes with 2 to 6 feet of water, and sandy shallows and abundant rooted aquatic plants for spawning. They flourish in warmer water – even enjoying 80 to 90 degree temperatures in the summertime.

Smallmouth bass, however, are primarily river dwellers that like to hang out around pea-size to 1-inch-diameter gravel for spawning. They’ll tolerate lakes and ponds, but they like the steady current and higher rate of dissolved oxygen it provides. They also like water temperatures a bit cooler; anything warmer than 90 degrees F is lethal to smallmouth bass.

Food for Thought

These fishes also have different tastes in food. Largemouth bass aren’t too picky. They’ll gobble through a variety of foodstuffs, from Game Fish Grower Food to smaller fish like shad, perch, bluegill and sunfish. Smallmouth bass, however, stick to the bottom of the lake or river and nosh on crustaceans, insects and smaller fish.

Potential Pondmates?

Because both these guys are fun and challenging to fish, it would be fantastic to have both species in your pond or lake, wouldn’t it?

Large- and smallmouth bass can live together, but it takes the help of an attentive game fish manager to make that happen. The general consensus from most experts is that the largemouths will typically replace smallmouths in smaller pond settings unless subadult or adult smallies are introduced annually. Even if you provide an ideal spawning environment for them, the largemouths will still edge them out.

Bottom line: You’re better off with the largemouths. They’re easier to keep, and they adapt more readily to a pond- or lake-type environment.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

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I see giant tadpoles and small black ones. Are these the same type of tadpoles at different stages? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I see giant tadpoles and small black ones. Are these the same type of tadpoles at different stages?

Q: I see giant tadpoles and small black ones. Are these the same type of tadpoles at different stages?

Roxanne – Summerfield, FL

A: From your description, it sounds like you have different types of tadpoles living in your pond. But to know for certain, let’s discuss how to distinguish bullfrog and toad tadpoles and understand how they develop into adults.

Egg-Citing Development

Both bullfrogs and toads reproduce by laying eggs in the water. Female bullfrogs deposit their eggs on the pond surface in large round clusters or masses protected by aquatic plants. One bullfrog can lay up to 20,000 eggs, which are then fertilized by the males. Toads create strands of dark-colored eggs that look like black pearls attached to foliage and leaves near the water’s edge.

After seven to 10 days, frog or toad tadpoles hatch from their eggs. Bullfrog tadpoles appear dark green to black in color and they’re big – much larger than other species of frog or toad. They also mature more slowly when compared to their toad counterparts. In fact, bullfrogs will stay in their tadpole stage for almost three years before transforming into adults.

From Adolescent to Adult

A toad’s and frog’s physical development from tadpole (or pollywog) to adult are similar. As tadpoles, they live exclusively in the water and nibble on aquatic plants for nourishment. At first, their bodies are long and narrow and include a tail where they store fat when food is in short supply during the winter months. Eventually, the tadpoles will start to grow back legs, followed by their front legs. And then their tails shorten and disappear, and they develop lungs. Before long they’re full-fledged adults.

Survive and Thrive

As with most critters in the wild, the strongest will survive – and tadpoles are no different. Out of the thousands of pollywogs that are born, only a percentage will make it to adulthood. They have, however, evolved some survival traits that protect them from predators, including their camouflage color that makes them excellent at hiding.

You can help boost their survival numbers by installing a decoy device, like an Owl Decoy or Nite Guard Solar®, designed to chase away rodents and snakes. With its timed head rotation powered by a built-in solar panel, the Owl Decoy will help repel nuisance birds and other small critters during the day. And the Nite Guard Solar® LED lights that resemble a predator’s glowing eyes will keep your pond – and your toads and frogs – safe at night.

Pond Talk: What kinds of frogs and toads live in your pond or lake?

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People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too?

Q: People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too?

Ron – Galesville, WI

A: Absolutely! Ice fishing on a small pond can be just as rewarding as ice fishing on a lake – particularly if it’s stocked with bass, bluegill and perch. Here are five tips for making this wintertime sport safe and enjoyable.

  1. Partner Up: Whether you’re ice fishing on a huge lake or a small pond, always fish with a partner. Venturing out on the ice is never 100 percent safe, so have someone there to watch your back and lend a hand in case of emergency. Also be sure to have a Life Ring and first aid kit easily accessible. Better to be safe than sorry!
  2. Check Ice Thickness, Quality: Before heading out, check the thickness and quality of the ice. It should be at least 4 to 5 inches thick and ideally composed of solid, blue ice rather than white, brittle ice or ice with cracks or trapped air bubbles. Here’s a quick primer that explains how to check the integrity of your ice.
  3. Tackle Box Ready: Make sure you have the right equipment on hand, including small reels or ice rods, jigs and a variety of bait. In addition, pack your fish finder, auger and any other tools you’ll need to track down and hook those finned beauties.
  4. Location, Location, Location: When the hunt is on, find your fish with a fish finder or pick a deeper, sheltered area where fish would most likely be and drill a hole with an auger. To make this fish-finding task easier next year, consider positioning several Fish Attractor Logs in shallower areas of your pond. The 4-foot polyethylene logs with flexible 2-foot limbs create a perfect habitat for the fish – and a perfect spot for catching them.
  5. Timing is Everything: The best time to fish is early in the morning or late at night when the fish are out and about, searching for food. If you haven’t caught anything after 15 minutes, try a new hole or offer the fish a different type of bait.

Ice fishing on a smaller pond or lake is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors – even when the weather is less than ideal. Have fun, be safe and fish on!

Pond Talk: What kind of bait do you use when ice fishing on your pond or lake?

Create Habitat for Baitfish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log

How can I create a good environment for my fish to spawn? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can I create a good environment for my fish to spawn?

Q: How can I create a good environment for my fish to spawn?

Darren – Salyersville, KY

A: A little candlelight, some smooth jazz playing in the background, a private spot beneath the water hyacinth … sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, when you’re creating an ideal spawning environment for your game fish, they really need little more than the right set up. The key is knowing what that set up should be – and here’s where to start.

  1. Know Your Fish: Do you know what kinds of fish live in your pond or lake? Before you begin to prepare your fishes’ love nest, you need to know what kinds you have, as different species have different needs. For instance, a spawning Bluegill prefers water temperatures that are 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and some gravel or sand substrate for nest-building purposes. Check with your region’s fisheries and wildlife department for more information about fish common in your area.
  2. Adjust the Environment: Once you know the type of fish you have and their preferred setting for spawning, recreate that environment. In a large lake or pond, you won’t be able to adjust the ambient water temperature, but you can use an aerator to be sure you’re giving the fish enough oxygen, add gravel in the shallow areas and provide hiding spots, like the Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres, to protect the fish and their young fry. If they feel comfortable, they’ll be more likely to get in the mood for love.
  3. Add Safe Havens: Finally, create some specific areas for spawning fish. Bluegill, for example, will appreciate the Pond King Spawning Discs, which are 20-inch concave poly discs that resemble nests where the fish can deposit their eggs. Artificial habitats, can provide escape areas for smaller fish when placed in water 3 to 4 feet deep. Aids like these also provide a spot for algae – a.k.a. fry food – to flourish.

When you want to set the mood for your finned friends, follow these three simple steps. You’ll create a spawning friendly environment and a lake full of healthy, happy game fish.

Pond Talk: How do you encourage your game fish to get frisky?

Increase Fish Hatching Rates - Pond King Spawning Discs

My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right?

Q: My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right?

Mike – Little Rock, AR

A: Yes, those little freshwater crustaceans can indeed live in your pond – as long as you provide the living conditions they need to thrive. Here’s what you need to know about growing a healthy crayfish population.

Home Sweet Home

Also known as crawdads and crawfish, North American crayfish belong to the family Cambaridae. More than 300 species live in rivers, brooks, ponds and even special “crayfish farms” across the country. Most types prefer fresh flowing water that doesn’t freeze in the winter, but some thrive in swamps and ditches.

During the day, crayfish hunker down underneath rocks to hide from predators like fish, birds and alligators. But at night, they slowly cruise the river bottom in search of food. Their preferred meals are anything decaying, including dead insects, worms, algae and fish, but they’ll also snap up small, live fish that are swimming by if they’re feeling too lazy to forage. They’ll also get their greens by gobbling through algae and aquatic plants.

These decapod crustaceans can grow up to 6 inches in length. They’re related to lobsters, crabs and shrimps, and they’re prized cuisine among foodies (etouffees anyone?) and larger fish, like bass and bluegill. Crayfish and dwarf crayfish are also kept as colorful pets in aquariums.

Welcome Residents

Crayfish can make a fun addition to your pond. They nibble on aquatic plants, so they help control weed growth. They eat decaying material, so they – along with Pond Logic® MuckAway™ – will help keep pond muck to a minimum. They’ll entertain your son (and his friends) for hours as they turn over rocks and hunt for crayfish. And they make for some delicious eating for you and your resident fish!

These guys will dig to create burrows in the bottom of your pond – but don’t worry. They won’t likely cause any leaks. It’s important, though, to control their population. Crayfish reproduction is tied to fluctuating water levels, so manage their population growth by stabilizing the water level in your pond, and use basket traps or lift nets baited with meat to remove large numbers.

Create a comfortable environment for crayfish by providing clean, aerated water and some rocks for burrowing. They’ll find their own food – or become food if they venture too close to your Fish Attractor Spheres!

Pond Talk: Have you ever hunted for crayfish?

Increase Fish Survival Rates  -Porcupine® Fish Attractor Spheres

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 3 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 3

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 3: Maintaining Your Ice Rink

Congratulations! If you’ve followed our series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’re well on your way to creating a winter-sports wonderland for you and your family. Your rink will provide hours of entertainment all season long – as long as you keep it maintained.

How do you keep your rink glassy smooth? You don’t need a Zamboni, but you do need to do some regular scraping, sweeping and flooding to resurface and prime the ice. Here’s our three-step solution for maintaining a perfect surface on your rink.

Step 1: Clear the Surface

First, clear the entire surface of the ice with a broom, a flat head metal shovel and ice scraper. Sweep and shovel off the snow, and scrape down and remove all bits of ice and snow as they will freeze during the flooding process and create imperfections on the surface. Dips and holes are OK because they’ll fill with water, but lumps and bumps are not.

Step 2: Flood the Rink

Next, flood the rink with water. Rather than use a sprayer nozzle, which can cause a pitted and rough ice from all the water droplets hitting the surface, let the water flow directly from the hose and allow it to evenly cover the entire rink.If possible, use warm water to flood the area. Just like in a Zamboni, the warm water melts the surface of ice, correcting imperfections and allowing it to freeze smoothly. You can either fill buckets with warm water from your bathtub and slowly pour the water over the ice, or you can use an outdoor faucet with a thermostatically controlled hose, like a Thermo-Hose™, to keep water flowing out to the pond.

Step 3: Use When Cold.

With your rink resurfaced and smoother than a pane of glass, you want to keep it that way, right? Before you cut into the ice with your blades, consider the temperatures outside. Avoid using the rink during mild weather when your skates do significant damage to the ice. Instead, use the rink when it’s cold enough outside to keep that slick surface intact.

Skate Away!

Now that you’ve learned how to grow good ice rink ice, how to set up and create a winter wonderland, and how to maintain the rink all season long, it’s time to get busy making a rink of your own. Be safe, and enjoy your very own icy paradise!

In case you missed out, check out Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland.

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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 2 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 2

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland

A thick, solid, strong and dense ice sheet on your pond or lake means you’ll have some cold-weather fun on your skates this winter. But how do you determine if that ice is safe to hold an ice skater, a hockey team or a truck to transport all their gear?

In this second part of our three-part series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’ll learn how to identify the perfect spot for your rink, how to measure your ice sheet’s thickness, how to create a glassy smooth skating surface, and how to build your winter wonderland.

Thick and Blue, Tried and True…

You’ve been watching your ice sheet develop over the fall and winter, and you think it’s ready to be fabricated into a fantastic ice rink. The first step is to identify an area on your pond or lake with the best ice. What does that look like? It should be:

  • Thick and strong. By “thick,” we mean inches of solid ice – up to 12 to 15 inches, depending on your plans for the rink. Some general guidelines are outlined below:
    • 3 inches or less: Not safe, so stay off the ice.
    • 4 inches: Suitable for ice fishing, cross-country skiing and walking (about 200 pounds).
    • 5 inches: Safe for a snowmobile or ATV (about 800 pounds).
    • 8 to 12 inches: OK for a car or group of people (about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds).
    • 12 to 15 inches: Suitable for a light pickup truck or a van.
  • Solid, blue to clear. This is high density, very strong and safe ice when thick enough. Areas that appear light gray to black, white to opaque, mottled or slushy are unsafe and should be avoided. Also stay away from areas with cracks or breaks, ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen, and abnormal surfaces you haven’t seen before, like ridges caused by currents or winds.
  • Located away from inlets and outlets. Moving water affects the integrity of the ice, so avoid areas near inlets/outlets and springs.

Before you go out on the ice, follow safety protocols: Tell someone where you’re going, dress accordingly, wear a floatation device, carry a change of clothing and an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. When inspecting the ice, remember this rhyme: “Thick and blue, tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky.”

Checking the Ice

So how do you check your ice sheet’s thickness and quality? You have three options: an ice chisel, an ice auger and a cordless drill. You’ll use one of these tools – along with a tape measure, of course – to carve a hole in the ice and check on what’s happening below the surface.

An ice chisel is your most basic ice-checking tool. It’s a metal rod with a sharp, flat blade welded onto one end. You drive the chisel into the ice using a stabbing motion until you create a hole. *This option may not be the best if you have fish. Pounding on the ice can cause fish stress.

Augers drill a hole in the ice via a spiraling blade that’s rotated by hand or powered by an electric or gas motor. Hand augers are inexpensive, lightweight and quiet to operate. Electric augers are also quiet, but they require less manual labor to operate. Gas augers blast through the ice fastest, but they’re heavy, noisy and more costly than hand or electric models.

A 7.2-volt cordless drill with a long, five-eighths-inch wood auger bit will drive through 8 inches of ice in less than 30 seconds. It’s the most efficient way to get the job done.

Once you have made a hole in the ice, measure its thickness with a tape measure. Put the tape measure into the hole and hook the bottom edge of the ice before taking a reading. While you’re there, inspect the quality of the ice. It should be dense, blue and thick – at least 4 inches.

Create a Glassy Smooth Surface

Now that you have identified the perfect spot for your rink, it’s time to prep the surface. First, check the weather to make sure below-freezing temperatures are forecasted for the next five nights. Then, gather some gear, including a flat-head shovel, a pickaxe or hatchet, and a bucket or garden hose, head out to the rink site and get to work:

  1. Stake out your skating area. A 50-foot by 100-foot rink is plenty of space to start with, particularly on a smaller pond. The area can be expanded as needed.
  2. Shovel the entire surface Next, using your flat nose shovel, push the snow from side to side in the middle of the ice, and then from the middle out to the ends.
  3. Strategically pile up the snow. Create seating areas, hockey goals and some backstops at either end of the rink.
  4. Access some water. You’ll need water to pour onto the surface of your rink, so break through the ice with your hatchet or pick axe to create an opening large enough for a bucket or garden hose. Build a ring of snow around the hole for future reference.
  5. Ice the surface Fill your bucket with pond water and pour it onto the exposed ice sheet. If you’re using a hose, siphon the water and distribute it evenly on the surface. Repeat until you’ve evenly covered the area with water.
  6. Freeze and repeat.. Let the pond ice freeze overnight. Return to the pond the next day and repeat the process for five nights.

Before long, you’ll have a smooth, solid ice rink that’ll provide hours of fun for you and your friends.

Remember: Safety First

Despite all your careful and diligent rink-building efforts, it’s important to remember that there’s no absolute guarantee that the ice is safe. Accidents can happen. Be proactive by installing a life ring nearby, and providing a first aid kit, blanket and other emergency essentials just in case someone does fall through the ice.

If you missed it, check out Part 1 – Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 3 – Maintaining Your Ice Rink.

Create A Smooth Skating Surface

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