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Do herons fly south for the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Do herons fly south for the winter?

Do herons fly south for the winter?
Bobby – Milwaukee, WI

Herons are migratory birds, and they have no appreciation for cold weather. So if you’re located in the cooler northern climes – particularly where ponds tend to freeze during the winter months – you’ll usually notice their absence when temperatures start to drop. Like many of us would like to do during winter, herons that choose to migrate will head for Central America and northern South America to warm up and fill up on fish. If you live in warmer portions of the United States, however, you may see herons all year ‘round, provided there’s enough open water and food to keep them happy.

While they’re beautiful to watch, herons are often unpopular with pond keepers – particularly those who have stocked their pond well. Herons consider fish as their favorite snack, and a single bird will happily devour every available fish, leaving the pond empty, and the pond’s owner grumpy. Herons aren’t picky eaters, though, and they’ll also snack on feeder fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, grasshoppers and even dragonflies.

Fortunately, herons don’t hunt in flocks. When they spot a pond that’s already been claimed by another enterprising heron, they’ll typically fly elsewhere. That’s why we strongly recommend our Airmax® Blue Heron Decoy as a simple way to discourage hungry herons from settling in for an uninvited visit.

Without preventative measures – like a well-placed and regularly relocated decoy – a heron will settle in as long as food is available. Otherwise, only cold temperatures, which send fish to the warmer water layers at the bottom of the pond and other food sources to their winter lairs, will encourage a heron to move on.

Pond Talk: Do herons continue to visit your pond throughout the fall and winter or more on?

Lake Rake Weed Cutter Combo

Do I need to stop feeding my game fish for the winter? If so, when and what will they eat when I stop? | Pond & Lake Q&A

Do I need to stop feeding my game fish for the winter? If so, when and what will they eat when I stop?

Do I need to stop feeding my game fish for the winter? If so, when and what will they eat when I stop?
Missy – Racine, WI

When water temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, game fish activity slows down significantly – and their appetites slow down too. At that point, they’re capable of finding plenty of food in their habitat, making it unnecessary to continue feeding.

In a chilly winter pond, game fish are perfectly happy to forage for their meals. During the down season, they snack lightly on pond plants and small organisms, gaining sufficient energy to weather the winter until feeding season resumes. Game fish, it seems, never lose their natural ability to find the food they need. They make the most of their senses of smell and sight to track down necessary nutrients, and do their part to keep their pond clean until it reopens in the spring.

But when spring comes, and water temperatures climb above 40 degrees, their appetites return with a vengeance. They’ll be looking to you for sustenance – and nothing gets their mouths watering more effectively than our Pond Logic® Game Fish Grower Fish Food. Scientifically balanced to suit the nutritional needs of bass, bluegill, trout and perch, this superfood creates a strong, healthy fish population, and ensures that your stock is in great shape for fishing season.

Pond Talk: Do you feed your gamefish?

The Pond Guy Game Fish Grower Fish Food

My Fish Are Nibbling At My Toes When I Swim. Why Is This Happening And How Can I Stop It? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

My Fish Are Nibbling At My Toes When I Swim. Why Is This Happening And How Can I Stop It?

My Fish Are Nibbling At My Toes When I Swim. Why Is This Happening And How Can I Stop It?

Holly – Wiggins, CO

While we love hand feeding our fish from time to time, nothing ruins your day faster than taking a dip in your cool refreshing pond water only to be reduced to an overgrown chew toy. No one wants to swim in a pond where they feel they may be next one the menu, so how do you stop your touchy feely finned friends from taste testing you and your friends?

It is common to have the smaller prey fish in your pond try to make a quick meal out of your fingers and toes than their larger predator counterparts. It is a sign that your pond may be imbalanced, creating a shortage of food for your smaller fish. They are simply trying to find a snack wherever possible and that includes your precious phalanges. Keep tabs on your fish population to make sure you have a balanced ratio of 3 prey fish to every predator.

If you have an abundance of smaller fish in the pond you may want to introduce some minnows into the water to give them a quick and easy meal that can be replenished over time. If your pond does have an unbalanced population, investigate why this may be. Make sure you have adequate habitat in the pond for your small fish to hide and mature and if you feel your fish are having trouble finding enough food consider manually feeding them using a quality fish food like Game Grower Fish Food.

If you are not quite sure what or how to feed your fish read our Fish Food Blog. Also for some great tips on adding habitat to your pond click over to our Creating Habitat Blog.

Pond Talk: Do your fish nibble at you when you swim in your pond?

The Pond Guy Game Fish Grower Fish Food

What is the difference between regular Bluegill and Hybrid Bluegill? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

What is the difference between regular Bluegill and Hybrid Bluegill?

What is the difference between regular Bluegill and Hybrid Bluegill?

Dan – Toldeo, OH

Ask any thoroughbred Bluegill, and they’ll tell you there’s a huge difference. But the truth is, a Hybrid Bluegill is simply a cross between a Male Bluegill and a Female Sunfish. As it turns out, that combination produces a population that’s between 80% and 90% male.

There are effects of a predominantly male population. First – and most important – it slows down reproduction, which in turn prevents overpopulation. If left to their own devices, regular, non-hybrid Bluegills reproduce very quickly. Left unchecked, this means overcrowding – and all the negative ramifications that come with it. Also, with a predominantly male population, there’s also a natural tendency for fish not to ask directions. Fortunately, in a small, backyard pond, there’s really nowhere to get lost.

There are, however, some drawbacks to stocking your pond with hybrid Bluegills alone. Because reproduction is slower, natural cycles and predator fish may result in dwindling fish populations over time. In those situations, restocking with additional Bluegills and/or other feeder fish like minnows may be required every few years.

But for many ponds, hybrid Bluegills are an exceptional choice. Once they arrive, however, it’s important to make them feel welcome. We strongly recommend the use of Game Fish Food to satisfy hearty appetites. And for both predator protection and shade from the summer sun, our Fish Attractor Spheres are the perfect complement to your pond’s natural habitat.

Pond Talk: What type of bluegill do you stock in your pond?

Fish Attractor Spheres

What type of aeration is best for you? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

What type of aeration is best for you?

What type of aeration is best for you?
Britney – St. Louis, MO

When you call a pond home, it’s the little touches – like sufficient oxygen – that make life worth living. In fact, you might say they make life possible in the first place. No wonder we hear from so many fish singing the praises of our Airmax Aeration Systems.

Okay. We don’t actually hear from fish. But we do hear from customers. And they’re unequivocal in their appreciation of our versatile range of aeration systems, which leads to the critical question: how do you decide on the proper type of aeration for your pond?

Choosing the proper aeration system depends on a number of factors. First and foremost is the matter of pond volume. In order to ensure proper aeration, it’s important to choose an aeration system capable of circulating and oxygenating all of the water in your pond. With a system that’s too small, you’ll run the risk of both oxygen depletion and toxic gas buildup, resulting in the increased likelihood of fish kills, algae blooms and thickening pond muck.

Pond volume is determined a couple of key factors: pond depth and pond area. A third factor – pond shape – also plays into proper filtration. To address the issue of pond depth, we offer both deep water and shallow water aeration systems.

For deep water ponds, Airmax Deep Water Aeration models AM30 through AM 100 provide economical aeration designed to eliminate stratification, increase dissolved oxygen levels, decrease toxic gases, and prevent fish kills. By cycling water, these systems also help to fight algae blooms, while reducing bottom muck.

For shallow ponds, our Airmax Shallow Water Aeration models AM10 and AM20 provide effective, efficient aeration, using energy efficient dual diaphragm pumps to eliminate fish kills, reduce muck accumulation and inhibit weed growth.

The final consideration – pond shape – also plays an important role in ensuring proper aeration. For simple, contiguous shapes like circles and ovals, a properly-sized aeration system will fully circulate all water without the risk of stagnation. In circumstances where multiple ponds are interconnected, full circulation may require additional pumps. When in doubt, we strongly encourage you to give us a call. We’ll help you to make the right aeration decision – for you and your pond.

Pond Talk: Have you been looking for aeration for your pond?

Airmax Shallow Water Aeration Systems

Why do fish swim in schools? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Why do fish swim in schools?

Why do fish swim in schools?
Chris – Akron, OH

Most people are well aware that fish – most of them, anyhow – swim in tightly-knit groups known as schools. But when pressed for a rationale, few people know exactly why fish are so intent on sticking together. As it turns out, school is just as smart for fish as it is for people – but for some very different reasons. So, in no particular order, here they are.

There’s safety in numbers. When pond and lake predators look for a meal, they look for easy targets. And while a school of fish might seem like a logical choice, it’s actually easier to identify a single target – and track it down. Schools of fish, on the other hand, present multiple targets. And when a predator goes in for a snack, the school scatters, making it difficult to keep track of a single individual long enough to catch it.

But when survival’s at stake, group behavior can always use a helping hand. That’s why we recommend Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres. When placed in your pond, fish will enjoy improved spawning habitat, and young fish will have a great place to hide when predators are on the hunt. Using our Fish Attractor Spheres, you’ll see improved fish survival rates, healthier stocks, and, if you’re so inclined, better fishing.

The buddy system makes life easier. When a fish goes solo, he faces currents and resistance all alone. And when you have to fight resistance on your own, you have to work hard just to get where you’re going. In schools, however, a lazy fish can draft off the fish around him, significantly reducing resistance. By reducing the energy they need to expend, they can expend even less energy looking for food.

For a good paradigm, think of the Tour de France. During each stage of the race, a few aggressive riders typically break from the tightly-packed peloton. Those lead riders are often overtaken late in the race by riders who stuck with the peloton for the majority of the race to enjoy the benefit of riding behind and among other riders whose bodies reduced wind resistance and made the ride less fatiguing. The breakaway riders, on the other hand, are forced to work harder, making it tougher to maintain the lead. Migratory birds often employ the same tactic, flying in v-formations to reduce drag and conserve energy.

While schooling helps to preserve energy, it’s still important that your fish have the proper food to stay healthy, active, and capable of successful reproduction. We strongly recommend a scientifically-balanced food like Pond Logic Game Fish Grower Fish Food. Designed to promote optimal growth of game fish like bass, bluegill, trout and perch, the large pellets are high in protein, which helps to promote a strong, healthy fish population for more satisfying game fishing.

Having walked our way through fish that do school, it’s worthwhile to note that some simply don’t. In most cases, those fish have evolved with a different set of survival techniques – from hiding to aggression – that works just fine for them.

Pond Talk: Do you often see your fish swimming in a school in your pond?

Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres - 3 Pack

Help! There are a bunch of dead fish in my pond, what happened? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

Why do frogs/toads make so much noise?

Help! There are a bunch of dead fish in my pond, what happened?
Jason – Hastings, NE

The arrival of spring is an exciting time for pond owners. The weather is warming up, the sun is shining and the ice is melting away from the surface of your pond. Some pond owners however, find all of their fish floating dead at the water’s surface. While experiencing a winter fish kill is not the best way to start the season if you understand the cause you can prevent future occurrences.

Your pond is constantly absorbing and releasing air. As wind blows across the surface of the pond water ripples absorb oxygen into the water column. Decomposing organic debris at the bottom of the pond release a gas that floats to the surface of the pond where it is released into the atmosphere.

The layer of ice that forms over your pond blocks air exchange locking fresh oxygen out of the pond and harmful gas from decomposition in. Depending on the size of the pond and the amount of decomposing debris available, your fish can be overwhelmed and killed by the lack of fresh air.

Fish kills can also happen in the summer. Summer fish kills are typically caused by pond turnovers due to lack of proper aeration. The top layer of water in your pond carries more oxygen and reacts faster to temperature changes due to its exposure to the air. The bottom of your pond will tend to contain less oxygen, light and will be slower to warm up throughout the summer. These layers of water are referred to as stratification and are divided by thermoclines. If you have ever swam in your pond you may have noticed that your feet are colder than your chest as they break the thermocline in the water column. Your fish will find a happy medium in the water column where there is adequate oxygen and warmth.

Particular rainy or windy days can cause the thermocline in your pond to break. The bottom layer of water in your pond will mix together with the healthier top layer of water. As your fish have nowhere to flee to, they are trapped in the newly mixed pond water which can severely stress and even kill your fish.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to prevent winter and summer fish kills. An Bottom Diffused Aeration System like the Airmax® AM Series pumps fresh air to the bottom of your pond and breaks it into fine bubbles that can be absorbed into the water column. As the air bubbles rise through the water column they also circulate the water body making sure that your pond is evenly oxygenated and warmed. An abundance of oxygen promotes the presence of beneficial aerobic bacteria which will help break down organic waste faster and without the egg-like odor produced by the slow anaerobic bacteria in water that lacks oxygen. Running an aeration system in the winter can also eliminate your winter fish kills as the constant bubbling at the surface of your pond prevents ice formation and quickly breaks up layers of ice.

To further aid in your fish kill prevention, you will want to remove as much organic debris from the bottom of the pond as possible. Beneficial Bacteria products like PondClear™and MuckAway™ in tandem with EcoBoost™ will naturally digest gas and algae causing muck without having to chemically treat your pond. Cut down and drag away any dead cattail reeds and leaves with a Weed Cutter and Rake so that they are not left to decompose. The Pond Logic ClearPAC® Plus combines all the beneficial bacteria products you need along with pond dye and an option algaecide to eliminate the guesswork of selecting the proper pond care products.

Pond Talk: Did you find any surprises under the ice in your pond this spring? What are you doing to resolve the issue?

Aeration

There are some weeds in the pond but do I need to add anything else for my fish? | Pond & Lake Q&A

There are some weeds in the pond but do I need to add anything else for my fish?

There are some weeds in the pond but do I need to add anything else for my fish?
Kyle – Portland, ME

The fish in your farm pond or lake will definitely use weeds as a source of food and shelter but providing additional habitat is key for pond owners looking for a balanced fish population with large game fish.

Using pond weeds as a source of habitat for your fish population is an at times be a double edged sword to pond owners. While your fish will have somewhere to eat, hide and spawn you may not exactly enjoy seeing weeds taking over and greening up your pond. Snagged fishing hooks, expensive chemical treatments and a downright ugly pond can ruin any pond owner or fishermen’s day.

Porcupine Fish Attractors are constantly growing in popularity as they provide excellent structure for your fish population without the headaches caused by an abundance of aquatic weeds. Unlike pine trees and pallets these Fish Attractors will not bio-degrade or promote algae and weed growth. The PVC spines are easy to fish within and do not snag lures or tangle fishing line. While they are essentially a simple concept these plastic spheres go a long way in maintaining a healthy stock of fish. Simply use PVC Primer and Glue to secure ½” PVC pipe within the Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres and you have an instant fish habitat. The Fish Attractor structures sink to the bottom of your pond on their own but can be secured to weights using the pre-drilled hole in each plastic sphere for areas with wake or strong currents. When placed in small groups the fish attractor spheres create hiding places for both large and small game fish. Smaller fish can maneuver closer to the center of each sphere while larger fish can utilize the outer portions. Minnows and fry hide within the hollow interior of the PVC tubes. Providing an adequate amount of fish habitat gives your smaller species an opportunity to grow and reproduce.

If an unbalanced fish population is a concern click over to our Pond Stocking Blog for some tips on what to look for when stocking your pond and how to select the right types of fish for your pond. You can also read more on natural fish habitats versus their man-made counterparts another of our Fish Habitat Blogs.

Pond Talk: Have you tried the Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres? What do you use to create fish habitat?

Fish Attractor

The geese are already showing up at my pond. How can I stop them from making my pond home? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

The geese are already showing up at my pond. How can I stop them from making my pond home?

The geese are already showing up at my pond. How can I stop them from making my pond home?

Tracey – Akron, OH

As the warmer weather rolls in you will begin to notice a gathering of geese around your pond. While ponds are great for drawing wildlife some pond owners are hesitant to let geese congregate in their yard. How can geese become a nuisance in your pond and what can you do to keep them away?

If you have ever been to a park that is frequented by geese you will notice that they tend to cover the entire ground with droppings. This abundance of waste is less than ideal for those of you that swim in your pond. The additional influx of organic waste can also cloud your water and promote increased weed and algae growth. Geese can also carry problematic items from neighboring ponds. Duckweed and leeches commonly hitch a ride on the feet of water foul like geese and ducks which are then introduced into your pond as they loiter in your yard.

To prevent your pond from becoming the local hot spot for geese this season try placing a pair of floating swan decoys in the water when the ice melts. As geese are extremely territorial they will spot the swan decoys as they fly overhead and skip over your pond as they search for a less-crowded water body. Coyotes, Alligators and motion activated decoys are also available forms of predator control if you are looking for alternative options.

Whether or not you should let geese use your pond depends on what you want to use your pond for. If you use your pond for recreation or decorative purposes it will be in your best interest to keep them away. If your pond exists for reasons outside of recreation and you enjoy the additional sights and sounds of geese in the summer then rest assured that your feathered friends will be relieved to see your decoy free pond.

Pond Talk: What form of predator control works best to keep geese out of your pond? What kind of issues have geese caused in your pond and how have you resolved them?

Swan Decoy

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter?

What benefits are there for aerating during the winter?
Drew – Galata, MT

One of the best features of an aeration system is its ability to perform all season long. Your aeration system will play a major role in breaking down the leaves and debris that made its way into the pond during the fall which will promote a healthier pond throughout the winter and easier maintenance come spring. You’ve seen the benefits of aeration all summer long but what does your aeration system have to offer in the winter?

Even in cooler temperatures an aeration system will continue to circulate the contents of your pond and infuse oxygen into the water column. The cooler water will be able to hold more oxygen which is great for the overall health of the pond and its inhabitants. As the surface water cools in the pond it will start to sink towards the ponds bottom. This shift in water can potentially break the thermocline in your pond and force harmful water from the bottom of the pond to mix into the water column trapping your fish. This is referred to as a turnover and they can happen both in warm and cold temperatures in ponds that are not being aerated. You’ve also learned from our previous blogs that running your aeration system in the winter will keep holes open in the ice that allow an escape for toxic gasses and a hole for fresh air to enter the pond. You can also move your plates closer to the shoreline of your pond to keep water open and available for wildlife to drink and birds to swim. Encouraging wildlife to visit your yard is always nice in a season where your yard can sometimes seem bland and uneventful.

Although aeration is a simple and effective way to maintain your pond throughout the winter there are a couple scenarios that warrant a winter break. If you use your pond to skate or ice fish you will not want to run your aeration system as the constant friction not only opens holes in the ice above the plates but will also thin the ice in other areas.

If you do not yet have an aeration system installed in your pond, but would like to install one before the winter, it is best to have your aerator introduced before the ice begins to form. If your pond is not already aerated it is important that you run the system in short increments at first to prevent your own man-made turnover. Start by running it for about 30 minutes the day you install it and double the run time each day after. If you follow this method you should be running your aerator 1 hour the 2nd day, 2 hours the next, 4 hours on the 4th day and should be running the aeration system continuously by the end of the week. Browse over to our Airmax Aeration page for help selecting an aeration system that fits your pond. If you need additional help or have questions you can also feel free to contact one of our Pond Guys or Gals or post a comment on our blog page.

Pond Talk: Do you notice a healthier pond in the spring as a result of running your aeration system in the winter?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

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