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How Do I Balance My Fish Population? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How Do I Balance My Fish Population?

How Do I Balance My Fish Population?

Diana – Aurora, OR

A balanced fish population is key for creating a healthy, thriving ecosystem. Getting a handle on your current pond inhabitants is a great 1st step to achieving balance.

Start by sampling the current fish population using a fish live trap or fishing pole to catch and record the number, size & species of fish in your pond. You may notice, for example, that you are catching a large number of small predator fish like bass but very few prey fish like bluegill, perch or sunfish. This could signal an unbalanced ratio of predator fish to prey fish.

After analyzing your catch, determine the types of fish that are needed to rebalance the population. The ideal stocking ratio is 3 prey fish to each predator. If you are experiencing an abundance of small predators then stock up on prey fish or vice versa if you are catching an excessive amount of small prey fish. As your pond begins to balance you should notice an overall increase in the size and health of your fish along with an even yield of both predators & prey when trapping or fishing.

It is important to provide adequate habitat for young fish to develop and grow before being consumed by larger established fish populations. Fish Attractor Spheres are an ideal addition to any pond with fish. Smaller fish can hide in the narrower spaces closer to the sphere, large fish can navigate only the outermost regions of the attractor and minnows can hide within the open holes at the end of each pvc “arm”.

When adding your new fish to the pond, try to introduce feeder minnows at one side to preoccupy predator fish while your new fish are being added at the other end of the pond. This will give them more time to acclimate to the pond and find a place to hide. Feeder minnows can be added each season as they reproduce quickly and provide a naturally replenishing food source for your large fish.

Tomahawk Live Traps

What Is A Hybrid Bluegill? Should I Put Them In My Pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

What Is A Hybrid Bluegill? Should I Put Them In My Pond? What Is A Hybrid Bluegill? Should I Put Them In My Pond?

Richard – Sheridan, IL

Stocking up on fish for your pond can be fun and exciting, but if you’re thinking of adding bluegill, knowing some of the key differences between hybrid and regular bluegill will help you maintain a balanced pond.

Regular bluegill can grow to be anywhere between six and ten inches, and are olive green with an orange underbelly. They have uniform blue-black markings on the gills and fins, hence the name bluegill. The issue with regular bluegill is they reproduce quickly and can take over a pond very fast if there is not a suitable predator fish population keeping them in check. We recommend stocking your pond with hybrid bluegill to help prevent overpopulation.

Hybrid bluegill are a cross between male bluegill and female sunfish, which result in an 80%-90% of the population being reproduced male. This slows down fast reproduction by keeping the female population to a minimum. Do to their hybrid nature, they can also be slightly larger and have a bit more coloration to them than regular bluegill.

Whenever stocking any type of bluegill, keeping the population in check is key. To do this you must have the correct ratio of predator fish such as bass or walleye. We recommend a 3 to 1 ratio between prey and predator. This means for every 3 prey, you need one predator. For example, if you stock 150 bluegill you will want approximately 50 bass.

When stocking your pond with bluegill, use hybrid bluegill. They are still great for fishing and with these fish attractors, you’ll have plenty of action!

POND TALK: Have you ever had an overpopulation of bluegill in your pond? What did you do to keep the population in check?

Tomahawk Live Traps - Fish Trap

Should I put catfish in my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Should I put catfish in my pond?

Should I put catfish in my pond?
Steven – Middlebrook, VA

Catfish are some of the most diverse fish on the planet, both in behavior and appearance, and inhabit just about every continent except Antarctica. They live in shallow, freshwater environments, which can make them ideal for pond life here in North America. We generally only recommend channel catfish for ponds since they are the most common, but it will largely depend on your pond type and temperature. Catfish generally prefer warmer water (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit) with little to no currents, and since they are bottom feeders, they are drawn to darker areas.

They are also known to make for good fishing, and in warm environments they can be easy to farm and/or eat, and are very tasty if cooked properly. Fisherman and pond owners alike can use these Porcupine® Fish Attractors to help improve fishing conditions and to provide an adequate habitat for Catfish to spawn and grow. In addition we also recommend using this Game Grower Fish Food to guarantee your fish have food and to increase their overall size.

Catfish have little effect on the predator-prey relationship in freshwater environments comparative to predators like bass or prey like bluegills. They also pose no threat to humans, unless you’re planning on doing any swimming in eastern Europe, where there have been rare instances of large catfish (the 6 foot, 200 pound kind) attacking humans. Their only relative drawback is that they tend to kick up a lot of bottom debris, which can lead to cloudy, murky pond water.

In the end, putting catfish in your pond comes down to personal preference, rather than something that should or should not be done. They are well suited for pond life and will have little (if any) negative impact on the ecosystem already in place. It also doesn’t hurt that they can be pretty good to eat and easy to farm.

Porcupine® Fish Attractor Spheres

My pond isn’t frozen yet, but I can’t see my fish. Are they okay? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

My pond isn’t frozen yet, but I can’t see my fish. Are they okay?

My pond isn’t frozen yet, but I can’t see my fish. Are they okay?
Stephanie – Harpursville, NY

Fish are survivors. And when the water starts getting cold, they head for deeper waters, where the chilling effects of winter air are less pronounced. Provided there’s adequate aeration, your fish will likely linger at the bottom throughout the colder months. As a result, they’ll be much less visible – but the odds are extremely good they’re doing just fine.

In order to ensure there’s sufficient oxygen for the winter, some people opt to keep their aeration systems active all year ‘round. At the very least, though, it’s important to maintain a vent hole when – or if – your pond ices over. The vent hole allows harmful decomposition gases to escape, allowing fish to winter safely. And because their metabolism slows during the winter months, a properly vented pond will likely have sufficient oxygen to ensure the survival of your fish until springtime.

Fish, it turns out, are extremely resilient. After wintering in the lower reaches of your pond, your fish will gradually return to the upper levels once water temperatures start to rise. In general, it’s probably a good sign when fish become less visible. If they’re struggling, it’s far more likely you’d see them at the edges of your pond. So while you might miss them, your invisible fish are probably doing just fine.

Pond Talk: Have you noticed less fish movement in your pond recently?

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 Great 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?

Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy

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 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 Fish 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

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