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I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish?

Q: I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish?

Dave – Gary, IN

A: Fish love weeds. The growing greenery and roots create a healthy ecosystem, help to naturally filter the water, and provide home-grown food for your pond inhabitants. When weed growth isn’t happening, the water tends to get murky and cloudy, and weak invasive plants tend to take root – neither of which benefits your fish. Aquatic weeds, when they’re well managed, are a good thing for your finned pals.

If a thriving fish population is what you’re after, we have some tips and tricks to share. In addition to encouraging some controlled natural weed growth, here are some ways to grow your fish numbers via an artificial fish habitat.

  • Bump Up the Bait Fish: Bait fish, including fathead minnows, golden shiners and threadfin shad, feed your game fish – so you should create a healthy ecosystem for them as well. Natural weeds work, but so do artificial fish habitats like our Pond King Honey Hole Shrub, Tree and Fish Attractor Logs. Thanks to an easy-to-assemble dense-cover dome made from long-lasting polyethylene tubing, these habitats provide ample space for algae and egg attachment, and promote the survival of young fish.
  • Plan Fishing Spots: One of the best features of using an artificial fish habitat is that you can position it wherever you want in your pond or lake and fish through it without snagging – so why not plan some ideal fishing spots while encouraging a healthy bait fish and game fish population? Experts recommend placing three of the same type of fish habitats in triangular clusters about 18 inches apart, near spots that have a sharp contrast in water depth or near a floating dock or pier.
  • Go Deep and Shallow: Because bait fish prefer spawning in shallow habitats and game fish prefer hanging out in deeper areas, use the Honey Hole Shrub or Honey Hole Log in the shallows and the Honey Hole Tree in water more than 6 feet deep. The 32-inches-tall-by-6-feet-wide shrub imitates a natural weed bed, while the 6-feet-tall-by-7-feet-wide tree mimics natural fish cover and attracts game fish like bass and crappie. In areas deeper than 15 feet, you can easily suspend the tree off the lake bottom by attaching a length of rope tied to a weight.
  • Aerate and Circulate: Of course, providing adequate aeration with an Airmax® Aeration System will ensure a healthy ecosystem for your fishes, too. The oxygenated water circulates throughout the water column, delivering that life-sustaining O2 to all of your lake’s inhabitants.

Both game and bait fish need a comfortable environment to thrive, and Fish Habitats make it easy for you to create an ideal ecosystem for them.

Pond Talk: How do you create a healthy sub-surface ecosystem for your game and bait fishes?

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

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?

Promote Rapid Fish Growth - The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food

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

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

Q: Should I put catfish in my pond?

Q: Should I put catfish in my pond?

Francis – Avalon, WI

A: Of all the fish species you could stock in your pond, catfish is an excellent choice. These bottom dwellers live in inland or coastal water on every continent, except Antarctica, and include some of the most varied fish on the planet. Channel catfish, the most common type stocked for sport fishing, thrives in shallow waters like your pond or lake.

Feeding Behavior
Catfish are well known for being scavengers. They’ll eat just about anything they can find on the bottom of a pond. Their anatomy makes this task easy – they are negatively buoyant, which means that they generally sink rather than float thanks to a small gas bladder. Catfish also sport a flattened head that allows for easy digging through debris, a mouth that acts as a substrate suction and a body covered in taste buds.

To supplement the natural diet of the catfish in your pond, we recommend adding Pond Logic® EcoBoost™. It adds more than 80 trace minerals to the water, promoting the fishes’ health and speeding their growth. We also suggest feeding Game Fish Grower Fish Food to ensure your catfish have enough food and to increase their overall size.

Ideal Environment
Channel catfish prefer warmer water (about 60° to 70°F) in areas with little or no currents. They thrive in small and large rivers, reservoirs, natural lakes and ponds. Channel cats are cavity nesters, meaning they lay their eggs in crevices, hollows or debris, to protect them from swift currents.

In your pond or lake, catfish won’t reproduce if they lack an adequate spawning structure. We suggest adding a Porcupine® Fish Attractor to help improve fishing conditions and provide an attractive habitat for catfish to spawn and grow.

Troubled Waters
Because these guys are bottom dwellers, they can stir up a lot of debris or clay. That will contribute to cloudy, murky water. Aeration can help. Airmax® Aeration Systems increase the oxygen in your pond, circulate the water, promote the colonization of beneficial aerobic bacteria and help maintain clear water.

Ultimately, your decision comes down to personal preference. Catfish are well suited for pond life. They have little effect on the predator-prey relationship in freshwater environments compared to predators like bass or prey like bluegills. Plus, they make for good fishing. What’s not to love about catfish!

Pond Talk: What are your top reasons for keeping catfish in your pond or lake?

Promotes Fish Health & Bacteria

When should I stock my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: When should I stock my pond?

Q: When should I stock my pond?

Floyd – Nevada, CA

A: Ahhh … there’s nothing quite like fishing for bass, perch or bluegill from your own private pond or lake. Whether you’re stocking a new pond, replenishing an existing pond after this year’s harsh winter or adding to an already-established population, here’s what you need to know about when and how to best do it.

  • Spring Stocking: Spring is the ideal time to stock your pond with fish. Temperatures are mild and oxygen levels are rising, so the stress factors affecting your fish will be at their lowest. Once acclimated to your pond, they’ll be primed to flourish. Fish can be added in the summer, but they’ll need a little more time to adjust.
  • Remove the Competition: Before you stock your pond or lake with desirable game fish, you’ll need to remove any unwanted wild fish. They’ll negatively impact your new fish population by competing for food and habitat—or they may eat your new fish. Trap them with our Tomahawk Live Trap, which will enable you to relocate them.
  • Happy Habitat: Make a home-sweet-home for your new fish by creating a top-notch habitat for the smaller fish to hide, grow and reproduce. Weeds, grasses, felled trees and other debris already in your pond will provide some cover, but a specially designed environment, like our Procupine® Fish Attractor Spheres, can improve on what’s already there. Just add some ½-inch sections of PVC pipe and the fish will be ready to move in.
  • Healthy Population: Keeping a healthy underwater ecosystem means creating a balanced fish population. We advise sticking to a ratio of three prey fish (like sunfish, bluegill or perch) to one predator fish (like bass) when choosing species. The number of fish you add to your population will ultimately depend on the surface area of your lake or pond. To help you calculate what’s best for your situation, here are some examples of stocking rates.
  • Fatten them Up: With your brood settled in, you want make sure they’re getting enough grub to thrive. A game fish food, like our Game Fish Grower Food, is a great way to provide the fish with protein and nutrients, bolster their immune systems, and grow healthy game fish. Plus, it’s a floating pellet—so you can enjoy watching them as they come to the surface and eat.

Spring stocking time is here! To find ready-to-stock game fish in your area, visit your local fishery. Happy fishing!

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite game fish to keep in your lake or pond?

The Pond Guy(r) Promote Fish Growth This Season - The Pond Guy(r) Game Fish Grower

We’ve had a pretty hard winter. What can I expect when the ice finally melts? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We’ve had a pretty hard winter. What can I expect when the ice finally melts?

Q: We’ve had a pretty hard winter. What can I expect when the ice finally melts?

Kevin – Downers Grove, IL

A: Yep, this has indeed been a long, cold winter for much of the country. We’ve shivered through frigid temperatures, shoveled and slogged through snow banks, and watched our ponds and lakes freeze over.

Unfortunately, that could mean trouble for your fish.

When the ice on your pond finally melts this spring, you might discover that your fish and other aquatic life haven’t survived the season. These winter fish kills occur when the ice prevents gas exchange and reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Michigan DNR fish production manager Gary Whelan says that shallow lakes, ponds and streams are particularly vulnerable to winterkill.

“Winterkill begins with distressed fish gasping for air at holes in the ice and often ends with large numbers of dead fish that bloat as the water warms in early spring,” he explains. “Dead fish and other aquatic life may appear fuzzy because of secondary infection by fungus, but the fungus was not the cause of death. The fish actually suffocated from a lack of dissolved oxygen from decaying plants and other dead aquatic animals under the ice.”

You can’t bring your fish back to life, but you can prevent winterkill from happening in the future by aerating your pond year-round with an Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration System. Here’s how it works:

  • It reduces the amount of decomposing debris in the pond, encouraging the colonization of beneficial aerobic bacteria, which prevents muck and nutrient accumulation and maintains clear water.
  • It keeps an air hole open in the ice, allowing harmful gases to escape while delivering fresh oxygen to your fish.
  • It pumps even more fresh oxygen into the water via diffusers that sit on the bottom of the pond.

A little pond preparation can go a long way, especially when it comes to unknown variables like weather. Let’s hope next winter is milder than this one was!

Pond Talk: Have you experienced a winterkill in your pond or lake before?

Airmax(r) Aeration is Easy to Install - Airmax(r) Pond Series(t)

My fish population is growing rapidly, but how do I know if my fish population is balanced? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

: My fish population is growing rapidly, but how do I know if my fish population is balanced?

Q: My fish population is growing rapidly, but how do I know if my fish population is balanced?

Dennis – Rock Island, IL

A: A balanced fish population in your pond is key for a healthy, thriving ecosystem. The best way to start figuring out your fish population is to know what you already have in your pond.

Start by sampling the population you already have by using a fish trap, or fishing out a sample population of fish and inspecting them for size and type.

Next, figure what might be needed to keep the population in check if something is out of balance. When sampling, if you notice you are only pulling out prey fish such as bluegill or perch, then your pond is either on the verge or already overpopulated with prey fish. To keep them in check, either fish out the prey fish or add more predators such as bass. Conversely, if you are only pulling out small bass, then your pond is in need of stocking prey fish.

If your pond is balanced, you should notice a population of fish relatively the same size, and the ideal ratio of about three prey fish to one predator fish.

When introducing the right balance, be sure there is a safe habitat for the fish, especially if you are introducing small fish with an already present population of larger fish. The Porcupine® Fish Attractor Spheres are perfect for this. Release feeder minnows at one end of the pond to attract larger fish and introduce new, small fish at the other end or near a habitat so they have a chance to hide in the pond. Feeder minnows should be stocked every season as they provide good stock food for larger fish, and they reproduce quickly to maintain a living food source.

Pond Talk: How often do you check your predator:prey ratio in your pond?

Provide Refuge And Attract Fish - Porcupine® Fish Attractors Spheres

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