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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

I saved my Christmas tree. Can I use it for a fish habitat in my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

I saved my Christmas tree. Can I use it for a fish habitat in my pond?

Q: I saved my Christmas tree. Can I use it for a fish habitat in my pond?

Peter – Cedar Rapids, IA

A: Great question! Sure, after the holidays have come and gone, it makes complete sense to use your dried-up Christmas tree as a fish habitat. You’re benefitting the environment by repurposing the tree rather than sending it to the dump, and you’re saving money by providing your fish a free all-natural habitat.

Plus, your finned friends will love it. Though they probably won’t pile presents under a submerged Christmas tree, your fish can use it as a cozy place to hide from predators and a safe and effective spawning zone.

There are some drawbacks, however, to tossing a spent holiday tree in your lake or pond.

Because it is an organic object, a tree’s trunk, limbs and needles will break down and decompose over a long period of time. This all-natural process will contribute to the nutrient load in your lake’s water—and that means an increase in algae and weed growth.

Not only that, but the tree’s tight interwoven branches make a great hiding place from your fish hook, which means you’ll have a harder time catching them for dinner!

So rather than throw your Christmas tree into your lake or pond, you should use it as firewood to fuel a lakeside bonfire instead. And if you really want to give your fish a new habitat for Christmas, invest in one that befits the fish while keeping the pond clean, such as the Porcupine® Fish Attractor Spheres. When you outfit these 6-inch-diameter units with 26 lengths of ½-inch PVC pipe, they become ideal habitats that are effective without impeding fish catches or adding algae-loving nutrients to your water.

Pond Talk: What do you typically do with your Christmas tree after the holidays?

Porcupine® Fish Attractor Spheres - Provide Refuge & Attract Fish

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

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

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them?

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them? Dustin – Vortex, KY

Which Fish?

So you’ve seen some fish swimming beneath the surface of your pond. Maybe they’ve even taken a nibble or two at your toes while you are swimming. Regardless of how you use your pond you would still probably like to know what types of fish are swimming beneath the surface. For all of you curious pond guys and gals out there who want to be better acquainted with their fish we present to you a blog on getting to know your fish. While there are many fish in the sea, there tends to be a slightly small selection in your pond. Let’s review the characteristics of some of the most common:

Bluegill

Bluegill / Hybrid Bluegill – Bluegill are one of the most common types of game fish introduced into lakes and backyard ponds. The body of a Bluegill is deep, robust, and cichlid-like. The mouth is small and the front of the dorsal fin is spiny. Bluegill are typically olive-green in color with five to seven dark vertical bands which fade as they approach the middle of the fish. Their belly is a creamy color and the pectoral and pelvic fins are often pigmented with white. There is a black opercular spot just behind the top of the gill and another on the back of the dorsal fin. The typical Bluegill will grow to a maximum of 10” in length and weigh in at around 1 pound, the largest caught weighing just under 5 pounds. Bluegill are a relatively hardy fish that thrive in water temperatures ranging from 39 to 72 degrees, feeding off of vegetation, insects and worms. Bluegill will spawn in water temperatures between 67 to 80 degrees in saucer shaped nests located in the sandy or gravel covered shallow areas of water. While people enjoy fishing and eating Bluegill they are also great food source for larger predator fish like Bass.

Bass

Bass – The Largemouth Bass is considered to be one of the most prized game fish in North America. Largemouth Bass are similar to the spotted bass and small-mouth bass but can be distinguished by the deep curvature of its dorsal fin and an upper jaw that extends past its eye. They are a rather slender and streamlined fish with colors that range from dark green on top, silvery green to yellow flanks, to a yellowish-white belly. Their sides are commonly accented with a dark and irregular strip. The average Bass will grow to around 16” in length and weigh in at or below 10 pounds with the worlds largest weighing a little over 22 pounds. Largemouth Bass are best suited for temperate or warmer water flourishing in temperatures around 80 degrees. Though tolerant of turbid water, Largemouth Bass favor clear water, sandy shallows, and abundant rooted aquatic weeds or slow moving rivers and streams with soft bottoms. Many species of pondweeds, water lilies, coontail, elodea, cattails, and bulrushes provide excellent cover. It has a widely varied diet that emphasizes on bluegill, minnows and other small fish as well as frogs and smaller animals like birds or young muskrats. Its predatory nature helps to keep bluegill from overpopulating. Bass spawn in early May and into June in firm sandy areas 2’ to 6’ deep when water temps are in the 60 degree range.

Perch

Perch – While they don’t grow large enough to be considered a prize game fish, the Yellow Perch is most sought after for its excellent table fare. Yellow Perch have bright yellow or yellow/green oval shaped bodies with a back ranging from a bright green to a golden brown. They are accented by seven dark, tapering, vertical bars, running from their back down to their grayish belly. Yellow Perch range from 6 to 12 inches in length and weigh in between 6 to 16 ounces with the largest catch weighing 4 pounds 3 ounces. Perch prefer cool clear water and should be stocked in lakes where the water temperatures remain below 80 degrees year-round. Yellow perch feed on zooplankton, insects, snails, and other small fish and are considered a prey fish rather than a predator. Yellow Perch become sexually mature at 5 to 7 inches and spawn in the early Spring when the water temperatures are between 45 to 55 degrees. The yellow perch makes an excellent forage fish for cool-water predators such as walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike.

Catfish

Catfish – Channel Catfish are growing in popularity among sport fishermen due to its large size, hard fighting ability, and tasty flesh. Catfish are characterized by scale-less skin and barbells, better known as whiskers, about their mouth. Channel Catfish can be distinguished from other catfish by the presence of dark spots on its body and a deeply forked tail. Channel Catfish have awesome growth potential reaching lengths of 4 feet, the world record catch in South Carolina weighing in at 58 pounds. Channel Catfish prefer clear slow moving water but can also tolerate muddy water. Channel Catfish are scavengers and will eat just about anything it can find including live fish and game fish food. They are sensitive to light and will typically reside at the bottom of ponds and lakes. Channel Catfish usually become sexually mature when they reach at least 11” but do not generally reproduce in ponds due to the absence of an adequate spawning structure. A suitable structure can be installed by placing buckets or drain tile in depths of 3 to 4 feet of water along the pond bottom. They tend to spawn from May to July when water temperatures reach 75 degrees.

Walleye

Walleye – One of the most popular game fish in North America, the Walleye is second only to the Largemouth Bass. While it is not the most spectacular fighter, Walleye are quite tasty on the table. Walleye sport an elongated torpedo shaped body with highly variable coloring. Their bodies can range from olive green to brown to yellowish gold often marked with brassy flecks. They have no distinct markings or bars but instead an overall mottling of brown or black and a white belly. Walleye grow to be anywhere from 13” to 25” in length and weigh in between 13 and 22 pounds. The maximum recorded Walleye measured 42 inches in length and weighed 25 pounds. Walleye are considered a cool water fish preferring warmer water than Trout but cooler water than Bass and Bluegill. They enjoy water bodies with sand or gravel bottoms near vegetation though they don’t reside within it. Walleye have a special reflective layer of pigment in their eyes to help increase visibility in their favored dark and turbid waters. Yellow Perch, Whitefish and minnows are the food of choice for Walleye but they will also eat insects, frogs and small mammals. Walleye will spawn in early Spring when water temperatures are around 42 to 50 degrees. They tend to choose locations with rocky or gravel coated substrate in 1’ to 6’ depths where moving water is present. Neither parent cares for their eggs in any way.

Crappie

Crappie – Another popular sunfish behind the Bluegill, the Crappie is considered an excellent game fish when taken on light tackle and its flaky white flesh is considered very tasty. Crappie are similar in body shape to other sunfish but can be differentiated by connected dorsal fins that lack a notch and contain seven or eight spines. They also have a large anal fin consisting of 6 spines that is nearly as large as their dorsal fin. Their bodies range from dark olive or brown to a metallic green with a silver or blue cast with black mottling throughout. Crappie grow close to a foot in length and can weigh between 2 to 4 pounds. The largest Crappie caught weighed in at just over 5 pounds. Crappie prefer clear water with plenty of aquatic vegetation and mucky or sandy bottoms. They are highly intolerant of turbid water. Crappie eat insects and their larva as a primary food source but will also eat small fish and minnows as well. Like Bluegill, Crappie nest in sandy areas or places with fine gravel in depths of 3 to 8 feet of water. They typically spawn in May to June when water temperatures are within the 58 to 64 degree range.

Trout

Trout – One of the largest of the freshwater fish, it is endowed with a flesh of superb eating quality and is eagerly sought by commercial, sport, and subsistence fishermen. Trout typically grow to be around 27” in length and weight between 3 to 9 pounds but are known to grow to lengths exceeding 4’ and weigh over 100 pounds. The largest on record weighs 102 pounds and measures 49.6 inches in length. Lake Trout are the least colorful of all Trout with a light green, grey, brown or blackish torpedo shaped body covered with irregular lighter colored spots. Lake Trout sport a deeply forked tail and reddish-orange pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Lake Trout are truly a cold water fish preferring water temperatures around 50 degrees. Most anglers fish for Trout in the cooler early seasons via fly or spin fishing and have to resort to long lines and heavy lures in the warmer months as the fish retreat to cooler waters. Lake Trout feed mostly off of other fish, insects and small mammals. It takes around eight years for Lake Trout to sexually mature, meaning heavy fishing demand can dramatically deplete the Trout population. They do not build nests or beds by simply scatter eggs among large cobble or boulder substrates in depths of up to 40’ in late autumn.

You may have a harder time finding Trout or Bass in your pond in comparison to Bluegill as they tend to be a bit less social. You can take inventory of the fish in your pond by trying to fish them out or by using a Fish Trap. When stocking or manipulating your fish population be sure to provide adequate habitat for smaller prey fish to hide from predators and grow. You can achieve this by installing Fish Attractor Spheres or by providing aquatic plants. Take a look at our Pond Stocking Blog and Fish Habitat Blog to learn more about predator/prey ratios and implementing habitat.

POND TALK: Which types of fish are present in your pond? Which do you feel are the best to fish or eat?

Attract tons of gamefish to your pond!

How Can I Create a Fish Habitat Without Overtaking My Pond With Weeds? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Porcupine Fish Attractor
How Can I Create Fish Habitat Without Overtaking My Pond With Weeds? Tyler – Elmo, UT

There’s No Place Like Home

Your fish require adequate habitat to live, reproduce, and grow but who’s really keen on letting weeds overtake their entire pond to aid the cause. Fortunately there are some tricks to help control the natural habitat in your pond and even a few alternatives that can work just as effectively.

Most of us can agree that having a bit of plant life in our ponds is a good thing, but at what point does it get out of hand and become a nuisance? Aquatic Plants help reduce your ponds sun exposure and nutrient load which naturally encourages a cleaner pond with less algae blooms. Lillies can add some color to your pond while cattails will provide a natural wall around areas of your yard giving you a little extra privacy. When aquatic plants are appropriately implemented  they are both functional and attractive. The key to keeping your plants in check is by giving them boundaries. Mark the areas of your pond that you feel are best suited for aquatic plants, away from your beach area and dock, this way you will have a visual reference when checking if the plants are trying to spread out of control. You can then remove the plants that grow outside their appropriate areas with Pond Tools or Aquatic Herbicide when necessary.

For those of you with no interest in flexing their green thumbs, Fish Attactors may be the perfect habitat for your pond. These plastic spheres accept 1/2″ PVC pipe which you cut to a length of your choosing. The PVC pipes form a pattern that provides shelter for smaller fish while keeping larger predators at bay. The hollow ends of the PVC pipe also provide an excellent place for minnows to spawn. If you like to fish in your pond, these attractors have a huge advantage over natural habitat as they do not hang up your lure. Man made habitat like the fish attractor won’t contaminate your pond or bio-degrade so you don’t have to replace your habitat each season.

It is not uncommon for people to sink pine trees, pallets, cinder blocks, bricks, and other miscellanous items in their pond. These things will provide coverage to your fish but they may also have adverse effects on your water quality as well. Items that bio-degrade in your pond will add to your nutrient load, so if your are considering sinking a tree or some wood skids in your pond make sure you are compensating with additional PondClear™ or MuckAway™ to keep nutrients at bay. Also if you swim in your pond, keep in mind that while some products are degradeable they may be held together with nails or staples. Before adding objects into your pond make sure they are clean and they do not contain any contaminates that will pollute the water. Plastic containers, for example, may provide shelter to your finned friends but what were they previously holding? Oily residues or trace chemicals left that remain on these products can be harmful to your ponds ecosystem so use caution before you sink them in the water.

Advanced planning and considerations will make all of the difference in keeping your pond and its inhabitants happy and healthy. Choosing the habitats that work best in your unique scenario and implementing them correctly will ensure your pond is full of life for years to come.

POND TALK: What types of fish habitat do you use in your pond?

Porcupine Fish Attractor, Pack of 3 Spheres

How Do I Stock Fish In My Pond? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Largemouth Bass

Q: How Do I Stock Fish In My Pond? – Ellie in Massachusetts

Where’s The Fish?
Both fishing enthusiasts and pond hobbyists alike can appreciate the presence of a healthy fish population in their pond. While they are fun to catch and entertaining to watch, they also help maintain a balanced backyard ecosystem. As is true with most aspects of your pond, the key to maintaining an enjoyable environment is balance. When stocking your pond, you will want to add a combination of both predator (largemouth bass for example) and prey fish (bluegill or perch). Your predator fish won’t fare too well without prey fish on their menu. If you stock your pond with prey fish only, there will be few factors regulating their population which can lead to an uncomfortably high fish population. When stocking your pond, aim for a 3:1 prey to predator ratio to ensure your predator fish have a reasonable meal selection. Maintaining a clean pond with plenty of aeration will promote a robust and healthy fish selection. Most man-made ponds lack adequate habitats, so make sure you provide options like a Fish Attractor that provides a retreat for the smaller up-and-coming fish.

Every Fish Has Its Day
Our local customers can take advantage of The Pond Guy semi-annual Fish Day, which takes place on the 8th of May. Fish Day is a great opportunity to meet with other pond owners, speak with the friendly and knowledgeable Pond Guy staff, and browse our wide selection of pond products from Pond Dye to aeration. Customers can pre-order online or over the phone until May 7th; orders will be available for payment and pick-up on May 8th between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will be a wide selection of both predator and prey fish available for purchase, including Hybrid Bluegill, Perch, Catfish and Bass. Walk-ins are welcome, but selection will be limited by availability.

POND TALK: What types of fish do you keep in your pond?

The Pond Guy presents Fish Day 2010 on May 8th

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