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What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Steven – Johnstown, OH

A: If you stock game fish in your pond or lake, you better know your baitfish. Used as food for larger predatory game fish, these small swimmers are typically common species that breed rapidly. They’re easy to catch, easy to supply and easy to stock.

Freshwater baitfish include any fish of the minnow or carp family, sucker family, top minnow or killifish family, shad family, and some fish from the sculpin or sunfish family. Some common types that you’ll see in a recreational lake include fathead minnows, golden shiners, creek chub and white suckers. Let’s learn more about these specific types of fish and how to fatten them up for your bass and trout.

Fathead Minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a species of temperate freshwater fish whose natural geographic range extends throughout North America. The golden, or xanthic strain known as the rosy-red minnow, is a very common feeder fish sold in the United States. In the wild, the fathead appears dull olive-gray with a dusky stripe extending down its back and side. These guys will eat just about anything, and they prefer a water temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH range of 7.0 to 7.5. Its main predator is the northern pike.

Golden Shiner

The golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) is a cyprinid native to eastern North America. In the wild, these bait fish grow to 3 to 5 inches long and have dark green to olive body with a silvery white belly. They prefer quiet, weedy waters and are fairly tolerant of pollution, turbidity and low oxygen levels. They can tolerate temperatures as high as 104 degrees F – which is unusually high for a North American minnow – and they nosh on zooplankton, insects, plants and algae. Predators include trout and bass.

Creek Chub

The creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) is another type of minnow that’s found in the eastern United States and Canada. Growing up to 6 inches, they typically have a dark brown body, sometimes with brown spots, with a white lateral line. These hardy bait fish, which prefer water temperatures between 35 and 90 degrees F, gravitate toward weedy areas and prefer stream or river environments rather than lakes. They’ll gobble just about anything – including fish, insects, larvae and vegetation. Predators include trout and northern pike.

White Suckerfish

White suckerfish (Catostomus commersonii) are found in small streams, rivers and lakes in the Midwest and east coast of the United States. Reaching lengths between 12 and 20 inches, the white sucker has a dark green, gray, copper, brown or black-brown body with a light underbelly. They’re bottom feeders, and they’ll use their fleshy lips to suck up bottom sediment and other organisms that live there, including small invertebrates, algae and plant matter. Predators include walleye, trout, bass, northern pike and catfish.

Using Baitfish

When it comes to using bait fish, you have two options: stock your pond with them and keep a separate supply on hand to use when you do some fishing.

To stock your pond with bait fish, purchase a supply from your local sports shop or pet store and introduce them to your pond or lake after acclimating them. Be sure to provide a fish habitat for them, like one of the Honey Hole Attractor Logs, Shrubs or Trees, so they can safely reproduce (and fatten up!) and keep the population thriving.

In addition, grow bait fish in a separate tub or tank for use when you’re fishing. Be sure to keep the water cool and fresh to reduce stress, and keep the oxygen levels high with a bubbler. They might be able to tolerate less-than-ideal conditions, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be without their O2!

Pond Talk: How do you stock your pond with baitfish?

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

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

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?

Protect From Rodents &;amp Snakes - Scarecrow® SOL-R Action Owl

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