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Is there anything special I need to do to stock my pond this spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is there anything special I need to do to stock my pond this spring?

Q: Is there anything special I need to do to stock my pond this spring?

Bryan – Flowery Branch, GA

A: Fish are fun to catch and entertaining to watch, they also help maintain a balanced backyard ecosystem. There’s nothing quite like fishing for bass, perch or bluegill from your own pond or lake. Whether you’re stocking a new pond, replenishing an existing pond 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 fish attractor spheres or logs, can improve on what’s already there.

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

Should we stock hybrid bluegill in our pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Should we stock hybrid bluegill in our pond?

Q: Should we stock hybrid bluegill in our pond?

George – Girard, IL

A: A cross between a male bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and a female sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), a hybrid bluegill is an easy-to-catch, fast-growing game fish that makes a fun addition to recreational ponds and lakes. Here’s what you need to know about them and how to best stock them in your pond.

A Better Bluegill

Besides being the state fish of Illinois, regular bluegill are well known for being a feisty, delicious pan fish that thrive in streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. They grow to between 6 and 10 inches long, and appear olive green with an orange underbelly. Their uniform blue-black markings on their gills and fins give them their “bluegill” name. The problem with these fish, however, is that they tend to reproduce very quickly if they’re in a lake with few suitable predators.

That overpopulation situation is solved with hybrid bluegills. When the male bluegill and female sunfish mate, the resulting brood is 80 to 90 percent male. As a result, reproduction slows and the population count is kept in check – but you still have a healthy number of tasty fish growing in your pond.

Stocking Up

When stocking hybrid bluegill, your first step is to determine whether you have fish living in your pond and, if so, what types you have. If you’re unsure, use a fish trap or do some fishing to get a sample.

Hybrid bluegill are still bluegill, so their population will need to be kept in check. Ideally, you should have some predator fish, like bass or walleye, living in your pond. They should be around the same size as the hybrid bluegill so the two populations grow together. Plan to stock one predator fish for every three prey fish; for instance, if you stock 150 hybrid bluegill, also stock approximately 50 bass.

In addition to predator fish, stock some forage species, like minnow or shiners, too. This will give the small fish a chance to grow and provide everyone – predators and bluegill – with something to eat.

Home Sweet Home

Minnows and shiners will provide some sustenance for hybrid bluegill, but commercial fish food, like The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food, will be gobbled down, too. Packed with protein for fast growth, the diet contains all the nutrients the bluegill need to thrive.

The fish will also appreciate some safe hiding spots, fish habitats and spawning areas. We offer a range of habitats, including fish attractors and spawning discs, that’ll make those bluegill feel right at home.

Pond Talk: Has your bluegill population ever exploded in your pond? What did you do to control their overpopulation?

Great for All Types of Game Fish - The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food

I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Scott – Fairfield, IA

A: Fish can be finicky eaters sometimes – particularly when something changes their routine. If your fish aren’t eating their Game Fish Grower Fish Food, it’s likely due to one of these three reasons:

  1. Spooked By Predators
    Have you noticed signs of predators prowling around your pond? Have you seen tiny footprints, disturbed areas around the perimeter or unfamiliar droppings? Raccoons, herons and other fish foes can spook fish and cause them to stay far below the water surface. When they do come up, they pop to the top, check for food and dive quickly back to their safe zone. If this sounds familiar, look more closely for tracks or telltale clues and find yourself a deterrent (or live trap).
  2. Under the Weather
    Sickness, injuries or an inhospitable environment can also change your fish’s eating habits. Check your fish when they come to the surface: Do you notice any sores, red spots or torn fins on your fish? If so, you may need to determine the cause of the illness and treat it accordingly. Have they been gasping at the surface instead of showing interest in pellets? This could be a sign that your water needs more oxygen. Crank on your aeration system (or add one if you don’t have one). Changing temperatures could be causing the cooler and warmer waters to stratify, and an aeration system will keep the water column mixed.
  3. Wintertime Blues
    With the changing season comes a decrease in fish’s metabolisms – and appetite. Remember that fish go into hibernation and stop eating during the winter. If they appear to act normal but just shy away from their favorite diet or eat less of it, they’re most likely responding to the changing water temperature and preparing for the cold weather. Check your pond’s water temperature with a pond thermometer, and cut back feeding and stop entirely when the water temp dips to 45 to 50 degrees F.

Pond Talk: How have your game fish started preparing for winter?

Provide Balanced Nutrition - The Pond Guy(r) Game Fish Grower Fish Food

I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles?

Q: I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles?

Virginia – Brillion, WI

A: Turtles are smart critters. Unless your terrapins are terrarium-dwellers that aren’t accustomed to the great outdoors, they instinctively know what to do to prepare for winter. They take their cues from Mother Nature—so you can simply let them do their thing!

And what is that thing? Read on to learn more.

Winter Home-Sweet-Home

When air and water temperatures start to chill and their food source become scarce, turtles will slow their metabolisms and look for a place to hole up for the winter. Different types of turtles prefer different types of winter homes; water-loving turtles will swim to the bottom of the pond while land-based turtles, like a box turtle, will burrow in the dirt or mud at or near the pond surface, where they’ll stay warm and cozy.

Metabolism Changes

Just like fish, turtles will stop eating as their metabolism naturally slows to a cold-weather crawl. They’ll start to hibernate—or brumate, as termed in herpetology—when they’ll require very little oxygen, their heart rate will slow to just a few beats per minute and they’ll sleep the winter away, only to wake up in the spring when temperatures increase again.

Provide a Welcoming Environment

Though turtles don’t need a lot of oxygen while they’re hibernating, they do appreciate a healthy pond with clean, O2-infused water. Provide that to them by completing your fall-maintenance chores, like cleaning up dead or dying debris, and keeping your aeration system running over the winter. That moving, oxygenated water will ensure your shelled pond pals will get a good winter’s sleep.

Pond Talk: What kinds of turtles do you have around your pond or lake?

Oxygenate Your Pond All Winter Long - Airmax(r) PondSeries(tm) Aeration Systems

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

What is the best way to keep herons from eating my fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is the best way to keep herons from eating my fish?

Q: What is the best way to keep herons from eating my fish?

Jim – Milford, MI

A: Herons are beautiful birds – but they see your fish as their own personal sushi bar. Because they’re intelligent creatures, you’ll need to get creative when it comes to keeping them at bay. Before we dive into scare-away strategies, let’s learn more about them.

IDing a Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons’ range covers the entire North American continent. They’re partial migrants; they summer in the upper Midwest and Canada, winter in Mexico and hang out all over the rest of the United States all year long.

Sporting blue-gray plumage with a black stripe over their eyes and a thick dagger-like beak – not to mention a 6-foot wing span and 4-foot-long body – these guys are easy to spot. They stand like statues or walk slowly on long legs as they stalk fish and other prey in freshwater ponds, saltwater wetlands, estuaries, grasslands and fields.

In the air, these big birds fly with slow wing beats, reaching 30 miles per hour and at an altitude of 80 to 90 feet as they scan the land below for reflections in fish ponds. When they find one that looks appetizing, they’ll quietly cruise in and wade like feathered ninjas, waiting for their next meal to hop, walk or swim by. They’ll eat anything within striking distance, from fish and amphibians to reptiles, small mammals, insects and even other birds.

Herons prefer hunting, foraging and dining alone. In fact, they’ll fiercely defend their territory, putting on dramatic displays of dominance should a competitor fly in. They’ll throw their heads back, point their bill skyward and outstretch their wings, chasing the other bird (or human!) away.

Protecting Your Fish

Because of the herons ninja-like skills, you might not know right away if one has been nabbing your fish – especially if you have a larger pond. If your fish were used to being fed in particular spot and tended to hang out around the edge but suddenly stay away or loiter at the bottom, that’s a sign that something’s amiss.

So how can you discourage the birds from seeing your pond as their dinner table? Here are some tricks to try:

  • Use a heron decoy. A decoy like the Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy, in your pond. Herons are territorial, and so if they see that another heron has claimed the pond, they’ll keep flying by. Pro tip: Avoid using heron decoys during mating season, which is generally April and May but may vary depending on your location. The decoy may actually attract birds looking for a mate …
  • Create obstacles around the pond. Herons land around the perimeter of a pond and walk up to the water. Obstacles, like clear fishing line strung around the pond perimeter make access difficult by creating an impassable barrier that they would need to step over. Don’t worry: It won’t obscure your view of the pond.
  • Startle them with water. For ponds smaller than 1200 sq. ft. a motion-activated sprayer, like the Contech ScareCrow®, detects movement up to 40 feet away and spritzes the predator with water. It’s designed to startle them and scare them away.
  • Provide hiding places for your fish. Just in case a heron does find its way into your pond, give your fish a place to hide. Portions of submerged large-diameter pipe or beds of weeds work well, as does the addition or other fish habitat.

Experts recommend using a variety of methods to chase away these hungry birds because they will eventually figure out the decoy, obstacles and sprays of water are harmless. But be vigilant! Your fish will appreciate the effort!

Pond Talk: How do you scare away heron from your pond or lake?

Protect Your Fish From Predators - Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy

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

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