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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

 

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After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond?

Q: After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond?

Dennis – Blythewood, SC

A: There’s nothing like climbing out of your pond and finding one (or more!) of these little blood suckers stuck to your leg. What are they, and how do you banish them from your pond?

Getting to Know Leeches

Leeches are 2-inch-long brownish-black segmented worms that are a distant cousin to the earthworm. They use their suction cup-like mouths and teeth to latch on to vertebrate and invertebrate animals, feeding on their blood. Of the 700 different leech species, the majority live in freshwater environments, like your swimming pond.

Leeches love to live in the debris at the bottom of your pond. In all that muck accumulation, they get comfortable, find food and hide from predators—also known as fish—swimming overhead.

Despite their bad reputation, leeches aren’t all bad. Up until the 18th and 19th centuries, these worms had been used medicinally on humans to improve and restore blood circulation. The practice waned for a time—likely a combination of the yuck factor and modern medicine—but it’s slowing coming back into favor.

Kicking Leeches to the Curb

Unless you practice leech therapy, you probably want to evict those invertebrates from your pond. The best way to do that is to remove their preferred habitat—all the muck and debris covering the bottom of your pond. How do you do that? Here’s a four-step approach:

  1. Pull Out the Debris: First, use a rake or cutter to remove weeds, accumulated debris, algae, decomposing plants and muck.
  2. Add Beneficial Bacteria: Next, add some beneficial bacteria, like those found in MuckAway™. The bacteria will head to the bottom of the pond and digest whatever muck remains. Remember that it will take some time to break down all that debris, so be patient.
  3. Let Your Fish Do the Work: With nowhere to hide, those leeches will become tasty meals for your fish. You may even consider adding some more leech-eating fish to your pond.
  4. Trap and Destroy: For those leeches that elude your finned friends, you can trap and remove them with a baited trap. Punch leech-size holes in a coffee or aluminum can, bait it with raw chicken or fish heads, and position it in a shallow area of your pond. When the worms go for the grub, they can get in but not out because the burrs from the hole punches will prevent them from escaping. Remove the can once it’s full and repeat until the leeches are gone.

If a leech latches onto you, don’t worry. In most cases, it won’t do any harm. In fact, you might not even feel it as the tiny critter injects the spot with anesthetic-anticoagulant combo while attaching itself with its suckers. You can remove a leech by breaking its suction seal with your fingernail or another blunt object, causing the worm to detach its jaws.

Pond Talk: Do you have any leech-removal tips to share?

Cut Through Tough Pond Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28 Inch Weed Cutter

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. 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 some fish habitat 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

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 or habitat 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

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

Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

John – Epping, NH

A: Decorative fountains add beauty to your waterscape while pumping some extra oxygen to your pond or lake, but they are designed to be used in the warmer months – not winter. So when you’re ready to pull out your fountain for the year, follow these six steps to ensure it’ll be ready for use again in the spring:

  1. Pull Unit from the Pond: To remove your fountain from the water, simply release it from its mooring line and gently reel it in. Leave the mooring line stakes in place to make it easy to reinstall it in the spring. You’ll save time from having to place the fountain in position.
  2. Clean Your Fountain and Lights: As your fountain runs through the spring, summer and fall, algae and other debris accumulate on the motor, lights and float. This unsightly debris acts as an insulator that traps heat around the motor, which could cause overheating when you reinstall it in the spring. Get out your scrubber and polish your surfaces while they’re still wet. Some expert advice: It’s best to clean that gunk off before it dries on.
  3. Inspect for Damages: Normal wear-and-tear and curious critters can cause nicks and chew marks in the cord that will need to be repaired, so check it for damages. Also, if you haven’t performed routine maintenance on your unit, like changing oil and seals, winter is the perfect time to do so while your fountain is out of the water and in your workshop.
  4. Cover the Cord Ends: Once your fountain is cleaned and repaired, cover your power cord ends by covering them with a vented plastic bag to keep dust and debris out while it’s in storage.
  5. Store in Safe Spot: Find a safe, frost-free place to store your fountain over the winter. Ideally, stash it in your garage, basement or other place that won’t freeze.
  6. Keep Aeration Running: Unless you plan to use your pond for recreation, like hockey or ice skating, your pond will need oxygen through the winter. Continue to use your diffused aeration system to maintain a hole in the ice for ventilation and gas exchange.

Follow these simple maintenance steps and you’ll be ready to reinstall your fountain in the spring – once the ice melts, that is!

Pond Talk: Where do you store your fountain in the winter?

Protect Your Fish With Winter Aeration - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

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

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