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I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Jerry – Cass City, MI

A: Ducks certainly make an entertaining and colorful addition to a pond or lake. Various species of these plumed wetland visitors grace just about every continent and climate on planet earth – including sub-Antarctic islands like South Georgia and the Aucklands to oceanic locales like Hawaii and New Zealand.

Despite their worldwide distribution, getting ducks to call your pond home can be a challenge. But you can attract them if you understand their specific needs.

Pondside Open House

The duck types that frequent ponds include mallards and wood ducks, along with Muscovy ducks, black-bellied and whistling ducks. Ducks are omnivores and like to eat a wide range of foods, from small fish, eggs, snails, worms and bugs to grass, weeds, seeds and berries. In general, they require a lot of space and copious amounts of water in the form of marshes, lakes or large ponds. Aquatic plants, like reeds and water lilies, make them feel at home, as does concealed areas with tall marsh grass and shrubby cover for nesting and hiding.

Attracting the Flock

Providing a duck friendly habit is the best way to convince the feathered visitors to stop by, but here are some expert tricks to make your pond more appealing:

  • Create a Mess Hall: Set up feeding areas by clearing out an area or providing large, low platforms, and toss out some cracked corn, spilled birdseed and kitchen scraps. Don’t feed them by hand, but use goodies to pique their interest.
  • Plant a Duck Garden: Berry bushes can help draw ducks. And if you have a garden area near your pond, use mulch to attract tasty insects and earthworms.
  • Offer a Nest Box: Though ducks will nest in a variety of places, from ground nests in grassy areas near the pond to brush piles and hollow logs, provide them with nest boxes to help attract nesting ducks.
  • Install a Fountain: Ducks flock to the sound of splashing, so consider installing a fountain or waterfall in your pond.
  • Use Natural Décor: Add some half-submerged logs, overhanging shelves, marsh grasses and marginals, aquatic plants and brush piles to your landscape.
  • Add Some Decoys: A duck decoy pair floating quietly on your pond will attract the attention of the real-life things. They’ll swoop down to investigate and (hopefully!) decide to stay for a while.

Duck Dangers

Unlike a Great Blue Heron, ducks will leave your fish alone – but they can trigger other problems. If a lot of them are visiting, they can cause water quality issues (which can be remedied with the beneficial bacteria in Pond Logic® PondClear™). They could bring in unwanted weeds, like duckweed and water milfoil, that weren’t present before. The ducks, ducklings and eggs could also attract feral cats, raccoon, skunks and other predators.

Having these colorful beauties visit your pond, however, is worth the hassle. When they do stop by, observe them from a distance – and enjoy bird watching!

Pond Talk: Do ducks visit your pond regularly?

Help Attract Ducks To Your Pond - Flambeau® Storm Front™ Mallard Decoy Pair

 

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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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We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Kym – Lake Butler, FL

A: Your concern is justified. According to the CDC, mosquitoes – specifically the Aedes species (Ae. Aegypti and Ae. Albopictus) – are one of the main transmitters of the Zika virus. The bite of an infected mosquito can cause fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and other unpleasant side effects.

Mosquitoes should be eradicated from your property – and here are six ways to decimate their population.

  • Create Water Movement. Ever notice how mosquitoes avoid moving water as much as possible? This is because the movement isn’t conducive to their life cycle. A female mosquito lays her eggs in stagnant water that’s full of nutritious algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria. When the eggs hatch, the larvae and pupae thrive and grow, developing into adult mosquitoes that perpetuate the population. Stop that cycle with aeration. The water movement created by the pumped-in oxygen creates an inhospitable environment for the mosquitoes while promoting your pond’s overall health.
  • Check for Standing Water. An old tire, ceramic flower pot, cracked bucket – mosquitoes aren’t particular about the vessel of standing water they use to lay their eggs. If it holds stagnant water and contains some type of food source, it’s fair game. The CDC recommends a once-a-week check for standing water around your property. Empty containers, scrub them clean, and turn them over or cover them to reduce your overall mosquito population.
  • Eliminate Food Source. Developing larvae and pupae need algae to fuel their rapid growth to adulthood, and so another way to reduce their population is to reduce their food source. In your pond or lake, use algaecide to remove suspended plant matter and muck reducers to break down detritus on the bottom of your pond.
  • Trim Shoreline Vegetation.  Unlike their developing larvae, adult mosquitoes live in the plants and vegetation along the pond’s shoreline. Evict those pests by clearing out and trimming back grasses and aquatic weeds. Use some herbicide to kill aquatic weeds and grasses, and use weed removal tools, like a weed cutter, rake and debris skimmer, and remove the dead plants and overgrowth.
  • Boost Fish Population.  Fish and other mosquito-eating pond life, like tadpoles, minnow, bass, bluegill and catfish, love gobbling those mosquito larvae and pupae. If you don’t already have a fish population living in your lake, consider adding some! The American Mosquito Control Association, in fact, recommends adding predacious minnows or native fish to lakes and ponds for biological control of the insects.
  • Keep Unused Standing Water Bug-Free.  Despite your best efforts, it can be impossible to completely eradicate mosquitoes in places with standing water – like around a pond or lake. Likewise, vessels like stored rainwater, water troughs and even bird feeders can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So what can you do? Consider mosquito dunks or bits. These handy little disks or bits contain a specially formulated biological pesticide designed to kill mosquito larvae. You simply toss them in unused bodies of water and let them go to work.

Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases are a real concern. Plus, all that buzzing can be annoying when you’re trying to enjoy your pond or lake during the warm days of summer. Use these tips to keep your yard mosquito-free – and your family and friends happy and healthy.

Pond Talk: Have you stocked your pond with mosquito-eating fish? If so, what types?

Keep Your Pond Water Moving - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

 

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I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Barney – Andalusia, AL

A: Treating weeds is a tricky task. Despite dosing them with aquatic herbicides to clear your pond or lake of plant pests, they seem to grow back over and over again. It seems like a never-ending cycle! Why does this happen?

Well, chemical treatments have their benefits and drawbacks: On one hand, they work great as a quick fix to decimate actively growing weeds. But once those plants die, they become a food source for future weeds and algae, acting as a fertilizer for the very things you’re trying to get rid of. The herbicides do nothing to prevent future growth, and so you’re left with yet another growth spurt of pond weeds, which you’ll then treat with chemical herbicides – and around you’ll go again.

So how do you break the cycle? Here is a four-step approach that will help put an end to it.

  1. Remove the Dead Weeds: Once the weeds have browned, use a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer to remove as much dead material from the water as possible. This prevents dead plant material and muck from accumulating and fertilizing future weed growth.
  2. Be Proactive: Debris will still find its way into your pond, so add some beneficial bacteria to the water to manage the excess nutrients before they feed your weeds. The products found in the ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Packages – including PondClear™ and EcoBoost™ for suspended debris, and MuckAway™ for accumulated bottom-of-the-pond debris – naturally break down that organic material.
  3. Add Aeration: If you don’t have one already, install a Airmax® Aeration System that’s sized for your pond or lake. By circulating and adding oxygen to the water column, the beneficial bacteria will thrive. In turn, they’ll eat through even more debris and prevent weed and algae growth.
  4. Shade and Color:  Pond Dye is another offensive tactic in your battle against aquatic weeds. Pond dye shades the water, preventing ultraviolet light from reaching the plants.

Throughout the spring and summer, weeds will grow. But with some pond management practices, you can keep those pesky plants to a minimum.

Pond Talk: How often do you treat your pond or lake for weeds?

Skim Dead Algae & Vegetation - The Pond Guy(r) Pond & Beach Rake

 

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If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Amy – Linn Grove, IN

A: That all depends! Because you’re applying chemicals to water, you’d think that rain would have no affect on the herbicide—but it actually might. How long it rains, how heavily it rains and how soon it rained after you applied the treatment could impact its quality and effectiveness.

If wet stuff from the sky is a threat and you’re thinking about spraying algaecides or herbicides to control nuisance plants in your pond or lake, here are four general guidelines to follow:

  1. Check the Weather: Is steady rain forecast for the day? If so, postpone any treatment of emergent weeds. Many treatments need to be absorbed by the plant’s leaves to be effective. A day-long stint of rain will rinse the chemical off the weed before it can be fully absorbed.
  2. Check the Weather, Part II: If you’re expecting heavy precipitation, definitely put off treatment to another day. The applied chemical could rinse off the plants and overflow from the pond before being taken up by the target weed.
  3. Reapply If Necessary: A light sprinkle will generally not affect the chemical’s potency in a pond that’s already been treated. If a downpour occurs within a few hours of application, however, plan to reapply the herbicide in a few days to fully control that target plant.
  4. Make Your Treatment Count: Use a pond sprayer to apply the chemical as close to target weeds as possible, and use a sticky surfactant to help the chemical absorb into the plant like Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Treatment Booster™ PLUS breaks down the surface of the weed or algae and allows the active ingredient to penetrate.

Even though you’re treating aquatic weeds, wet weather can still impact the chemical’s effectiveness. Check the short- and long-term forecast and plan accordingly – because you don’t want all that hard work (and costly treatments) to be for nothing!

Pond Talk: How has the weather affected your pond or lake so far this summer?

Kill Persistent Weeds & Grasses - Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS

I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Matt – Burton, MI

A: Bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere because they will eat just about anything, including your fish. Found in forests, marshes, prairies, suburbs and even cities, raccoons can be a nuisance around ponds and lakes. Here’s what you need to know to keep them away from your pond – and your garbage cans.

ID, Please

With the exception of 75-pound Bandit that holds the world record for “World’s Fattest Raccoon,” these nocturnal foragers are typically between 15 to 23 pounds and 30 to 37 inches long, or the size of a small dog. They sport heavy fur streaked in brown, black and gray, and have black eye stripes that resemble a mask. Raccoons have bushy ringed tails that grow up to a foot long, and their dexterous paws and long fingers make distinct prints in the mud or snow.

Sushi for Dinner

Though raccoons love to eat mice, insects, and tasty fruits and vegetables (particularly sweet corn) plucked from your garden and garbage can, the opportunistic water-loving critters will happily take a dive in your lake to hunt for crayfish, fish, turtles, frogs and worms. They’ll use their lightning-fast paws to grab both aquatic and terrestrial prey.

Tracking a Bandit

Raccoons aren’t exactly stealthy. If they’re prowling around, they’ll leave telltale signs around your home and property – like knocked-over garbage cans, overturned rocks and flower pots, rooted-through plants and disheveled yard decor. They’ll also leave tracks in the wet soil around the pond. And, if you’re lucky, you may even find a shelter or den made in a hollow tree, culvert, woodchuck burrow or under a building.

Evicting Raccoons

Mother Nature provides her own raccoon control in the form of coyotes, foxes, great horned owls and bobcats, but you can give her a hand in several different ways.

  • A live-animal trap baited with cat food or tuna will allow you to capture and relocate your problem raccoon.
  • The Nite Guard Solar® deterrent keeps raccoons away with its solar-powered LED lights. Activated at dusk, the red lights resemble a predator’s flashing eyes flash and cause the critter to run away.
  • Keep garbage cans securely sealed and manage other easy-access food sources, like cat food bowls and compost bins.

With hundreds of thousands of raccoons traipsing across the countryside, you’ll likely discover one or two (or an entire family!) living on your property near your lake. But if you use some wildlife management tactics like these, you can keep them under control. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How do you manage the raccoon population near your pond?

Protects Against Nighttime Predators - Nite Guard Solar®

We just bought a house with a pond. Do people actually swim in them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just bought a house with a pond. Do people actually swim in them?

Q: We just bought a house with a pond. Do people actually swim in them?

Julie – Calcutta, OH

A: Yes, absolutely! Swimming ponds are all the rage—and for good reason. Compared to chemical-laden swimming pools cleaned with chlorine, swimming ponds use plants, natural bacteria and aeration to keep the water crystal clear. The Europeans have been creating these for years, and the trend has taken hold here.

Whether you want to dive into your new-to-you pond, however, really depends on how well it has been maintained. Here are some tips to prepare your pond for summertime fun!

  1. Reduce Muck
    There’s nothing like tiptoeing into a pond, only to sink 6 inches into the slippery, slimy muck. Ponds that haven’t been maintained often have a buildup of this sludge. One way to reduce it is to use natural bacteria like MuckAway™. The tiny microbes gobble through the decomposing debris, going through 2″ a month when used as directed.
  2. Add Aeration
    Did your pond come with an aeration system? If not, you need one. An aeration system will increase the productivity of those muck- and odor-eating natural bacteria by infusing the water with oxygen. An aerator will also improve water quality and churn the water column.
  3. Zap Algae
    Algae around your beach area is no fun—and it’s no good for your pond’s water quality, aesthetics and usability. Algae happens, particularly in ponds that have a lot of nutrients (muck and other decomposing debris) and sunshine, but you can battle it with some Algae Defense®. The algaecide goes after chara, filamentous and planktonic algae, the main cause of pea soup-colored water.
  4. An ‘Activity’ Pond
    Rather than refer to your pond as a “swimming pond,” think of the area as your summer activity zone. Who needs summer camp when you can do all these things around your pond:

    • Go fishing! Stock it with fish, grab your pole and tackle box, and catch and release some game fish.
    • Get some exercise! Run or walk laps around your pond, or drop in a paddle boat and do some laps—just 30 minutes can burn 100 calories.
    • Build sandcastles! Why go to a crowded beach when you could build sandcastles at home! Dump a truckload of sand pondside and enjoy your own dunes.
    • Try snorkeling or diving! It may not be the Great Barrier Reef, but you might make some interesting discoveries. Let us know if you find any sunken treasure.

Pond Talk: What favorite summertime activities do you do around your pond or lake?

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