Farm ponds offer land owners many things. Farm ponds offer a source of water for wildlife and livestock, family recreation, and for some a food source in the fish raised. To keep the farm pond healthy and to ensure water quality, land owners should follow certain management procedures throughout the year.
First of all, have your pond water tested to determine pH and alkalinity. Just as in a soil test, the pH of your farm pond is important to maintain. The Texas Cooperative Extension Office of Nacogdoches County can test farm pond water. Collect a pond sample in a clean water bottle and bring it to our office for testing. Limestone can help raise or lower the pH in your pond to optimum conditions. Liming the pond is important if the pH is below 6.5 and the total alkalinity is below 20 ppm (parts per million). The best time to lime is the months from November to January.
Second, fertilize your pond. Yes, I said fertilize your farm pond. Fertilizer does several things for the farm pond. Fertilizer increases the food supply by creating a phytoplankton bloom that starts the food chain. The phytoplankton bloom does two things-food for smaller fish and helps prevent sunlight from penetrating the bottom of shallow ponds helping to minimize unwanted aquatic vegetation. Never fertilize and lime your pond at the same time. The best months to fertilize is early April through the end of June. If weeds are a problem in the farm pond, you will need to control the weed populations first before fertilizing or your weeds will take up the fertilizer and grow to an even worse problem. Aquatic weed control is a must. Some aquatic weeds are okay; however, if left untreated, these weeds can cause problems. Proper weed identification is one of the first things that must be determined to properly control these aquatic weeds.
Aquatic weeds can be controlled manually, chemically, and biologically. Treating weeds in a pond should be done gradually. What I mean by gradually is treating the entire pond can cause oxygen problems as the plant materials decompose in the pond. Spot treat weeds allowing the treated weeds to die, then make another chemical application until the desired results are reached. Remember, to read and follow the label when applying chemicals. Aquatic weed control usually takes place starting in April and continue through the summer months as needed. An important web site for aquatic weed management is http://aquaplant.tamu.edu.
Stocking the farm pond is a huge decision. How big is your farm pond? What species of fish do you plan to stock and at what rate? Larger ponds give you more options as to the combinations of fish to stock. Bass, white perch, and catfish are the most common fish stocked. Bait fish such as minnows, shad, shiners, and blue-gill are commonly stocked several months ahead of fingerlings to assure enough food is available for the newly stocked fingerlings. A good rule of thumb is to stock at a maximum capacity of 1000 pounds of fish per surface acre. Keep in mind that when stocking, fingerlings will grow so stocking rates may be need to be reduced to compensate for their growth. Stocking is best done March through May or October through December.
Supplemental feeding of your fish is another important concept to determine. Feeding fish can greatly increase pounds, especially catfish and bluegill. A floating ration should contain at least 28 percent crude protein. Supplemental feeding should be done at 3% of the fish's body weight or all that will be eaten by the fish in 10 to 15 minutes. The best times to supplemental feed is March through November.
By following these tips you can produce healthy, viable fish for your enjoyment and food consumption. A good rule of thumb for bass is not to harvest more than 20 pounds of bass per surface acre per year to prevent over harvest of your fish population. Farm pond managers should keep accurate records of numbers and sizes of fish caught, water quality, supplemental feeding, and stocking rates.
For more information on farm pond management contact the Texas Cooperative Extension Office of Nacogdoches County at (936) 560-7711. You may also access us on our web site at http://nacogdoches-tx.tamu.edu . Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.