Promoting Healthy Fish Populations in Ponds & Lakes
Game fish need a comfortable environment to thrive. Whether you are stocking a new pond, replenishing an existing pond or adding to an already-established population, here are some guidelines to create a healthy ecosystem.
- Know Your Game Fish: 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.
- 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 or fountain. The oxygenated water circulates throughout the water column, delivering life-sustaining oxygen to the pond or lake’s inhabitants.
- Keep Some Natural Weed Growth: Fish love weeds. The growing greenery and roots create a healthy ecosystem, help to naturally filter the water, and provide home-grown food for fish. When weed growth isn’t present, the water tends to get murky and cloudy, and weak invasive plants tend to take root – neither of which benefits fish. Aquatic weeds, when they’re well managed, are a good thing for ponds.
- Add Safe Havens: Create some specific areas for spawning fish. Artificial habitats, can provide escape areas for smaller fish when placed in water 3 to 4 feet deep, or larger fish when placed in deeper water.
- Provide Additional Food Sources: Bait fish, including fathead minnows, golden shiners and threadfin shad, feed game fish – so creating a healthy ecosystem for them as well will in turn provide food for larger fish.
- Balance the Fish 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 added will ultimately depend on the surface area of the pond or lake.
With a little planning and some regular maintenance you can create and sustain a thriving fish population.