3 min read
A pond with a red bard in the back ground.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.— Spring is the time of year when homeowners begin to think about spring cleaning—both inside homes and in the yard. Ponds can benefit from a little spring maintenance as the weather warms, too.

Spring is a crucial time for pond preparation, whether it be weed removal, improving water quality or fish stocking. If pond owners don’t get ahead of these things during spring, it is easy to get overwhelmed with a lot of problems later in the year.

Spring Pond Prep

There are many factors that will determine how successful a pond will be. Alabama Cooperative Extension System Fisheries Specialist Rusty Wright said there is a list of items pond owners can do to make certain the pond on the property is productive and not causing the owner headaches.


The chemical content of pond water is important. In fact, Wright said this is among the most important aspects of preparation for any pond.

“Alkalinity and hardness should be equal to or greater than 20 parts per million,” Wright said. “If they are low, it is time to lime the pond. Ponds with excess flushing may have limited success with liming.”

Liming a pond (spreading aqricultural lime across the pond) is typically done in the winter but can be done until the water warms too much by mid to late May. With smaller ponds (three acres or less) with sufficient side access, lime can be spread using a dump truck with a power spreader. In ponds with little side access, liming has to be done from a barge on the surface of the pond usually with a water pumper to wash the lime into the pond.


Whether a pond owner should fertilize is dependent on what the owner wants from the pond. Not every pond should be fertilized.

“Proper fertilization can be useful for ponds that are otherwise infertile. In some soils, ponds can be quite fertile with no fertilization,” Wright said.

While not for every pond, Wright said fertilization could triple or even quadruple fish poundage that the pond supports. If a pond owner chooses to fertilize, they should start when the water reaches approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Repeat adding the fertilizer about every 10 to 14 days until the water is green enough that something lowered into the water disappears between 18 and 24 inches below the surface, which usually takes three to four applications.  After that, only fertilize when the water gets clearer than 24 inches. Pond owners should also keep weeds under control and harvest about 20 to 25 pounds of bass per acre per year. In less fertile ponds, about 10 pounds of bass per acre should harvested each year.


Spring is a perfect time for pond owners to stock their ponds. Like fertilization, stocking depends on what the pond owner wants out of their pond. Geographic location, climate and the state of the pond will also impact the owner’s decision.

New Ponds

In new or totally renovated ponds, Wright recommends a mix of bluegill, redear sunfish and largemouth bass. This combination should be self-sustaining and give a pond plenty of variety. Stock fingerling bluegill and redears in the winter or early in the spring and follow that with fingerling bass in June.

Established Ponds

When stocking established ponds, there are a few more options.

“Channel catfish, stocked at 50 or so per acre, are a good additional fish to the bass-bluegill-redear combination,” Wright said.

In ponds in southern Alabama, he also recommends grass carp for weed control and threadfin shad can be an option in larger ponds to increase the growth of bass. Minnows, hybrid striped bass, crappie, hybrid bream and rainbow trout (in the winter) are all options as well. Wright recommends contacting local Extension offices to determine what is best for individual ponds.

Weed and Pest Control


When it comes to weeds, Wright said prevention is the best policy. techniques include maintaining deep edges to the pond, using a good fertilization program, perhaps keeping a few grass carp in the pond and most importantly controlling the weeds when there are a few patches before they take over the pond. If the pond owner favors ornamental plants, he recommends only using those that are easy to control, like water lilies, lotus or water willow.

Talk to an Extension specialist or regional agent in cases where a herbicide is needed.

Other Pests

Beavers are the most common pest that pond owners in Alabama deal with, but there are others as well. Muskrats, otters, fireants and alligators are all pond pests that are present in Alabama.

“If issues with pests arise, pond owners should contact their local Extension office and regional natural resources Extension agent,” Wright said. “They will help them come up with an appropriate, safe and legal approach to deal with pests.”

Professional consultants and trappers may also help. Regional Extension agents are thorough and knowledgeable with pond planning, especially as owners begin plans for pest control.

More Information

For more information about spring pond preparation, check out the Alabama Extension publications Management of Recreational Fish Ponds and Pond Building: Pond Maintenance.