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spring pond prep

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Spring is just around the corner. It’s time for spring cleaning, landscaping and maybe hitting the gym. This is also a great time for pond owners to prepare their ponds for warmer weather.

Spring is a crucial time for pond preparation, whether it be weed removal, improving water composition or stocking. If pond owners don’t get ahead of these things during spring, it is easy to get overwhelmed.

Spring Pond Prep

There are many factors that will determine how successful a pond will be, and Alabama Cooperative Extension System Fisheries Specialist Rusty Wright has a list of things to do to make certain the pond on the property is productive.

Liming

The chemical content of a pond is important. In fact, this is the most important aspect of preparation for any established pond, according to Wright.

“Alkalinity and hardness should be equal to or greater than 20 parts per million,” he 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 can be done with a dump truck on smaller ponds (three acres or less) with sufficient side access. In ponds with little side access, liming has to be done with a shovel from a barge on the surface of the pond.

Fertilizing

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. If a pond owner chooses to fertilize, they should do so for 10 days. They should also keep track of weeds and harvest about 20 to 25 pounds of fish per acre per year.

“The pond clarity should be about 18 to 24 inches, which usually takes three to four applications,” he said.

Stocking

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.

Established Ponds

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

“Channel catfish, stocked at low levels, are a good additional fish to the bass-bluegill-redear combination,” Wright said.

He also recommends grass carp for weed control and threadfin shad-in southern Alabama-to help the bass grow. 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

Weeds

When it comes to weeds, Wright says prevention is the best policy. He recommends only using ornamentals that are easy to control, like water lilies, lotus or water willow. Keeping ponds deep will also help maintain weed populations. Consistently controlling weeds to keep larger populations at bay is important as well.

Talk to an Extension specialist 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. Muskrats, otters, fireants and alligators are all possible encounters.

“If issues with pests arise, pond owners should contact their local Extension office and regional natural resource 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 can also help, but regional Extension agents are a thorough and reliable source of help.

More Information

For more information about spring pond prep, check out Alabama Cooperative Extension’s Guide to Pond Maintenance.

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