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Largemouth bass being pulled out of the water.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Spring cleaning means pond cleaning, too. With bass fishing season on the horizon, maintaining productive pond conditions for bass and other fish is important for successful fishing now and in the future.

When it comes to maintaining productive fishing ponds, Alabama Extension Specialist Rusty Wright recommends a plethora of simple, yet easily overlooked steps. Like spring cleaning, many of these steps are time sensitive for late winter and early spring.

Weed Control

First and foremost, if there are weeds present in the pond, gain control of the weeds.

“Do not allow weeds to get out of control in the spring,” Wright said. “Control them before they take over.”

Once the weeds are removed from the pond, it will be easier to fish in the pond and conduct other maintenance.

Fertilization

If the pond owner choses to fertilize the pond, it is essential to begin fertilizing at the proper time during the spring. Fertilization should begin when the water reaches 60°F. Waiting too late to fertilize will allow weeds to grow back. Fertilize about every 10 to 14 days until the water is green enough that an object lowered into the water disappears between 18 and 24 inches. After the 14 day mark, only fertilize when the water clarity is more than 24 inches. To avoid unnecessary additional maintenance, ponds must be fertilized at the proper time and temperature.

Fish Kill

A term that may be unfamiliar to some, fish kill refers to the die-off of fish due to poor water conditions, like low dissolved oxygen or disease. One of the ways that dissolved oxygen can become depleted in the spring is due to algal bloom die-offs.

“Algae produce most of the oxygen in the pond so when they die-off the oxygen drops and the fish can die,” he said.

Unfortunately, there is no direct way to prevent algal bloom die-off. However, by liming, or applying acid-neutralizing agricultural limestone to the pond, the alkalinity and hardness can be kept above 20 parts per million (ppm). Ponds with an alkalinity lower than 20 ppm are not as productive and suffer more frequently from algal bloom die-off.

Also, there are often outbreaks of various fish diseases as the water begins to warm. When there are fish disease outbreaks, remove as many of the dead fish as possible.

“If the pond owner is feeding fish, they should reduce the amount of food or stop feeding entirely until the fish stop dying,” Wright said.

Bass Maintenance

Lastly, if the pond is a bass pond, it is time to start fishing and harvest the bass. Bass fishing season is at its best in late March through early May. Therefore, now is the time to take out a big chunk of the bass for harvest. For unfertilized ponds, harvest about 10 pounds per acre per year. In fertilized ponds, harvest about 25 pounds per acre per year. When choosing bass for harvesting, target bass that are 14 inches or shorter in length. However, taking out a few bigger fish is not a problem.

More Information

When household spring cleaning begins, don’t forget to tend to the pond. For more information on spring pond maintenance and bass harvesting, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.

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