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Valascus

Pond Revival...Where to start?

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I have family that owns a little plot of land out in New Haven, Missouri. There are ponds on this land that they used to use for their cattle. They were both originally stocked with largemouth bass, channel cats, and bluegill. The fishing on these ponds has never been bad per se...but the quality of fish has never been great. The best quality fish you could catch as far as size were the catfish. But the last few years I have fished it I haven't caught a single cat, which I found rather alarming. The bass have never been real big out of this pond...if there are any lunkers in there I have never caught them. Most of the bass you get out of these ponds are skinny and not very long...every once in a while you get one that is fairly long...but still skinny. My grandmother (the owner) told me she believed there was a problem with the amount of bluegill in the ponds. The ponds themselves are not very big. Forage mainly consists of small frogs, lizards, baby bass, baby bluegill, tadpoles, kitaulfa (I think I spelled that right) worms in July-ish, grasshoppers, and anything else small enough to eat that is flushed into the water by run-off. One of the ponds is a kind of triangular shape with a two of the banks running pretty shallow, one of those two banks with small gravel and the other with some grass and weeds down the bank with a large tree overhanging the water in one of the corners. The third bank is heavily covered by pretty thick bushes that grwo into the water. It is pretty shallow to begin but sharply drops to about 15 feet. I have never been able to really effectively fish that particular bank due to tackle restrictions in the past and lack of good angles to cast towards it. The lakes max depth is maybe 15-20 ft. It is low at the moment. The other two banks pretty gradually drop to the 15-20 drop located off the third bank. The second pond has a more circular shape to it. It has a bush or two growing into the water, a downed tree jutting out into the water, and some sort of vegetation (I am not very good at identifying water vegetation) growing from the bank to out to about 2 ft. from the bank. The dept of this pond is probably about 10-15 ft deep and is pretty uniform at to the speed it reaches that depth from anywhere on the banks (a little slower from the side that has the vegetation). Both ponds waters are usually fairly stained to downright murky depending on how recently it has rained. They have owned these ponds for a long time so I figure there should be some decent size fish in them...but I have yet to find 'em. I am concerned that the ecosystems of these ponds are in trouble. My grandparents are probably getting a little old to be trying to manage these ponds properly (and probably have been for a few years now). I don't have any records of when the ponds were stocked, how many of each species it was stocked with, or any other official info of that kind. Does anyone have any suggestions of some things I could do to try to restore these ponds ecosystems?

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Well, because of the maximum depths of the ponds, it certainly sounds like you have the potential to have a big fish factory.  You didn't mention size, any idea's? Acre, 2 acres each?  

In any case, it sounds like you've got a few possible problems.

First, are cattle or horses still using these ponds?  That's a no-no.  If they are, that explains your turbid water situation. If not, bales of hay, tossed along the banks along with intercepting the incoming water have been known to help water clarity.

Another thing, are you and your Grandparents certain that unauthorized people are getting onto the property and catching and taking fish?  I have friends that have owned 2 ponds and both authorized and unauthorized fisherman have managed to fish out the ponds.  Some folks don't think very clearly, they seem to think the can pull fish after fish out of a 1 or 2 acre pond and somehow the little fish gnomes come at night and replace them.  I'd make sure you don't have someone skimming your ponds.  Usually footprints and trash left behind will tip you off.

Your water clarity could also be fixed with some aquatic vegatation.  You'll have to contact the conservation department to determine the best kind.

Speaking of the conservation department, Missouri has a good one.  They'll come out and access your pond for free and give you suggestions on how to correct your problems. It may be as simple as removing more of a certain type of fish to a complete drain, kill and restock.

First, go here:

http://mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/applications/MDCLibrary/MDCLibrary2.aspx?NodeID=173

This MO. Dept. of Conservation page has got tons of PDF brochures and booklets on all phases of pond and small lake management for free.  Download anything of interest.  Next I'd spend this spring fishing the ponds a little more completely.  The bass will be moving up shallower and are more eager to bite in shallow water. Write down and record all the fish you catch.  Attempt to catch some bluegill as well and tabulate their sizes and weight.  Do the same for Catfish.

Then call the conservation commission and have an agent come out and access your ponds. You've got good depth to the pond. It sounds like they need some help though. Good luck.

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i fished a very small pond the a friend of mine owns and in it there where nice sized cats and a large number of small bluegill, no bass...

i suggested that they could control the population of the bluegill by catching alot of the smaller ones and allowing the others "room" to grow and by stocking bass....

we caught a number of the smaller bluegill and they stocked bass and within 3 maybe 3 1/2 years the bass grew, they grew large....

the largest bass that i've caught to date was around 7lbs....

i would follow what cart7 suggested......

i got the below article from the pond management site on the VA DNR website.....

Harvesting

All ponds have a maximum weight of fish the pond can support. In unfertilized ponds, you should be able to harvest up to 40 pounds of adult bluegill (about 120 fish) and 10 pounds of adult bass (about 8 to 10 fish) per acre per year. In fertilized ponds, you can harvest 160 pounds of bluegill (600 to 700 fish) and 35 to 40 pounds of bass (30 to 35 fish) per acre per year.

In new or reclaimed ponds, do not allow bass harvest for at least 2 years after stocking to let the bass mature and reproduce. Bass are easy to catch, and in small ponds it is possible to harvest 70-80% of the bass in 1 weekend of fishing. Harvest 5 to 10 pounds of bass per acre per year. Restricting bass harvest will help keep the fish population balanced (the proper ratio of predator and prey fish). In a balanced pond, 40-60% of the bass should be 12 inches or longer, while 20-40% of the bluegill should be 6 inches or longer. A good rule of thumb for maintaining balanced bass/bluegill populations is to remove at least 4 to 5 pounds of bluegill for each pound of bass removed. Keep all bluegill caught. Most over-population problems are caused by small bluegill, and returning them only adds to the problem.

Removing too many bass usually causes bluegills to become overpopulated and stunted. Overpopulated ponds are full of 3 to 5 inch bluegills that are thin and slow growing. Management options to correct this problem include: (1) winter water level drawdowns to increase bass predation on bluegills; (2) stocking additional predators; (3) draining the pond and re-stocking; (4) applying rotenone (fish toxicant) to kill a portion of the population; (5) seining to remove excess stunted bluegills.

Catfish and trout can be harvested without limits in ponds because their populations are maintained by stocking, not reproduction.

Hope this helps,

Alfred

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Neither pond has been used for cattle for years now. In fact I cannot remember the last time they even owned any cattle. I don't think anyone is stealing the fish either for two reasons: 1) She lives in a pretty remote area with no one around her for a pretty fair diatance, and 2) if anyone had the cahones to give it a shot, Ozzy (her outdoor all the time borderline wild  100lbs beast of a dog) would come back with someones limb. He's nice to folks he knows, but is a fierce property defender. The bigger pond is about an acre and the smaller one is about a 1/3 to a 1/2 acre. The bigger one is the one that is 15-20 ft. deep and the smaller one is the one that is about 10-15 ft. deep. I am a little hesitant to line the banks with bales of hay since I don't want to restrict any forage that they normally feed upon from being washed into the ponds.

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Actually, you toss the hay bales into the water along the bank. It acts like a filter.  I'm not 100% that works and you'd probably want to discuss that with a conservation agent to find out how much and how may hay bales you'll need.

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You may find some information in the article secection at the top of the page.

   One thing you might try is to sink some cover into the ponds to create an artifical fish reef, out of tires, ceader trees, ect.  

  We have a lake around here that I was told was dug out when it was first built.  Looking at the bottom on sonar it resembles a bowl when you go across it.  Even though it was suppossidly well stocked in the beginning it wasn't long before the fish populations began to dwindle.  They finally decided that it was do to lack of cover and the smaller sport fish and baitfish had no protection.  They installed some large artifical reefs and attractors though out the lake.  Eventurally the level was raised for increase in water demands.  This time they left some of the natural structure and cover.   It's a pretty decent lake for fish anymore.

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cart7, i've heard the same thing about adding hay to the water to try and remove some of the mud.  

Valascus, it couldn't hurt to try using the hay, i would think its better than using chemicals.

good luck,

Alfred

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I'll probably give the hay thing a shot. There is one more species of fish in these ponds I forgot to mention (mainly because I never see 'em, never catch 'em, heck, never even fish for 'em). She has a grass carp or two in these ponds. One died recently and he was an absolute mammoth. I know they are good for controlling vegetation overgrowth. But I am not sure that they are necessary to have in ponds that are so small. Does anyone know if grass carp would eat hay? I know nothing about the species other than the fact that they eat vegetation.

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