Growing up with a pond behind my parents' house, I spent the majority of my youth with rod and reel in hand. Some days saw great success, but most were filled with hours of frustration and an occasional catch.
In those days, the idea of working a pond meant nothing more than the act of fishing it. It wasn't until I had grown and left home that I had any understanding of pond management and how much fishing success and enjoyment it can bring.
Springtime is typically the time of year to begin pond management projects. Due to the past year's drought, this spring is more important than ever.
In 2007, most area ponds dried up to be not much more than a crater in the ground. Recent rains bring the promise of new life as water levels are already starting to rise a bit. This gives us the opportunity to start fresh and make our ponds exactly what we want them to be as if they have just been built.
Stocking fish is a widely used practice, but doing it correctly is the key to limiting "die off."
First you've got to consider the proper mix of species. In our area, largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish are a great choice. All three are easily manageable and will thrive in a pond environment.
Largemouth will grow about 3/4 of a pound per year. The bluegill doesn't have the potential to get anywhere near the size of a mature bass but provides a ton of fun to the angler and they're great table fare. Rapidly growing hybrids are available for both species.
Catfish grow fast (as much as 1 1/2 pounds per year), fight hard and are also great on the plate. The one drawback is that they don't reproduce very well in ponds and will have to be re-stocked on occasion.
When purchasing fingerlings for stocking purposes, care should be taken when introducing them to your pond. Allow them to adjust to the pond's water temperature by slowly adding a bit of pond water to the containers that they come in. It won't take more than five minutes for them to acclimate upon which they should then be released in the pond's deeper areas. Above all else, follow the advice of the fish farm you purchase them from.
For established ponds, weed control is one of the greatest challenges a landowner faces. These weeds or algae come in three varieties: Filamentous (a floating, green grassy plant), Planktonic (the nasty looking green or brown film on top of the water) and Macrophytic (looks more like a typical plant with leaves.) All three can make fishing almost impossible but they can be controlled with herbicides that are available at your local farm supply.
Just remember that some vegetation is a good thing. Having as much as 20 percent of a pond in vegetation is recommended.
With very little real work, a pond owner can turn this past year's mud hole into a success story that will provide great fishing action for years to come.
For more information on how you can improve your pond, contact the York County Clemson Extension office at (803) 684-9919.