Poor planning can hinder fish production in small ponds

by James L. Cummins
From Special Reports

Many small bodies of water do not produce the amount of fish desired by the owner because of poor planning, bad construction or a lack of good management. A good pond or small lake depends on location, design, construction, stocking rate and management practices such as harvest, fertilization and weed control. Often, ponds can produce 5 to 10 times more pounds of fish if proper techniques are followed.
Ponds or small lakes should be at least 0.5 acres in size and constructed so that at least 20 percent of the area is 6 feet or greater in depth. All ponds should have a drain, overflow pipe and emergency spillway for best management. A drain will allow one to manage the water level of the pond, which is often necessary for weed control and managing fish populations.
Regarding pond dams, many pond owners do not control woody vegetation on the dam. When large trees die, or are cut, deteriorating roots can leave a hole in the dam, causing major structural problems which are expensive to fix. No woody vegetation should be allowed to grow on pond dams. Once your pond has been constructed, adding fish-attracting, artificial structures can greatly increase harvest. Structures can be created using trees such as blackjack oak or old Christmas trees, or logs. Structure design can also vary. For example, one proven design consists of 3 or 4 trees that are crossed to form a pyramid. The bases of the trees should be braced together using 6‑foot-long pieces of lumber. Holes should be driven through the base of the trees and weights attached using #12 UF cable. These structures will stand upright on the bottom and have a height between 10 and 16 feet.
Artificial structures can either be set out singly or in groups of 3 to 5 trees in either a triangular setup or set in a line down the slope of drops-offs. Structures should be weighted with concrete blocks (2.0 to 2.5 feet in length) weighing approximately 60 pounds each. They should be placed in 5 to 10 feet of water near points, creek channels or artificial drop-offs. For ponds less than 1 acre, one fish structure is plenty. Otherwise, use one fish structure per 2 or 3 acres.
Spawning beds for bream are also useful for catching fish. Spawning beds are made by covering portions of the pond with gravel to create areas desired by bream. Spawning beds should be located in 2 to 4 feet of water near locations that are convenient for fishing. Use 3 to 5 cubic yards of washed gravel (0.5 to 1.0 inch in diameter) and place so that a spawning site approximately 12 to 15 feet in diameter is created. One should avoid sites that have a sedimentation problem.
James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their website is www.wildlifemiss.org.