EXTENSION Q&A | DAVID FOGARTY
How to Take Care of Fishing Pond
While Lake Wylie and Lake Norman have served as excellent hosts for the Bassmaster professional tour in recent years, lots of folks also enjoy fishing at local ponds. Whether you are thinking about stocking, managing or even building a pond, the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service can provide some great resources.
Q. What fish should I stock in my pond?
In the Gaston County area, largemouth bass, bluegills, redear sunfish, hybrid sunfish and channel catfish are the best fish with which to stock your pond. Research has proven that various combinations of these fish produce the best pond fisheries. Stocking the pond with other species of fish makes it difficult to manage. Crappies, bullheads and other sunfish species tend to become overcrowded, resulting in populations that can be corrected only by pond reclamation.
Q. When should I stock my pond?
In most cases, stocking a pond that already contains fish is normally not recommended. The timing of stocking depends on the combination and maturity of fish that you select. For example, sunfish and bluegill fingerlings should be stocked in the fall, usually in October or November, so they can grow large enough to avoid predation by bass, which are stocked the following June. A second option is to stock with adult sunfish, bluegill and bass. In this case, all species can be stocked in April.
Q. When is a fish population in balance?
Fisheries biologists sometimes refer to a satisfactory balance between the predator (bass) and prey (bluegill) populations of a pond. Generally, a balanced population must provide three things: fish of harvestable size; annual reproduction and a combination of fishes, including at least one predator species. Unbalanced populations are those unable to produce annual crops of harvestable-size fish.
If bass populations are overcrowded, the situation can usually be corrected by harvesting the surplus bass. Depending on the situation, a condition of overcrowded bluegills can be corrected by removing sunfish, restocking with bass fingerlings, or using a winter drawdown.
Q. Do I need to lime my pond?
Because of our soils, ponds with acidic waters (with low pH) are common in the Piedmont. Fishing will be poor if the pH is below 6.0. Water pH can be measured with inexpensive kits available at most swimming pool supply stores. However, a soil test from the NCDA Soil Testing Laboratory is the best way to determine how much lime your pond needs. Instructions for taking a pond soil sample are available through the extension office. The soil analysis you receive will indicate how much lime your pond needs. As a general rule, about one ton of agricultural lime per acre is required to raise the pH one point.
Q. What other management practices should I use?
Fertilizing your pond and adding supplemental feed can dramatically increase the harvest rates of your pond. In addition, various devices, like discarded Christmas trees, can be used in ponds to concentrate fish and improve fishing. Along the way, you may have to deal with aquatic weeds, parasites or pond dwellers such as beavers or muskrats. Fortunately, N.C. Cooperative Extension has several aquaculture specialists throughout the state, as well as great resources online. County extension offices also have available a free "Pond Management Guide" book that addresses all these and other questions in more detail.
For more information please call the Gaston County Extension office at 704-922-2112. In the meantime, happy fishing!