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Liquid assets: managing water quality for healthier fish

By Matt Ward

In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that my academic background is in biochemistry so I get pretty excited about water quality issues.  That being said, this stuff really is important even if the details can’t quite inspire excitement like trophy largemouth.

Water quality issues across the nation go largely ignored as lake managers continue to reactively treat the symptoms of poor water quality.

Time after time, pond weeds and algae growth run rampant while water quality issues that drive this growth are not addressed. Fish kills occur and aeration systems are installed all while water quality issues that should be addressed go ignored.

Sometimes a little water quality work is all it takes to transform a water body and generate a healthy fishery with lower net annual input requirements. In other cases, fundamental water quality issues need to be addressed for fishery management techniques to even stand a chance.  Let’s take a look at the four most important pond water testing parameters and how they can be adjusted to create a healthy fishery.

Turbidity

Turbidity represents the ability of a water body to absorb light that penetrates the surface. Turbidity is measured by peering into a pond or lake and determining the depth at which a highly contrasting object (professionally we use a secchi disk) disappears from view.

This depth is reported as the lake or pond’s visibility or turbidity. Turbidity is generally caused by one of two factors (though turbidity can certainly be altered with commercially available dyes): plankton or suspended solids (especially clays).

Turbidity from plankton represents primary productivity in an aquatic system and is generally desirable in most cases.

A highly productive pond or lake should have 18-24 inches of visibility. This level of turbidity will support high levels of fish production while avoiding increased risk of a plankton bloom crash which could easily lead to a fish kill. If a given lake has substantially less than 18 inches of visibility steps should be taken to reduce plankton production to protect the fishery.

Turbidity caused by suspended solids like clay particles are another story. Muddy water shades out the bottom sediments and supports low levels of primary productivity. A pond with turbidity from suspended solids will not support as great of a fish population as a similar pond with lower turbidity.  This pond should generally be cleared.

To settle out turbid water, a clearing test should be run to determine how your water can be cleared.  Most muddy water can be cleared with a flocculent like aluminum sulfate, but some waters are simply muddy from getting stirred up by cattle or even an overabundance of bottom fish like catfish or carp.  In some cases a pond will need to be killed out in order to reset the fish populations and enable better water clarity to prevail, other times agricultural practices may need to be modified a bit to decrease turbidity.

Nutrients

The next water quality factor we’ll consider are nutrients. Ponds and lakes are nutrient sinks. All the basic nutrients in the landscape run down hill with the rainwater and end up in the pond.

In some cases, nutrient levels are low and a fishery’s productivity will need to be improved through fertilization. But in many other cases too much inflow means that pond managers must deal with endless cycles of growth of vegetation, algae, or phytoplankton.

In extreme cases, excess nutrients can lead to regular fish kills as excessive growth can easily absorb too much oxygen during the night or during cloudy weather. Excess growth can be temporarily reduced by targeted treatments, but ultimately growth should be curtailed by nutrient management.

The first step in managing nutrients is to understand where the bulk of a pond or lake’s excess nutrients are coming from. The most likely sources are applied fertilizers (both inorganic and organic), high nutrient well water, and direct animal waste.

Mitigation is both direct and indirect. Direct management might include applying fertilizers farther back from the pond, leaving a band of unfertilized shoreline around the pond or lake. It might call for reducing the fertilizer application rate or reducing the amount of well water inputs you use or even drilling another well to tap into a different aquifer. Other direct management techniques could involve herd control such as reducing herds or fencing them off of the pond or lake.

Indirect management, on the other hand, seeks to absorb the nutrients that are coming into the water body. This type of management might include establishing a buffer of marginal vegetation or other beneficial aquatic plants to soak up available nutrients. Another technique is to stocking forage that takes better advantage of phytoplankton helping to convert plankton bloom into fish biomass.

Another indirect technique is to apply inorganic minerals that deactivate nutrients like phosphorous, or using activated charcoal to directly absorb dissolved nutrients.

Some pond managers prefer to use aeration and micronutrients to create a better environment for beneficial bacteria that can also be used to process excess nutrients.

Nutrient management isn’t rocket science but best management practices will normally require a little professional direction.  It’s important to prioritize the right management tools in your specific situation to best impact nutrient loading.

We’ll continue exploring water quality and pond water testing as part of comprehensive lake and pond management in next week’s posting, focusing on alkalinity and water hardness.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

Fishery tips: Prepping your fishing lake for a great season

By Lochow Ranch

Fishery management experts know that year-round pond and lake maintenance is key to keeping your favorite fishing pond healthy and productive.

The leading reasons the equilibrium in your lake could be off include over- and under-harvesting of predator fish, introduction of undesirable fish species, and summer kills, as well as excessive weeds, poor water quality and lack of fertilization.

Qualified experts like those at Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management can help turn around a failing fishery or enhance a stable one by addressing these various issues in an annual plan that tracks progress and addresses needs.

Otherwise, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service warns that Texas farm ponds aren’t managed at their highest potential for fish production.

Lochow Ranch can assess fishery populations using nets or shocking equipment and use state-of-the-art equipment to collect data and determine the precise program for getting your body of water back on track.

Surveying Your Pond’s Population

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An excellent way to begin is with an electrofishing survey, which is a primary tool for correcting an out-of-balance pond.

These surveys accurately assess current forage and sport fish populations and quantify wintertime Cormorant or otter damage. Fish populations also are sampled to determine species, size, relative abundance and growth rates. Click here to learn more.

Planning Pond Stocking

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Pond stocking is another important consideration when you want to maximize the potential for your fishery.

What kinds of fish will work best in your pond involves many variables, including your own goals for your pond or lake. For example, you need to carefully assess the impact of introducing non-native species into your pond. It’s important to be aware of the fish types that can live together in harmony so your pond can sustain a healthy ecosystem. Learn more by clicking here.

Getting a grip on pond weeds

Aquatic vegetation is the cause of 80 percent of low dissolved oxygen fish kills in Texas. And the issues are complex enough that expert advice is recommended.

As we detailed in a series of recent postings about pond vegetation control, there are a range of vegetation control techniques. Mechanical controls include pruning and cutting back pond weeds. Biological controls include introducing grass carp and tilapia, two types of vegetation-eating fish. Chemical means of vegetation control include herbicides and algaecides.

Click here to learn more about how the experts at Lochow Ranch can plan appropriate vegetation control for your lake or pond.

Fertilizing your fishery

Just as you would fertilize fields to increase crop yields, you should fertilize a pond or lake to provide phytoplankton with adequate nutrients for fish growth.

Proper fertilization increases food availability throughout the food chain and indirectly increases the total amount of fish a pond can support. Ponds should be limed before fertilizer is applied, which is important because it increases pH and alkalinity.

Even without fertilization, this may improve available nutrients which can support a phytoplankton bloom. Click here to learn more.

Adding aeration

In order to avoid problems, pond and lake owners also should be inspecting aeration and fountain maintenance or considering their implementation.

Repairs could address obvious signs of wear or just the cleaning of filters and   screens. Lochow offers a range of aeration systems and fountain systems for   ensuring your pond’s oxygen levels are optimal.

 

Plan for a great year

Our team of fishery management experts are standing by to help you make the most of your fishing pond. Whether you are looking for pond water testing, pond stocking, fishery management, pond renovation or new pond construction, we can help. A great lake can be a legacy that will be enjoyed by friends and family for generations to come. Fill out the form to get started today!

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Time to treat: consider your treatment options for control of pond weeds

By Matt Ward

At some point in the life of any body of water, pond weeds or algae growth is going to have to be controlled. In last week’s blog posting, we mentioned that most of the time this is going to involve herbicides and algaecides.

Think of these chemistries like scientifically tried and true pharmaceuticals for addressing pond weeds or algae growth. Treatments can be short term or provide extended control. Treatments can target all of one species of plant or target a broad spectrum of growth. Treatments can be in a particular area of a pond or occur across an entire water body.

All herbicides and algaecides serve particular purposes in particular situations. Just like any designed chemistry, these products are designed to be safe to use in the manner directed on the label.

Determine your target growth, select the appropriate chemistry, and learn the appropriate application method for that chemistry. In short use these products only as appropriate and only as stated on the product label.

Always remember that proactive control of pond weeds is essential to a healthy fishery. You should plan your vegetation treatment as part of the big picture as you consider your pond stocking plan and other pond management.

We obviously can’t go into detail on how to treat every kind of pond weed or algae you might encounter, but let’s go over a few basic uses of aquatic herbicides or algaecides ….

Marginal Growth

Sometimes pond weeds grow around the edge of a pond and create a significant barrier to access.

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These pond weeds may need to be treated in their entirety or lanes cut into the growth to allow point access to a water body. This kind of growth can be treated with some full lake in water treatments but will generally best be addressed with foliar treatments with either systemic or contact herbicides.

Contact foliar herbicides usually only take a few days to work and rapidly turn growth brown beginning decomposition of plant material immediately.

Contact herbicides work quickly but often leave basal or root material viable. This live tissue often regenerates, rapidly regrowing a treated plant.

This means that contact herbicides are best used when plants are dormant or when rapid results are required.

In most cases, foliar systemic treatments will be used in lieu of contact herbicides. These chemistries tend to be slow acting taking many days to several weeks to kill the target pond weeds. These chemicals enter the plants through the leaves and then move through the plant to the roots killing the plant all the way down.

Systemic herbicides usually provide the best control but must be applied to actively growing plants.

In some situations a combination of contact and systemic herbicide is used to provide quick knockdown and extended control. Do note that seeds will generally escape various treatments eventually resprouting in the cleared area. Depending on the plant this can occur in a few weeks or up to several years after treatment.

Submersed Growth

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Most of the growth that lake managers struggle with is submersed pond weeds.

Whether algal or vegetative, submersed growth fills a lake’s water column, clogging up a waterway and causing the oxygen and habitat issues we have previously discussed.

Depending on your goals, treatments should be conducted whenever vegetation growth hits about 20% coverage. Treating proactively when growth is at lower levels reduces risk to the fishery and preserves good habitat.

With experience, a good fishery manager will know what the most problematic vegetation is and which treatments to prioritize.

Often certain pond weeds can be left alone because they have less aggressive growth habits or because they are easier for fishermen to fish.

Other pond weeds are prone to top out in deep water or grow very quickly.

These latter are always prioritized for treatment.

A plethora of chemistries is available for treating submersed plants and care should be taken when selecting the preferred product or application method.

Matted growth in deep water often responds well to the use of droppers to place the product directly on the growth. In other cases, granular products can be used to great effect. When you are dealing with topped out vegetation, sprays are usually employed for best effect. That being said, care should be taken to get the applied product down into the mat and not just misted out over the surface.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind about submersed vegetation is the extreme amount of vegetation you will have per surface acre of water.

Many types of pond weeds can produce many tons of vegetative material per acre. This means that when you treat vegetation there is a lot of material that needs to break down.

The breakdown happens by decomposition, which is an oxygen-intensive process.  It is easy to kill too much vegetation at a time and this can cause an oxygen depletion event which can easily lead to a partial or catastrophic fish kill. This risk is multiplied in the heat of summer when water’s oxygen carrying capacity is already strained.

Floating Vegetation

The last category of pond weeds is floating vegetation.  This can range from duckweed to water hyacinth or the infamous giant Salvinia.

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Some of these plants are native and many are exotic invasives.

Know that floating vegetation makes a barrier between your water and the air and as such can prevent oxygen exchange.  A solid covering of floating vegetation can cause an oxygen depletion event which leads to a fish kill.  Treatments are certainly species specific, but include systemic whole waterbody in-water treatments, contact foliar herbicides, contact herbicides, and foliar systemic treatments.

It’s important to target all of the growth as most of these pond weeds reproduce quite quickly.  Look for brushy banks where floating plants can hide out.  Selecting the right product to use is integral but correct application methodology is equally important to ensure you get the growth as thoroughly as you can.

When treating floating vegetation always take a look up the watershed from your pond or lake. Is there another water body that flows into yours? If so, try to find out if the floating vegetation comes from there.

Oftentimes a well-designed treatment is undone after a heavy rain brings a fresh batch of floating plants down from another water body. This is the time to get to know your neighbors and try to design a watershed wide management plan when possible. If you can’t address water bodies upstream it is occasionally appropriate to erect a floating barrier to prevent plants from washing into the main body.

Manage Pond Weeds for a Thriving Fishery

Know your plants, learn the correct product to address the growth, and learn the correct application technique or hire someone who does.

Correctly controlling pond weeds is key to fishery management, the first part of our fishery threesome (Habitat, Fish, and People). Correctly managed vegetation helps your fishery thrive, improves fish fecundity, improves water quality, provides aesthetic benefit, and allows access for fishing and other water activities.

Take a look at your lake and take care of the growth now, so as to avoid considering heavy treatments in the heat of summer.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

Pruning around the pond: vegetation control is important for lake maintenance

By Matt Ward

There are many aspects to aquatic vegetation and we’ll explore several of them over time with this blog, but here we want to focus on management and control of pond weeds.

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With everyone receiving their spring pond stocking, it is important to not neglect the vegetation, which may prevent pond managers from getting the most out of their stockings in the year to come. 

Certainly, not all vegetation is a detriment to a healthy fishery and moderate amounts of growth are to be encouraged in some situations. Desirable growth will not detract from your lake’s aesthetics, and will also absorb excess nutrients, reduce erosion, and allow you to effectively fish the lake.

Vegetation in the right amounts can also give small fish a place to grow up and avoid over-predation, and even provide bass with quality ambush points for efficient feeding.

The rest of the time, some form of vegetation management will be in order to maintain the fishery and the overall function of the lake. It’s a good idea to make vegetation management part of your overall pond management and maintenance activities.

Why Manage Vegetation Growth?

Of course there are always functional and aesthetic reasons to control vegetation growth on ponds and lakes. Many good resources are online to help you identify vegetation and learn how to control it, such as Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension AquaPlant site.

But in a broader sense, control of pond weeds boils down to extending the life of a pond or lake by slowing the aging process (the technical term is eutrophication).

In short, lakes fill up over time with plants and sediment, so controlling vegetation means slowing the fill-in process. This is a long-term benefit of vegetation control but there are many more immediate benefits to good vegetation management.

Dense vegetation growth will actually allow your baitfish to escape predation and make your bass go hungry. A fresh pond stocking of bluegill could very well hide in dense vegetation, preventing your bass from benefiting from the effort.

Healthy bass fisheries usually only have 10% to 15% vegetation coverage. Vegetation should be controlled when coverage hits or exceeds 20% coverage. The right amount of vegetation is especially helpful to fishermen as it will help them easily identify the “fishy” areas of the lake since vegetation provides a simple visual cue for fishermen to target.

Too much vegetation can put too much demand on your dissolved oxygen levels, especially during warm weather or in the presence of a healthy fish population.

Certainly, plants produce oxygen during sunny weather and during the day, but at night and in cloudy weather, plants use oxygen just like all other living organisms. If dissolved oxygen levels fall too far, a fish kill could result.

This kind of kill is especially likely when dealing with floating plants like hyacinth or duckweed, which can literally smother a pond. Interestingly, studies done on dense stands of vegetation have found oxygen levels to be near zero in the heart of the vegetative stand – meaning there can actually be too dense of growth to allow fish to live inside that stand even when the lake in general is perfectly habitable to fish.

Apart from biological reasons to control pond weeds, excess growth can block recreational access, preventing fishermen from having clear casting lanes from the shore or from accessing various portions of a waterbody by boat.

Vegetation can also prevent effective fishing when fishermen spend more time cleaning pond weeds from their lures than actually fishing. This is, of course, particularly frustrating to young anglers.

Begin with the Outcome in Mind

Most discussions on vegetation devolve into management methodology, but never forget that determining the desired outcome is certainly the first step in determining the best strategy to manage your vegetation.

In fishery management we are always encouraged to pursue integrated pest management strategies for best results. Once growth of pond weeds has reached the management threshold (growth exceeds desired level), we want to generally consider three options for management: mechanical, biological, chemical.

Mechanical

If the amount of vegetation that is growing is light or you need to quickly remove growth from a particular area, mechanical control may be the best management option.

Most of the time this would involve raking up vegetation around a dock, removing a few plants that grow up in the wrong location around a lake, or perhaps clearing pond weeds from around a water intake.

In some situations, mechanical harvesters could be employed to remove larger stands of vegetation to open up water and remove some biomass. In general, mechanical removal is labor intensive and results are short lived.

Biological

Next, biological control should be considered.

Triploid grass carp have particular vegetation preferences that should be considered, but in general, these sterile vegetation-eating fish can provide general and non-specific control of vegetation growth.

When stocked at the right level, some vegetation can persist while the bulk of the vegetation stand is reduced. In general, grass carp will take a couple of years to reach their management potential and then may persist in a given water body for up to around 15 years.

It should be known that in certain situations, grass carp will exceed their management objective and need to be removed after introduction in some waters. Excess grass carp prevent all forms of vegetation growth and may muddy the water.

Note that triploid grass carp stocking requires permitting in the state of Texas and must be planned for in advance.

Tilapia offer a second form of biological control. Tilapia are omnivores and do eat plants, but tilapia really shine in their ability to control algae growth.

Each water body is different, but at high densities, algae control has been consistently achieved in a variety of water bodies. Be sure to follow state rules on stocking tilapia, but at the moment no stocking permit is required in Texas.

Do note that tilapia will compete with sunfish to a degree and ultimately reduce your lake’s sunfish carrying capacity.

Tilapia provide a decent alternative forage for bass, but check with your biologist to consider the impact tilapia will have to your water body before stocking. Do note that tilapia are tropical fish that can survive some mild Texas winters (especially in southern Texas), though they generally require annual stockings for their populations to be maintained.

Chemical

In most cases, chemical control will be required to achieve the desired level of vegetation control.

There are a lot of factors to consider in how to approach managing vegetation and algae with chemistry and we will go into this in more detail next week.

Until then, go check on your lakes and ponds and see if you can begin to identify vegetation issues before they start to get out of hand. This is the time of year we can actually get a jump on pond weeds before they get out of control.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

Bang for the Buck: Building a premier fishery with pelleted food

By Matt Ward

Fisheries at their most fundamental are a combination of habitat, fish, and people.

The perfect blend of these three ingredients should create a healthy system with plenty and bigger fish for fishermen to target.

Many factors go into creating a successful fishery, but likely the single most efficient step toward improving an angler experience is a fish feeding program.

High Points

After 15 years of doing this job, I already know that some of your eyes are glazing over as the image of little brown pellets of feed flying out over your pond fails to inspire.

But try a few of these facts on for size:

Did you know that when you feed fish with a quality feed their conversion factor can be upward of two pounds of fish food to grow a pound of fish?

Compare that to forage fish, for which bass must consume 10 pounds to generate one pound of body weight.

As for cost, quality fish food can be fairly expensive compared to some other animal feeds. But considering our conversion rates, we can usually grow forage like bluegill for around $2 per pound, which is much less expensive than purchasing bluegill from a hatchery.

In the end quality fish food is about 20 times more efficient than fish stocking when it comes to feeding fish in an established fishery.

Why Does the Type of Feed I Use Matter?

Different fish have different nutrition requirements.

Catfish can often be efficiently grown on relatively inexpensive low protein feed. Higher order predators or insectivores generally thrive on higher protein feed.

At Lochow Ranch, most of our pond management and lake management services and products focus on feeding largemouth, hybrid striped bass, bluegill, and trout, all great choices when pond stocking.

We manufacture a custom feed specially formulated for accelerated fish growth in intensively managed lakes. This feed blend approximates natural foods for target fish.

Testing indicates that quality feed, though more costly than the cheap stuff, will generally grow more fish per dollar spent. In the end, this means that if your goal is growth, you are better off feeding a lesser amount of quality feed than to settle for a bottom shelf bargain.

How Do I Feed?

The key to a successful fish feeding program is consistency.

If you can visit your pond multiple times per day, every day, hand feeding will easily accomplish your purposes of feeding the fish.

For the rest of us, this means using an automatic fish feeder. A quality fish feeder should hold an appropriate amount of feed to allow you to avoid having to constantly fill it. The feeder also should keep the feed dry and work consistently for years with limited repairs.

That being said, even the best feeders will occasionally have issues and require maintenance. Be sure to check your feeder’s operation each time you fill it. Filling and maintaining feeders is standard fare for all of our regular maintenance accounts.

How Much and How Often to Feed

This is a highly subjective decision.

A good biologist will weigh fish density, time of year, type of fish, daylight hours, and a budget to determine how much and how often to feed.  A conversation with a good biologist should help you determine the amount that is appropriate for your pond or lake.

A few general principles apply: First, feed during daylight hours. Feeding during the day avoids allowing predators to grab a quick meal under the cover of darkness.

Fishermen generally visit ponds and lakes during the day so daylight feeding also will encourage the fish to be active when fishermen can most easily target them.

Second, spread feedings out over the day. Fish are similar to us in that they can only digest so much at a time. Feeding multiple times per day is better than all at once.

Third, you should expect your fish to eat more during the warmer months of the year than the cold. Feeding can be turned down during the winter. The one exception to this rule is trout. Trout can feed steadily all winter long.

What About Waste?

If you have fed fish for long, you are no doubt familiar with the occasional sight of a little leftover feed sitting at the edge of the lake.

Most lake owners are immediately concerned about this wasted feed.

But let’s dive into a few other things to consider.

First, know that fish have moods. Being cold blooded, they won’t feed evenly every day of the year. Occasional bits of leftover food are to be expected.

Sometimes fish experience delayed feedings, waiting 15 minutes or more before hitting the feed. Other times leftover feed might indicate that predators are terrorizing your fish. Keep a close eye on the feeders at feeding time and look for birds or otters that might learn to hang around the feeder.

In the vast majority of cases of leftover feed, marginal vegetation and algae is trapping the feed and fish just can’t get to that feed.

Effective management of pond weeds will reduce the growth and most of the time the fish will start cleaning up the remnants. If these reasons are explored and you are getting consistent waste, it’s time to turn down the feedings.

Turn the feeders down slightly and monitor excess feed to find the proper levels.  Make sure to give your fish a couple of weeks to adjust to new feeding levels.  Of course, on the flipside, if your fish are eating all the applied feed you can likely increase feeding levels to boost your fish production.

Fish Follow Food

In the end, fishing requires fish.

The more fish your lake contains, the more fish you will be able to catch when you fish.

If you remember nothing else, remember that fish food is the most cost-effective method we have at boosting the productivity of a given pond or lake. Establish a good feeding program as part of your fishery management and pond stocking plans and your fishing will improve.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

The Big Freeze: how did last week’s arctic blast affect Texas ponds and fish?

By Matt Ward

First, let me say that we sincerely hope that all of you are OK after last week’s extreme winter weather. Our thoughts are truly with those who experienced the worst of the power and water outages. If you were among this group we hope that you are on the road to recovery this week.

I have to say it was heartening to see so many coming together to help each other out during the big freeze.

On a related note, we have received a good number of questions from our clients about the effect of cold on ponds and lakes so we hope this brief summary helps to answer most of your questions.

Please drop us a line if you have any other specific concerns or questions we can answer around fishery management or pond management in general.

What about the fish?

As most of you know, fish are cold-blooded (“ectotherms” would be a more scientifically correct term for the science nerds).

This means that during our unusually cold weather, fish body temperatures mirrored the lake temps and as such fish metabolisms slowed to a crawl. In general, most of the fish that live in our waters are accustomed to short periods of cool weather and will have fared the weather just fine.

That being said, there are a few fish that are a bit more cold-sensitive so we do want to keep an eye out for these fish and note any losses.

Threadfin shad

The most cold-sensitive fish we have in our lakes are threadfin shad. Threadfin generally experience at least partial die-offs when water temperatures dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

On top of this, threadfin shad get highly lethargic and even the fish that would have survived the cold will generally get swallowed up by largemouth bass which are much less affected by the low water temps.

With last week’s cold front, we expect that we lost most or all of the threadfin shad in most every small impoundment in the state.

We’ll be monitoring populations in lakes with large amounts of shad, but we don’t expect to find shad left over. Threadfin shad availability will also likely be down this year, so expect supplies to be short as well.

If you want to restock the fish, get your orders in early and know that demand should outstrip supply.

Florida Bass

While far more cold-hearty than threadfin shad, Florida bass are famously more susceptible to cold than their northern counterparts. While cold weather can kill off Florida bass, fishery managers stock Florida bass successfully well north of the Red River.

Losses in Texas should be minor though the farther north you are, the more attention you should pay to your Florida largemouth bass stock. Northern largemouth bass are fully adapted to cold water like we experienced last week, but certain populations like feed-trained bass can be a bit more susceptible to rapidly cooling water temps.

While we expect that threadfin shad are the primary victim of last week’s arctic blast, an electrofishing survey is the best way check for any other significant impacts.

Predators get active during cold

Fish instincts do generally cause fish to go deep during cold weather, providing a small degree of protection from predators. But cold weather also increases the metabolisms of both otters and birds who need to eat more to keep warm.

While your fish may survive the cold just fine, predator consumption will rise and fish losses from predation should be expected. Do what you can to minimize loss, but look for changes in catch rates and be prepared to stock.

Vegetation takes a hit

The one really bright side of last week’s weather is that the cold-snap should provide a welcome reprieve from undesirable early season growth of pond weeds.
Cold water temperatures have likely pushed the growing season back several weeks allowing for a thorough winter kill and forcing pond weeds to grow again from seeds and roots.

Note that marginal vegetation will likely have turned completely brown. But have faith. Most native vegetation is built to survive this kind of weather event and growth will return once temperatures warm. While browned-out growth can be removed for aesthetic purposes, know that removal will likely slow recovery.

Forage fish lose cover

Whenever we lose submersed vegetation, forage fish often lose a majority of their preferred cover.

This cover loss can enable bass to depress forage populations which may not recover for several months or until supplemental stockings are deployed.
These kinds of situations really demonstrate the value of non-living cover which provides stable cover regardless of winter vegetation die-back.

The best way to monitor the impact from winter forage loss is to monitor bass health as the weather warms. If bass remain fat and healthy forage loss is likely not a concern, while thin bass indicate a lack of the same. While all gamefish benefit from robust forage populations, do note that pelleted feed-based fisheries need not be concerned about temporary forage fish depressions as gamefish rely primarily on fish food.

Keep an eye on your fishery

All in all, cold weather certainly impacts fisheries in significant ways. These impacts are generally specific to each fishery and difficult to predict across the board. In general predation will have increased and forage fish populations will have fallen. To keep your fishery developing appropriately you should monitor the fishery and make needed adjustments in a timely manner to keep your fishery developing appropriately.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch for Pond & Lake Management

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

The lake management calendar: maintaining your dream pond throughout the year

By Matt Ward

Managing your pond or lake to maximize its potential is a year-round endeavor. Careful pond cultivators follow a calendar outlining the best activities to pursue each month.

In our region, that calendar starts and ends the year with the least amount of upkeep, and surges with mid-year responsibilities. Regardless of the list length, however, each of these fishery management obligations is important to keep your dream fishing hole at its highest quality.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommends a calendar based on management, stocking, reproduction, feeding, harvesting, and drawdown, if possible.

Following is a calendar outline illustrating how smart lake and pond owners take care of their investments:

Year-round

There are a few things you can easily do year-round, such as building or renovating a pond or lake, pond water testing, harvesting excess or undersized bass or undesirable species, and clearing muddy water.

January

This month is the time to focus on agricultural limestone applications, which regulate the pH levels that are critical to fish growth and reproduction. Ponds should be tested before stocking, and Texas A&M recommends that you use the same lime used on your pastures and meadows. Lime additions are recommended from October-February.

January is also a time to focus on supplemental and new forage stocking. Pond stocking is an important part of any lake management program and requires skill and precision to ensure the results live up to your expectations and can be maintained over the long term. Determining what fish will work best for you involves many variables, including your goals and the size of your pond and lake. Fish stocking is recommended from September-June.

February

This month sees largemouth bass spawning begin and continue through April.

Electrofishing Texas Louisiana Arkansas Oklahoma 107

Also this month, experts recommend you begin scheduling electrofishing surveys, which are an excellent tool for correcting an out-of-balance pond and planning pond stocking. Electrofishing surveys accurately assess current forage and sport fish populations and help you to assess any wintertime damage quantify from cormorants or otter. Fish populations also are sampled to determine species, size, relative abundance and growth rates.

Experts use a top-of-the-line electrofishing boat to identify stunted fish or unwanted species, which can be easily and quickly removed as part of this service. An electrofishing survey is a standard scientific survey method that causes no long-term negative effect to the fish population in your pond or lake.

Performed correctly, the fish are stunned briefly; examined for species to determine abundance, population density, weights and measurements; and then quickly returned to their normal state.

An electrofishing survey is the reference point for a long-term fishery management plan, providing clues for corrective pond stocking and harvest recommendations. Experts recommend electrofishing surveys from February-June and September- November.

March

This month, experts recommend starting supplemental feeding of forage fish, catfish, hybrid striped bass and feed-trained bass.

Supplemental feeding greatly increases the weight of particularly catfish and bluegill. In managed lakes, there is more pond stocking and less available habitat and resources, therefore calling for this feeding. Supplemental feeding is recommended March-November.

Also this month, good managers begin pond weeds control and fertilization. Fertilization promotes the growth of phytoplankton, which are the foundation of aquatic ecosystems. Fertilization is recommended from March-September.

Texas A&M experts suggest that as you ponder the various ways to address pond weed control that you consider using triploid grass carp as a biological control treatment if plants they treat are present; and initiating herbicide weed control when growth begins around this time. Spot treatments of pond weeds are recommended in hot weather to avoid oxygen depletion. Control of pond weeds should be addressed from March-November, depending on your region.

April

This month will see the beginning of fingerling bass pond stocking, which goes through June.

May/June

Bluegill spawn during these two months and smart pond and lake owners may want to consider habitat enhancements to facilitate this.

These months are also part of the optimal time to conduct pond renovations, though they can be done throughout the year. Such renovations can include addressing dam leaks, drains, sediment, flats or shallow areas that are leading to undesirable growth of pond weeds, and other environmental problems.

July/August

These months are the best time to just chill out and enjoy your lake or pond if you’ve been on top of your fishery management needs.

If not, this is still the time to address supplemental feeding, aquatic weed control, and fertilization.

September-December

If not already addressed this year, now is the time to schedule supplemental and new forage stocking, lime addition and new electrofishing surveys.

While this schedule of monthly fishery management tasks is a good general guide, you need to evaluate your specific goals and conditions to maximizing the quality of your pond or lake year-round. At Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management, our team can offer expert pond management advice to make the most of your dream pond.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, buying fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

Prepping your pond for the season: what steps should you be taking now?

By Matt Ward

Spring will be here before you know it, along with better fishing weather. Now is the time to make sure your pond or lake delivers a top-notch fishing experience this year.

Smart pond and lake owners are choosing what fishery management approaches will make their oases meet their hearts’ desire, whether stocking with trout, creating a trophy bass pond, or adding the right forage fish for the best fish growth.

Fishery experts report that Texas farm ponds aren’t managed at their highest potential for fish production. Pond health and maintenance should be a top priority for landowners, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

So while you might be thinking about fish stocking for your pond or lake this year, there are other important maintenance steps to take to ensure the fish are plentiful and biting in months to come.

If you were underwhelmed with your lake’s performance in 2020 or are unsure of the current status, now is the time to be considering what approach will yield best outcomes in 2021.

Here are fishery management steps you should be looking at now:

Electrofishing Survey

If your pond or lake is geared toward fish quality, it’s highly recommended that you start with an electrofishing survey, which typically begin in February. It’s an excellent tool for correcting an out-of-balance pond.

Electrofishing for pond stocking and fish stocking services 05

These electrofishing surveys accurately assess current forage and sport fish populations and quantify wintertime Cormorant or otter damage. Fish populations also are sampled to determine species, size, relative abundance and growth rates.

It’s important to use a top-of-the-line electrofishing boat to identify stunted fish or unwanted species, which can be easily and quickly removed as part of this service. An electrofishing survey is a standard scientific survey method that causes no long-term negative effect to the fish population in your pond or lake.

Performed correctly, the fish are stunned briefly, examined for species to determine abundance, population density, weights and measurements, and then quickly returned to their normal state.

An electrofishing survey is the reference point for a long-term pond management plan, providing clues for corrective stocking and harvest recommendations. While electrofishing surveys are used on established lakes to determine and diagnose problems, they’re also used as a routine management tool to identify issues before they become large and expensive problems.

Our fish experts can conduct an electrofishing survey for you using state-of-the-art techniques and equipment. Click here to learn more.

Pond stocking

Supplemental and new forage pond stocking starts as early as January and helps reconcile losses from avian predation and establish proper predator to prey ratios going into summer.

What kinds of fish will work best in your body of water involves many variables, including your own goals for your pond or lake. For example, you need to carefully assess the impact of introducing non-native species into your pond. It’s important to be aware of the fish types that can live together in harmony so your pond can sustain a healthy eco-system.

Therefore, pond stocking must start with a plan and using professional guidance is key.

This important part of any pond management program must be handled with skill and precision to ensure that the results live up to your expectations and can be maintained over the long term.

Small ponds and large lakes must be stocked and managed in different ways. Factors such as location, health and condition also must be considered. Jumpstart pond stocking rates are also different from maintenance stocking rates, and the amount of maintenance stocking varies significantly based on the size of the lake and other factors.

It’s also important to understand spawning and other characteristics of specific fish you might want to stock. For example, rainbow trout will not spawn in Texas ponds. Meanwhile, spawning for our native strain of largemouth bass can begin as early as February depending on the temperature.

Our fish stocking professionals can help you navigate the considerations for pond stocking to arrive at the best plan for your lake or pond.

Control of pond weeds

Pond weeds

Vegetation control should be done starting early in the pond weeds growing season and follow-up treatments should be done throughout the season.

Your lake or pond is basically a small ecosystem that is cut off from many of the elements that maintain balance in natural waters. An array of products, equipment, herbicides, lake dyes and algaecides can help rid your property of nuisance aquatic plants or issues with floating, submerged or emergent pond weeds.

Some pond weeds can take over lake shorelines, making it difficult to fish from the shoreline or swim. Having some vegetation is beneficial for fish and other aquatic organisms. But too much vegetation can negatively impact aquatic organisms through a process called cultural eutrophication.

For a chemical-free approach, you can consider vegetation control as part of your pond stocking plan, such as stocking triploid grass carp and tilapia, which are among the most popular biological alternatives for removal of pond weeds. In addition, there are nutrient precipitation, fertilization regimes, and aeration systems to promote plankton blooms that improve the health of your pond and can shade out many pond weeds.

Aquatic vegetation is the cause of 80 percent of low dissolved oxygen fish kills in Texas. And the issues are complex enough that expert advice is recommended.

Our experts can help you assess the right approach to controlling vegetation in your pond or lake.

Liming and fertilizing

Just as you would fertilize fields to increase crop yields, you should fertilize a pond or lake to provide phytoplankton with adequate nutrients for fish growth and that should start now.

Proper pond fertilizing increases food availability throughout the food chain and indirectly increases the total amount of fish a pond can support. Ponds should be limed before fertilizer is applied, which is important because it increases pH and alkalinity. Even without fertilization, this may improve available nutrients which can support a phytoplankton bloom.

Harmful algae blooms and other harmful algae are becoming increasingly prevalent. To avoid such problems, you should consider establishing a long-term nutrient sequestration program.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Many lake and pond owner attempt to take this on themselves, but it really helps to bring in professionals to assist with an overall plan.

Learn more about liming and fertilization by clicking here.

Aeration & fountain maintenance

July and August can be deadly if dissolved oxygen levels are not where they should be, according to the Texas Farm Bureau.

In order to avoid catastrophe, pond and lake owners currently should be inspecting aeration and fountain maintenance or considering their implementation now. Repairs could address obvious signs of wear or just the cleaning of filters and screens.

We offer a range of aeration systems and fountain systems for ensuring your pond’s oxygen levels are optimal.

Why Choose Lochow Ranch

Serving Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management proudly puts more than two decades of experience to work for you. Our team includes biologists, technicians and other professionals with deep expertise in pond and lake management services.

Check us out if you are considering building a lake, looking for pond stocking services, to buy fish for a pond, or getting professional pond management and maintenance or fishery management. Our services include lake design, pond construction, pond renovation, pond water testing, electrofishing, pond stocking, control of pond weeds, and pond liming and fertilizing. Let us help you build your dream pond that will delight your family and friends for generations to come.

Click here to get in touch to get started today.

Matt Ward is a Fishery Biologist for Lochow Ranch Pond & Lake Management. He has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University and has worked in fisheries management in Texas for 15 years.  He brings a passion for good science and an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences to help property managers steward their aquatic resources and achieve management objectives.

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