by Jake Hahn, SWCD Technician
In these times of COVID-19, I have decided to write a fun article that will keep you busy and answer questions about your pond, while keeping to the social distancing. I visit many ponds each year throughout the county and assist land owners and pond managers with many problems they may be having including algae, pond leaks, pond construction and fish kills, most of which are not fun for the landowner to address. I often am asked how do I know if I have a healthy hatchery, or how sustainable is the fish population years after stocking? Not questions I can answer in an assessment, but here is where the fun begins.
People install a pond on their property for many different reasons, including recreation, aesthetics, water management, or maybe just to mow less grass. Whatever the reason, I am amazed at how little many of these ponds are fished. To accurately understand what is happening under the water you have to get in there with a hook and bobber to find out.
Keeping records of the type, size, and quantity of fish caught over time will let you know how your fish are doing. Are they getting larger? Are you catching as many bass as you once were? Are you seeing small fish due to reproduction? You can then use those numbers to make management decisions on your fishery. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has an excellent pond management publication available online that has tips to manage your fishery and includes a diary page example for keeping records.
So let the fun begin and get the kids, grandkids, and big kids at heart out doing some “pond inventory work.” This is a great way to get kids outdoors as they try to outfish their previous outing or for them to learn natural resources management and record keeping. So go out, be active, social distance and have fun.
As many of you know, ponds are not natural in Clermont County. All the ponds that you see have been constructed throughout the years for many different purposes. Today there are over 5,000 ponds that dot our landscape. Why are there so many and how has SWCD helped residents plan, install and maintain these features?
In 1943, when Clermont SWCD began helping landowners with soil problems, ponds were installed to remove livestock from creeks and provide a source of water during drought. Beginning in the 1940’s ponds were designed and constructed throughout the county by Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS) and SWCD for this purpose; 207 were installed by 1954. Hundreds were constructed throughout the 1950’s to 1980 with over 500 more constructed.
Cheaper means of getting livestock water, such as public waterlines that were crisscrossing the county caused a shift in funding away from ponds. The district now designs livestock watering facilities from some of these ponds, but most water comes from public water systems.
Fishing lakes also became popular during this time with 19 reported lakes in 1970 including the colorful named Bob and John’s Ding-a-ling Lake. Eventually larger lakes were installed in the county for flood control and other purposes including Stonelick Lake in 1950 and Harsha Lake (East Fork Lake) in 1978.
Many of these ponds are still on the landscape today, with many landowners still seeking assistance from SWCD for continuing maintenance. In 1958, SWCD began partnering with other organizations and professional pond care specialists to educate pond owners at pond management clinics. These clinics were held every two years or so into the 1980’s. In 1992 after a few years absence, SWCD began their annual pond clinic that is still popular today.
The purpose of a pond today has changed from when we started constructing them for drought purposes, but ponds are still desired for other reasons and each year more are constructed. Most ponds constructed today are for recreational or storm water control. If you own or maintain a pond built through the drought program, most likely it may not meet the needs of today. Most of these ponds have outlived their life expectancy and will need to be rehabbed as per the pond owner’s desires.
To find out more, join us at our next Pond Clinic on April 10th. Learn how to combat nature that is always affecting a pond and learn new techniques and stocking recommendations to maximize your pond potential.
Stocking cool water fish such as trout, perch, or walleye can bring added enjoyment to your fishing lake. Typically these fish are stocked in deep spring fed ponds in our region of Ohio. Cool water fish require more oxygen than the traditional stocked pond fish, so aeration is highly recommended.
Landowners with smaller, warmer lakes can also stock these fish on a seasonal basis. They are typically stocked in the fall and are fished until early spring when the water begins to warm again. At this point the fish will typically die. Cool water fish stocked in this manner are typically “pan ready”, meaning they are harvestable sizes when stocked. If you are looking for a fun option to put food on the table, this may be worthwhile.
Speak with a certified fish hatchery to determine if your pond will meet your expectations of a cool water fishery. Order early in the season to guarantee shipment for when you plan to stock. If you are planning a family or community fishing party/tournament, this could add to the excitement of your event.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife has an excellent Pond Management Handbook available online for those that own ponds. This free downloadable resource is a must have for pond owners. Inside you will find information regarding fish stocking, fish management, managing aquatic vegetation and other problems and solutions regarding pond health and management.
This handbook was made for the typical pond owner, easy to read, many pictures, and geared to issues found here in Ohio. This publication was updated in 2015.
A successful pond is only as good as proper pond construction and proper construction begins with the knowledge of the builder. A pond should have 25% of its basin at a depth of eight feet or greater and side slopes at a 3:1 ratio (three feet out, one foot down). A minimal round pond size built to this spec. will be approx. 100 feet in diameter. This does three things, it gets you into deeper water quickest while maintaining a stable slope on your bank, creates “open water” on your pond and provides proper habitat for spawning.