(Editor’s Note:  Folks who have called the office probably would guess the author of this article from the story-telling-style and country vernacular. If fish mysteriously wind-up in your pond, please forward the story so we can share with other readers to find out if birds stock ponds. Thanks, Walter.)

Birds Stock Ponds

Fish instinctively swim upstream in moving
water, but swift spillway discharge can sweep smaller baitfish away.

If you’ve spent any time on a ranch, hopefully you experienced the owner bumping into neighbors.  It’s usually while opening a gate along property lines or at the mailbox.  These are special spots and special moments.  They can visit without a fast car zooming by or someone asking them to move so another person can have their parking space.  It’s a special spot where they might see a deer or coyote trot by before the conversation ends. Sound like a place you could have a serious conversation?

I anxiously anticipate opportunities to visit the next ranch.  Real cowboys still say yes ma’am and tip their hats to ladies. They use a firm handshake, not a lawyer or 10-page legal document, when they want to buy, sell, or settle something. It’s just straight talk.  Need any help?  How’s your family?  See ya’ at church.  And you never know what topic may arise.

birds stock ponds

Numerous shad were found along the spillway.

I recently had a memorable time at one of those spots.  The landowner was trying to understand how fish showed-up in a pond that had gone dry three timesand never been stocked.  Consider these folks grow-up among generations of families who make their living off the land. They respect what’s in big books, but they’ve been educated by what works and doesn’t work in real time.  Remember a few things your grandparents taught you that you haven’t seen in a book?

I wish you could have been on the tailgate of the truck with me and heard the followingconversation.  I talk as slow as these ol’ boys and was raised aroundtheir vocabulary, soIhoped that gave me credibility.

I asked, “When a hen lays an egg in the barnyard, what’s the odds of it hatchin’ without her sittin’ on it?  Without nurturin’, how long could it survive predation by a coon, possum, or chicken snake?”

Hmmm”,was the first reply.

I explained fish eggs were even more fragile.  Folks hear myths of eggs being transplanted on the legs or beaks of birds. If so:

  1. What prevented them from drying up in flight?
  2. How could water temps in the recipient pond be perfect to complete the cycle?
  3. How’d they land in a spawning bed?It must have certain conditions.
  4. Who protected the eggs from predators until they hatched?
  5. It’s generally accepted that most fish experience acute stress if out of water longer than we can hold our breath.
Birds Stock Ponds

Swift foreground flow is from spillway discharge in the above boat dock photo. This runoff empties into a creek in the background. The creek fills a town lake six miles downstream. During these conditions, rough fish have migrated to this location behind the dam.

Fact is, accepted methods for fish reaching ponds are:

  1. Planned stocking.
  2. A neighbor thinks he has too many fish and dumps a bucket-full in yours..
  3. Fish migrating into the pond during local flooding.

I shared an experience stocking a pond near Rockwall, TX.  I arrived after a heavy rain so I couldn’t drive to the location. Walking across the pasture, I noticed a small pond 250-yards above my destination was running around.  I reached the drainage and followed it to the delivery site.  The slow, meandering flow was no more than one-foot wide and a few inches deep. Midway to my pond— in the middle of a normally dry pasture—I looked down to see several two-inch bass. A short distance later, some bluegill fry.  Within a few hours, that overflowing pond would return to normal pool, but its legacy would affect the lower pond’s fishery for years.  It was like a tree falling in the forest with no one around. Did it make a noise?  When the little pond overflowed, did it make an impact? Absolutely!  If I hadn’t witnessed it, the owner still would be wondering how those bass got into that pond.

In closing, I asked the gentleman, “Have your cows ever mysteriously showed up in a neighbor’s pasture?  Was there a hole in the fence or clear answer how they got there?”

I heard another, “Hmmm”.

Birds Stock Ponds

This view illustrates inflow from a 4,200-acre watershed for the 25-acre lake. Rainfall over 3-inches floods smaller ponds in the zone and flushes them into the big lake basin.

By the end of the conversation, we reached some common ground.  We could have built a campfire and continued, but there were chores to do.

I didn’t have time to share this story with my friend, but if you’ll indulge me one more, I think you’ll find it interesting.  In 1990, Bob and I were rotenoning three holes of water to be inundated by a 25-acre lake 90-miles northwest of Fort Worth.  The creek bed flowed ONLYwith rainfall over three-inches.  When runoff subsided, the creek bed dried-up and left one small hole of water almost three-fourths of a mile up the dry lake bed from the proposed dam. You could skip a rock across it.  After treating that spot, we found 14 different species of fish.  Common fish could drift downstream with watershed runoff to this spot.  Carp and gar had to travel over six miles upstreamfrom the nearest impoundment to this site.  Imagine!  Here’s the best part.  Local historians say that same tiny pond was a watering stop for Texas cattlemen driving herds to Kansas railheads from the late 1860’s to 1880’s.  How long had fish inhabited that oasis?  Nature reveals some secrets, but keeps others to challenge us.

Next time you see your neighbor, wave them over for a visit about their pond? Invite them to see your latest improvement or project.  Hold a harvest party and host a fish fry.  Form a coop among adjacent landowners.  Ask us about consulting rates for such groups.  We’ll develop monthly maintenance programs.  Gather neighbors for an on-site seminar to develop goal-oriented, successful management plans.

Many of us live in the city and count days until we return to our special spot.  I’ll wager a sack of fish food; it’s where you’ve resolved some important issues. Whether it was on the dock, in a fishing boat, or on the cabin porch envisioning a dream pond in the front yard, there’s nowhere like it.  Let’s meet there and visit about methods to develop your property’s potential. Your supper may be cold by the time we finish, but it will be fun.  I’ve exceeded my word count for this story.  But when you begin exploring opportunities, it’s hard to stop.