During consults this month, comments about New Year’s resolutions often arise.  When it occurs, we can’t resist casting humor into the conversation?

We might say, “Last year, you resolved to keep catch records.  Let’s review them.  Did you see a significant gain in relative weights?”

Too often our friends look at the pond and back at us with a blank stare.  We certainly aren’t attempting to embarrass them.  But we consider it our job to interject “tough love” through accountability to insure their ponds achieve maximum productivity so the owners experience life-long memories.  Because we see the consequences of delayed management, expect our New Year’s message to sound familiar.  We ask everyone to look down into his or her pond.  Do you see a healthy reflection or is poor water quality blurring a positive image?

Each season, you get an opportunity to take your pond to the next level, or in some cases, right past wrongs.  Please remember, “ecosystems have a window of forgiveness”, but they’re no different from deferred maintenance on your home or automobile.  Delayed response compounds problems, plus costs to correct them.  You’ve heard us say a bass MUST consume seven to 10 pounds of forage to gain just one pound.  If it attains 50 percent of the quota one season, you can prevent permanent weight loss with a blast of forage.  Procrastinate action for two seasons and that potential eight or ten-pounder cannot make-up lean years to reach trophy status.  It may have the length of a 10-pounder, but will be scarred with a noticeable thin body for the rest of its life.  We regret seeing folks invest large sums of money to construct and stock dream ponds, then not complete simple procedures to achieve goals. Timely implementation of a management plan is the most fun and economical phase.

One of our New Year’s resolutions is to find new, creative ways of emphasizing successful pond management steps.  However, after reading the 27th attempt, it sounded like someone being politically correct and that’s not our style. Some consultants may suggest compromising options, but we’ve experienced only one successful method. “We’re gonna keep dancin’ with the one that ‘brung’ us”.  You guessed it:

  • Habitat
  • Food chain
  • Genetics
  • Harvest

If your resolution is improving habitat, consider several PVC attractors for long-life and snag-free fishing.  They’re great baitfish cover to improve forage populations and angling.  Six-foot by six-foot models are $85 each.  If you like old-fashion brush piles, use cedar trees or small varieties with fine limb structure. Add three to four per acre.  Evenly space at what will be eight-foot depths when the pond is full.  This level should be above the thermocline and keep attractors submerged if summer water elevations drop slightly.  Call for a quote if you need Chad’s help with installation.  Obtain a current water analysis from the Extension Service Soil Lab.  Send a note to [email protected] if you need submission forms.  The test fee is only $20.  Get a jump on vegetation before water temperatures rise in April.  Chad can tell you how.

Do relative weight surveys indicate food chain should be the focus of this year’s efforts?  Consider stocking tilapia.  (See details in the below Product Review.)  If too many bass have stressed your bluegill population or water turkey raided the lake, another choice is stocking 250 four to six-inch adult bluegill per surface acre for approximately $1.35 each.  Also evaluate converting a one-quarter to one-half acre pond into a bluegill hatchery.  Stock it with 25 to 50 adults in April and feed all season.  Seine a bumper bluegill crop in September, transfer them to your primary lake, and send bass into a fall feeding frenzy.  Fish growth rates are determined by the strength of your food chain.  What do you want to catch?  Average or bragging size?  We’ll help!

Fish, wildlife, or livestock in a confined space need genetic diversity to sustain healthy future generations.  If your lake is five years old or more, options may include transferring “approved” fish from another pond on the property or acquiring new brooders.  Ask which would be best for your management goals.

Harvest!  Harvest!  Harvest!  We can’t overemphasize the importance of this phase.  It will “make or break” your fishery.  Keep all bass 14-inches and under.  Annual harvest should total 20-pounds per surface acre.  Trophy bass programs should consider removing all 16-inches and under up to 25-pounds per surface acre.  Folks who enjoy eating bluegill should feed a steady diet of Purina AquaMax and keep medium sizes.  Release all over six-inches for spawning stock.  Catfish enthusiasts should minimize numbers of fish over three pounds, especially in ponds smaller than one acre.  Big cats take up limited space and become more challenging to catch when fed regularly.  If catfish don’t spawn in your lake, harvest 50 percent of the number stocked when they reach one and one-half to two pounds.  Replace them with the equivalent number of 10-12 inchers for a rotating crop.

Please don’t let another year pass without a professional pond management plan.  In 2014, when we ask who fulfilled last year’s resolutions, be first to raise your hand.  You’ll have some valuable information to share about—success.

Thanks for your business!

Bob Lusk – Matt Rayl – Chad Fikes – Walter Bassano