It’s not just about what fish you’ve got in your pond, it’s also important what structures and habitats are in your pond. Find out some tips for a pond habitat from Bob Lusk, the Pond Boss.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite aspects of fisheries management, and that’s habitat. As goes the habitat, so goes the creatures that live in it.

Let’s define habitat. Habitat is what a plant or an animal needs to be able to reproduce, to live, to grow, to thrive, to congregate, to loaf. That’s what habitat is about.

So when someone calls and we talk about their pond, the first thing I ask them, what are your goals. Where do you want to go? Do you want to grow big fish? Do you want to use the pond as a swimming pond? Are you looking for beautiful lily pads?

Well, once I know where you want to go, then it’s time to evaluate where you are. We take a look at the habitat first. Let’s just say for example, you want to grow the world’s largest Largemouth Bass. Well, you got to have to not only habitat for Bass, you’ve also got to have habitat for what the Bass eat.

Largemouth Bass, especially big fish, they love shallow water near a point, quick access to deep water, something they can relate with like handmade PVC pipe structures or rock piles or a tree trunk perpendicular to the shore.

Small fish on the other hand, prefer dense tight cover. They like to have places they can hide, especially near the shoreline. Remember little bitty fish like this congregate. They need places to feed. They like to get away from the bigger fish that are always after them to try and eat them.

This is an underwater hump with some aquatic grasses, that grow out of the top of the hump. Around the edges of the hump large fish are attracted. You get into this grass, it is full of little bitty grass shrimp, scuds, tiny minnows, little bitty baitfish. This is a haven for baitfish. So when you have habitat, you want to think about habitat, you got to have something for everybody.

Now here’s a really important thing to understand about habitat structure and cover. 90% of the fish live in about 10% to 15% of your pond. So you don’t need to have the entire thing covered up with structure or cover or habitat. You need areas for the fish to spawn. You need areas for them to congregate and areas for them to hide. And most of that is going to happen around the edges. So that’s where you should put the majority of your structure and your cover.

Now here’s a pond boss tip, probably the most important thing I want to tell you here. Don’t just focus on one fish. Don’t focus on those big bass. Don’t forget to create areas for those little bitty fish. As goes the little fish, that’s what feed the big fish. You got to have cover for those small fish.

One other thing to remember is when you go to all the time and trouble and expense to create the structure and the cover and the habitat, if you’re running livestock around your pond, it’s okay to fence the pond off and open up just one part for the livestock, cattle, and horses to come be able to get a drink. But don’t leave the whole pond open because they’ll come in and tromp down all that structure and cover that you’ve added to your pond.

You know one of the most important things about the health of a pond are the plants that lived in it. Those plants also provide habitat. This particular pond has got several plants growing in it at this time of year. There’s some creeping yellow water primrose and then there’s some pond weeds over here, just under the surface of the water. Little bitty fish love to get up in there and hide in those plants. It’s good protection, good cover, and it’s a good source of food.

There’s also this time of year, we’re in the spring of the year, there’s also frog eggs all over the place. The frogs come in, lay the eggs. That’s that long string of little black specks in the middle of it. It looks kind of like jelly. Those are frog eggs, toad eggs. We love toad frogs. That also tells us that the pond is healthy. So aquatic plants, frog eggs stick to them, insects grow in them, feed the smaller fish. We love native plants around the edge of a pond.

How does all this apply to you? Here’s what I want you to take home. You have to have habitat. You can stock up on until you’re blue in and the face and your checkbook’s that thick, but if you don’t have the right kind of habitat to support the creatures that you’re putting in it, It isn’t going to work.

It starts with the habitat, moves to the food chain, we talked about genetics at another point, and harvest at some point. Today’s lesson is all about the habitat. Focus on that very very first.