Vegetation — Friend Or Foe?
Area pond owners were pleased to see spring rains fill treasured lakes. Near record rain runoff, however, also introduced increased nutrients to promote vigorous vegetation growth. If vegetation does not cover more than 20 percent of your pond, it’s your friend. If coverage exceeds that amount, or reached levels that disrupt lake use, it’s your foe.
Balanced vegetation can be positive and contribute beneficial fish habitat. Young baitfish utilize it as security zones to escape predation so they mature to contribute future generations of forage. If not properly managed, vegetation becomes too dense. Bass cannot feed efficiently and consume the next 10-pounds of baitfish for normal growth.
Here are examples of most common vegetation our biologists treat. We’re sharing these photos from the Texas Extension Service website www.aquaplant.com. The site is a valuable resource for identifying and properly managing aquatic vegetation.
Sooner or later, everyone deals with this annoying variety. It grows on the bottom. You see it when a patch completes a life cycle. Gases form under the patch, lift it off the bottom, and pieces float to the surface. Those strands form mats that drift around the pond with prevailing winds or in some cases cover large areas of the surface. Algae can be controlled chemically, but likely will return in 30-45-days. We recommend stocking tilapia as a biological management option. Their primary diet is algae. Tilapia don’t survive winter water temperatures below 52-degrees. In our area from spring to December, they offer an efficient method to minimize algae.
Chara is a variety that gets a little more tolerance. Properly managed, it grows on the bottom to contribute fish habitat. Chara has a crunchy texture. It’s common name is skunk weed and is easily identified by the odor.
Coontail can be very invasive if water visibility is clear. One treatment option is fertilizing before spring water temperatures awaken it from winter dormancy. Another is stocking grass carp for long-term maintenance and chemical savings. You must obtain a state permit to stock grass carp in Texas. These critters average 10-12-inches when stocked. They eat their weight in vegetation daily and may grow to 30 plus pounds at maturity. Contact us for an application.
Don’t let the pretty yellow flowers lull you into thinking water primrose is an innocent plant. If not caught early, it spreads quickly. Course, fibrous stems are too tough for grass carp to eat. The most efficient control is spraying.
Southern Naiad (Bushy Pondweed)
Cattails develop in shallow depths or boggy areas with no permanently standing water. They spread rapidly as seeds blow in the wind and migrate on the water’s surface. Cattails also develop from underground rhizomes. If not controlled, they may entirely ring a pond’s shoreline. Typical treatment is spraying with a glyphosate and surfactant.
Lotus offers an aesthetically pleasing appeal to the surface. It sprouts attractive flowers. Anglers love to retrieve frog lures across the waxy pads. But, lotus can cover large areas in no time. Runners are rooted in the bottom and extend to cover large areas in a short time. Treat the same way as cattails.
Planktonic algae blooms provide valuable food for newly hatched fish. As mentioned above, they also shade the water column and limit sunlight exposure to vegetation. When dense plankton occurs in hot, dry weather, you may see a green film on the surface. Left untreated, it can cause fish kills. Should you observe similar conditions, begin immediate aeration or treat with an algaecide.
If there’s one plant that gets a pass, it’s American pondweed. Development typically is along the shoreline. Vertical stems provide safe havens for small baitfish. Sparse development also allows freedom of movement not available with coontail, naiad, and primrose. It’s the only one we might consider transplanting to improve habitat.
Aquatic vegetation requires three resources to thrive: Sunlight, nutrients, and water temperatures preferred by each individual plant. Plants often are spread by waterfowl as they eat certain seeds and deposit them at their next stop. Spring is the best time to initiate a management plan just as plants awaken from winter dormancy and begin sprouting new growth. Timely implementation can make or break success. Plants must be accurately identified to select the proper chemical for treatment. If the correct brand is not applied, you will not get effective results.
Consult a professional to determine if chemical treatment the best choice? Would a chemical plan supported by grass carp be better? Our best advice:
- Early detection is important. It can save multiple costly chemical applications.
- Fertilize at the proper time to establish plankton. Plankton establishes a light barrier at the surface to minimize direct sun exposure that stimulates plant growth. If the pond is not managed for fishing, you can use dye products.
- Minimize pond depths less than three feet.
- Don’t treat too large an area at once. It can cause a fish kill.
- Don’t attempt to remove by cutting or raking. Such processes disburse sprigs and fragments that sprout new plants.
- Don’t transplant vegetation from other ponds. Nature will cultivate plants compatible with the environment. If you want to accent the pond with vegetation, let’s discuss water lilies in containers or floating islands.
Do some of these plants look familiar? Is runaway vegetation creating an eyesore or disrupting fishing? Call for an appointment to nip it in the bud and maximize productivity of your prized pond.
Photos courtesy of Texas Extension Service, Aquaplant.