P1428 Managing Mississippi Farm Ponds and Small Lakes by dandanhuanghuang


   Farm Ponds
     Small Lakes

                          Mississippi State University Extension Service
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks • Natural Resources Conservation Service
Planning .................................................................................. 4

Constructing ............................................................................. 5

Stocking .................................................................................. 6

Managing .............................................................................. 10

Controlling Aquatic Vegetation ................................................ 13

Liming and Fertilizing ............................................................. 16

Feeding ................................................................................. 20

Killing Fish ............................................................................. 20

Drawdowns ............................................................................ 22

Attracting Fish ........................................................................ 23

Renovating Ponds ................................................................... 23

Turtles .................................................................................... 24

Beaver and Muskrat Damage ................................................... 25

More Information .................................................................... 29
     Farm Ponds
        Small Lakes
A pond that consistently produces                            If you need assistance in plan-
good catches of fish is a result of                          ning a new pond or in managing
proper planning, construction,                               an old one, contact one of the fol-
and management. Poor planning,                               lowing agencies or one of their
improper construction, or lack of                            field offices located throughout
proper management results in                                 the state:
lakes and ponds that are rela-          Mississippi has
tively unproductive. This publica-                           MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF
tion encourages Mississippi           more than 130,000      WILDLIFE, FISHERIES AND PARKS
landowners to plan, construct,                               1505 Eastover Dr.
and manage their ponds and            farm ponds totaling    Jackson, MS 39211-6374
lakes properly for recreational                              601/432-2200
fishing.                                230,000 acres,       (Six district offices: Tupelo, Enid,
                                                             Canton, Meridian, Brookhaven,
A good pond depends on loca-
                                      ranging in size from   and Wiggins)
tion, design, construction, stock-      1/2 to 5 acres.
ing, and management. After the                               DEPARTMENT OF
pond is completed, success or           There also are       WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES
failure depends on the                                       Mississippi State University
landowner’s using practices to es-    more than 150,000        Extension Service
tablish and maintain good fish                               Box 9690
populations. Proper stocking and        acres of ponds       Mississippi State, MS 39762
the correct species and number, a                            662/325-3174
balanced harvest, proper fertiliza-      ranging from        (Extension office in each county)
tion, water quality management,
and aquatic weed control are ba-
                                         5 to 40 acres.      NATURAL RESOURCES
sics the pond owner should un-                               CONSERVATION SERVICE
derstand. Many unmanaged                                     100 West Capitol Street
ponds could produce many more                                Suite 1321, Federal Building
pounds of fish than they now pro-                            Jackson, MS 39269
duce if good management prac-                                601/965-5196
tices were followed.                                         (District office in each county)

PLANNING                                          you flood a large area. Such sites   age pond depth should be about
                                                  are ideal and minimize areas of      4 feet. This lets fish forage on the
Site                                              shallow water. Avoid large areas     bottom, even in summer, when
Site selection is extremely impor-                of shallow water because they        low oxygen concentrations are
tant. Natural Resources Conserva-                 become too shallow to use in late    common in deeper water, while
tion Service personnel can assist                 summer and fall dry periods, and     maintaining enough depth to sus-
in site selection, soil suitability,              they encourage undesirable           tain the fish during drought.
engineering survey, and design.                   aquatic plants. Also avoid loca-
                                                  tions with constantly flowing        Soil
They can estimate the cost of the
                                                  creeks or streams.                   Suitable soil is one of the primary
earthwork, make quality control
                                                                                       factors in selecting a pond site.
checks during construction, and                   Water Supply                         The soil should contain a layer of
provide information on other as-
                                                  Water should be adequate, but        material that water will not seep
pects of planning, design, and
                                                  not excessive, and may be pro-       through. Clays and silty clays are
                                                  vided by springs, wells, or sur-     excellent for this. Sandy clays are
    Before you design your pond,
                                                  face runoff. For ponds where         also usually satisfactory. To deter-
consider the shape of the land
                                                  surface runoff is the main source    mine suitability, take soil borings
(topography), water supply, and
                                                  of water, the contributing           at frequent intervals and have
soil type. If possible, consider
                                                  drainage area should be large        them analyzed. The Natural Re-
more than one location, and
                                                  enough to maintain a suitable        sources Conservation Service of-
study each one to select the most
                                                  water level during dry periods.      fice can assist with this
practical, attractive, and econom-
                                                  The drainage area should not be      evaluation. Not evaluating soil
ical site. Figure 1 shows a typical
                                                  so large, though, that expensive     strata properly could result in a
layout of a properly constructed
                                                  overflow structures are needed       pond that will not hold water.
farm pond.
                                                  and water exchange occurs too            Your Extension county agent
Topography                                        frequently. As a rule, a pond        can advise you how to collect soil
Consider topography first, be-                    should have 5 to 10 acres of         samples for analysis to determine
cause it directly affects building                drainage area for each acre of       the lime requirements (of the
costs and management. Put the                     impounded water. The amount of       pond bottom) for the site you
pond where enough water can                       runoff to be expected from a wa-     have selected. The State Soil Test-
be impounded with the least                       tershed depends on topography,       ing Lab charges a small fee for
amount of earth fill. A good site                 soil type, and plant cover.          this analysis.
is usually one where you can                      Deeper ponds do not necessarily
                                                  produce more fish than shallow       Permit
build a dam across a narrow sec-
                                                  ponds. But ponds that are too        Mississippi law now requires that
tion of a steep valley and where
                                                  shallow are at risk of drying        all landowners constructing an
the slope of the valley floor lets
                                                  under summer drought. The aver-      impoundment that can hold 25

              Figure 1. Layout of a typical farm pond

acre feet of water file an applica-   and they are less susceptible to                     seepage. The slope of the dam
tion with the Mississippi Depart-     water level changes.                                 should be no steeper than 3:1 on
ment of Environmental Quality                                                              the water side. On the backside,
before constructing a dam. There      Depth                                                a 5:1 slope lets you safely main-
is no fee required, but there are     Ponds in Mississippi should usu-                     tain the vegetation on the dam.
penalties for failure to file.        ally be at least 6 feet deep over                    For example, a dam with a 3:1
Under the guidelines and recom-       20 percent of the area. This en-                     slope will have a 1-foot rise for
mendations in this publication,       sures that fish will have sufficient                 every 3 feet of horizontal meas-
most properly constructed ponds       habitat during summer, when                          urement.
greater than 5 surface acres re-      evaporation can reduce water                              Establish suitable vegetation,
quire this permit. Please consult     levels 2 feet or more. To minimize                   such as Bermudagrass, fescue-
your Natural Resources Conserva-      undesirable aquatic plants, limit                    grass, Bahiagrass, Centipede, or
tion Service office and request       shallow water (less than 2 feet).                    other sod-forming grass on the
the necessary permit forms.           Most Mississippi ponds have low                      dam as soon as possible to pre-
                                      oxygen levels at depths greater                      vent erosion, muddy water, and
Fish Stocking                         than 4 feet in summer. Deep                          maintenance problems. Do not let
Game fish are available from pri-     ponds are not necessary for pro-                     trees or shrubs grow on the dam.
vate hatcheries for stocking into     ductive fisheries.                                        Lime, fertilize, and seed the
new ponds. Consult the Missis-                                                             dam with an appropriate grass
sippi Department of Agriculture       Dams
                                                                                           as soon as construction is com-
and Commerce, district offices of     Dams should be at least 8 to 12                      plete. We recommend mulching
the Mississippi Department of         feet wide at the top, depending                      the dam and other sloping areas.
Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks,        on the height of the dam. Dams                       It is critically important to prevent
your Natural Resources Conserva-      less than 12 feet high require an                    erosion of the dam.
tion Service office, or your county   8-foot top width. Dams between                            Complete the pond in summer
Extension office for a list of li-    12 and 15 feet high require a                        before stocking fish in the fall. If
censed game fish hatcheries in        10-foot top width, and those                         practical, do not let the pond fill
Mississippi.                          higher than 15 feet require a 12-                    with water until just before stock-
                                      foot top width. Dams with tops                       ing. This prevents the pond from
                                      wider than the required minimum
CONSTRUCTING                          are much easier to maintain.
                                                                                           becoming contaminated with un-
                                                                                           wanted species.
                                          In many areas of Mississippi,
When To Build
                                      soil types are such that dams must
You can build a pond any time of
                                      be cored with clay to prevent
the year, but summer is usually
the best because weather and
soil conditions allow use of heavy
equipment. Also, the new pond
fills in winter and lets you stock
fish at the right times.

Determine pond size by your
needs and desires. Bigger is not
always better. Small ponds (1 to
3 acres) provide enjoyable fish-
ing if you follow good planning
and proper management guide-
lines. Larger ponds and lakes pro-
vide many other uses, such as
water supply, limited irrigation,
swimming, boating, and hunting,
                                      Wooden or earthen piers provide increased access to the pond for anglers and swimmers. Fish feeders
                                      and fertilizer platforms can be conveniently attached to these piers.

Drain and                             sealant packed with a sheepsfoot       detailed information. Prepare the
Overflow Pipe                         roller may reduce the seepage. If      pond basin during construction
A combination drain and over-         the problem persists, contact any      because equipment and labor are
flow pipe, as well as an emer-        Natural Resources Conservation         available then. Most landowners
gency spillway, are necessary for     Service office or Mississippi De-      are reluctant to drain the pond
good management. It is critical       partment of Wildlife, Fisheries        later for necessary improvements,
that you place the drainpipe on       and Parks district office.             so it is important to complete all
the bottom so you can completely                                             work during construction.
                                      Pond Basin                                 Lime the pond bottom after all
drain the pond.
                                      Many pond sites have trees in the      other digging and dirt work are
    Controlling the water level is
                                      basin, most of which should be         complete. Liming is extremely im-
important for weed control and
                                      cut and salvaged or piled and          portant and is discussed in
fisheries management. A drain is
                                      burned. But it is acceptable to        greater detail later. During con-
a necessary tool to manage the
                                      keep some trees, bushes, and           struction, decide which trees to
pond efficiently. The overflow
                                      brush piles. Underwater cover          leave, clear unwanted trees, and
pipe is the outlet for normal water
                                      provides habitat for certain           develop fish attractors. Before
flow through the pond. The emer-
                                      aquatic organisms fish eat, as         flooding, prepare gravel fish-
gency spillway is an area lower
                                      well as cover for game fish. Be        spawning beds, and build
than the top of the dam on one
                                      sure you can find these areas          wooden and/or earthen piers.
side of the dam to carry exces-
                                      after they are flooded.                Plant wheat, rye, millet, or other
sive runoff from heavy rainfall.
                                          Usually up to 10 percent and       suitable grasses in the pond bot-
    Overflow and drainpipes may
                                      not more than 25 percent of the        tom to produce lots of aquatic life
be corrugated metal, aluminum,
                                      pond area should have some tree        when the pond is filled and to re-
steel, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
                                      cover (fish attractors) where possi-   duce erosion and siltation.
Some materials are more durable
                                      ble. It is important to leave tree
than others and may be pre-
                                      cover in the right areas. Leave
ferred. For example, PVC pipe,
                                      bushes and trees in deeper water
although inexpensive, is prone to                                            Stock ponds with fish from reli-
                                      areas, along creek runs, and in
breakage and vandals. Be sure                                                able fish hatcheries so you won’t
                                      the middle of the pond or lake.
the pipe meets the standards for                                             bring in undesirable fish species,
                                      Leave trees in small clumps. Cut
use in a pond dam. You can add                                               parasites, or diseases. Game fish
                                      standing trees about 2 feet above
drains to existing ponds, but you                                            for stocking are available from li-
                                      the normal water level, and an-
will need professional assistance.                                           censed commercial fish hatch-
                                      chor brushy tops to the base of
                                      the tall stumps. This will serve as    eries. A list of the licensed
                                      a permanent marker to brush top        commercial fish hatcheries is
Banks should be sloped with a                                                available upon request from the
water depth of 2 feet near the        locations and avoid the dangers
                                      of falling limbs in later years. Do    Mississippi Department of Agri-
shoreline to eliminate shallow                                               culture and Commerce, Missis-
water areas around the pond           not leave trees or bushes in shal-
                                      low areas, narrow coves, or            sippi Department of Wildlife,
edge where aquatic plants often                                              Fisheries and Parks district of-
start. Cattle may cause bank ero-     along the bank, because these
                                      areas will become difficult to fish    fices, Mississippi State University
sion and muddy water. You may                                                Extension Service, and Natural
have to fence the pond to limit or    and may develop aquatic vegeta-
                                      tion problems. Too much cover in       Resources Conservation Service.
prevent damage by livestock.
                                      shallow water will make it hard
                                                                             Bass and Bream
Seepage                               for bass to control the bream. You
Seepage in new ponds some-            should be able to navigate the
                                      entire shoreline by boat.              For the best recreational fishing in
times develops. Often you can
                                          If there are no trees or brush     Mississippi, the recommended
correct seepage by draining the
                                      to leave for cover, you can estab-     species for stocking new im-
pond and compacting the bot-
                                      lish fish shelters during pond con-    poundments are largemouth bass,
tom. If the bottom soils have mar-
                                      struction. See the section on fish     bluegill, redear sunfish, channel
ginal water-holding capacity, a
                                      attractors on page 23 for more         catfish, and fathead minnows at
blanket of clay or other soil
                                                                             rates and combinations listed in

Table 1. Recommended stocking rates (number of fish fingerlings per acre) and species combinations for farm
         ponds larger than one acre.
                                                                                                   Channel            Hybrid         Fathead
Stocking Combination                                Bass         Bluegill         Redear           Catfish            Sunfish        Minnows
    Bass-Bluegill                                    50            500                -                -                  -               -
    Bass-Bluegill-Channel Catfish                    50            500                -               50                  -               -
    Bass-Bluegill-Redear                             50            350              150                -                  -               -
    Bass-Bluegill-Redear-Channel Catfish             50            350              150               50                  -               -
    Bass-Hybrid Sunfish                              50               -               -                -                750               -
    Channel Catfish-Hybrid Sunfish                    -               -               -              100            350 to 500            -
    Channel Catfish Only                              -               -               -          100 to 150               -               -
    Bass-Bluegill-Redear-Fathead Minnows             50            350              150                -                  -            10 lbs

 No other fish stocking is necessary after this initial stocking. It is usually a waste of money to stock additional fingerlings into a pond that
contains adult fish. Supplemental stocking should be done only upon advice from a competent fisheries biologist.

Table 1. Channel catfish may be                   Mississippi) and the Florida large-                • Many hatcheries no longer
stocked with bass and bream or                    mouth bass. Crosses between                          maintain pure Florida strains,
stocked alone. (Crappie are not                   these two, called intergrades, are                   but rather intergrades with
recommended for impoundments                      also available. Although some re-                    varying percentages of mixed
less than 500 acres. Crappie                      search has been conducted to de-                     nothern/Florida genes.
should not be stocked into farm                   termine which, if any, of these                    • It is not known at this time
ponds because they tend to over-                  largemouth bass strains or inter-                    whether all intergrades are
populate, resulting in a pond full                grades is best for stocking farm                     equivalent in growth, catchabil-
of stunted fish.)                                 ponds and small lakes, no conclu-                    ity, and such factors. For exam-
     Largemouth bass are preda-                   sive answer has been found. A                        ple, an intergrade that is 50
tory and eat a variety of foods.                  few observations, based partly                       percent Florida and 50 percent
Their diet includes small fish,                   on science and partly on field ex-                   northern MAY perform differ-
frogs, crawfish, and insects.                     perience, may be helpful as you                      ently from an intergrade that is
Largemouth bass are well                          decide which largemouth bass                         25:75.
adapted to ponds and reproduce                    strain to stock:
successfully, usually spawning                    • Your ultimate success in man-                    • There is usually no difference
only once a year. They grow rap-                     aging your fishery will depend                    in cost among the strains.
idly in a pond where food is plen-                   more on the quality of your
tiful, generally reaching sexual                     management program (includ-                     Bluegill and redear sunfish
maturity and spawning at one                         ing bass harvest strategy) than                 (bream) are also well adapted to
year of age. In the spring, when                     on strain selection. Northern,                  ponds and eat a variety of foods.
water temperatures reach 60 °F,                      Florida, and intergrade large-                  When small, they eat microscopic
mature males fan out depressions                     mouth bass have all been used                   plants and animals. As they
or “nest” on the pond bottom. Fe-                    with success in Mississippi.                    grow, their diet changes to in-
males lay their eggs in the nest.                    The Florida strain and inter-                   clude insects, snails, crawfish,
The male fertilizes the eggs, and                    grades have the greatest                        and small fish. If enough food is
they usually hatch within four                       genetic potential to attain                     available, these fish grow rap-
days.                                                trophy size. Evidence exists                    idly, reaching sexual maturity at
     The two strains of largemouth                   that the Florida strain is, on the              one year. When water tempera-
bass commonly stocked in ponds                       average, harder to catch than                   tures reach 70 to 75 °F in the
and lakes are the northern large-                    northerns or intergrades.                       spring, redear sunfish begin
mouth bass (native to all parts of                                                                   spawning, followed by bluegill

when temperatures reach 80 °F.         • If you want channel catfish in        ing and stunted fish. This has ru-
Bluegills may spawn several times        your pond, stock at 50 per            ined the fishing in many ponds in
in one season, while redear sun-         acre in the fall.                     Mississippi.
fish normally spawn only once or       • Fathead minnows at 10                     With proper management, a
twice. Bream spawn in groups,            pounds per acre with bluegills        correctly stocked pond generally
and their collections of nests are       in the fall or winter.                results in a balanced fish popula-
called spawning “beds.”                                                        tion, ensuring good fishing for
    The two strains of bluegills       • Largemouth bass at 50 per             years to come.
commonly stocked in Mississippi          acre stocked the following
are native bluegills and a Florida       spring. The ratio of bream to         Catfish Ponds
strain called coppernose bluegill.       bass should be 10 to 1                Channel catfish grow well alone,
Biologically, the two are very sim-      (Table 1).                            with few disease problems,
ilar, as are general growth rates      • Fingerling catfish should be 6        stocked at 100 to 150 per acre.
and other characteristics. Opin-         to 8 inches long, bluegills and       When stocked alone, fish will
ions vary regarding the pros and         redear sunfish 2 to 3 inches,         grow faster with supplemental
cons of stocking coppernose in-          and largemouth bass 2 inches          feeding. Natural foods include
stead of native bluegills, and           at the time of initial stocking.      decaying organic matter, plant
many questions have yet to be                                                  material, crawfish, small fish, and
                                       Stock channel catfish first to en-
answered. A few general obser-                                                 insects. The relatively low stock-
                                       sure enough growth to prevent
vations may be helpful:                                                        ing rate (100 to 150 per acre)
                                       predation by bass. Until channel
• Ultimate performance of the                                                  ensures good growth to a har-
                                       catfish are about 18 inches long,
   bluegills, regardless of strain,                                            vestable size in a reasonably
                                       they will be in direct competition
   depends more on the quality of                                              short time. You do not want to en-
                                       with bream for food. Stocking
   your management program                                                     courage catfish spawning be-
                                       more than 50 channel catfish per
   than on strain selection.                                                   cause of potential crowding and
                                       acre may suppress growth of
                                                                               disease problems. To control the
• Both are readily available from      bream.
                                                                               possibility of unwanted spawn-
  hatcheries in Mississippi.                Bluegill and redear sunfish fin-
                                                                               ing, add a few bass to the ponds
• Either bluegill strain is an         gerlings stocked in the fall and
                                                                               to eliminate any fingerlings less
  acceptable choice.                   winter will spawn the next spring.
                                                                               than 6 inches.
                                       Stock largemouth bass fingerlings
    Size of the pond has direct in-                                                One of the most common mis-
                                       in the spring to coincide with the
fluence on future fishing potential,                                           takes pond owners make is stock-
                                       first bream spawn. They feed on
but limitations are very few if you                                            ing too many catfish. In general,
                                       the small bream, preventing an
have reasonable expectations.                                                  the natural maximum carrying ca-
                                       overpopulation of bream. Fat-
Ponds less than one acre are                                                   pacity in most farm ponds is
                                       head minnows provide supple-
often best suited for channel cat-                                             about 500 pounds of fish per
                                       mental winter forage for
fish alone. A farm pond that is to                                             acre. This means you can keep
                                       largemouth bass and bream.
be stocked with bream and bass                                                 no more than 500 pounds of fish
                                       If timing is such that you cannot
should be at least one acre in                                                 without aeration and additional
                                       stock the pond in this sequence,
size, preferably larger. Although                                              feeding. When catfish are
                                       consult a fisheries biologist to dis-
small ponds can normally provide                                               stocked and grown to acceptable
                                       cuss an alternative stocking strat-
unlimited bream fishing, there is                                              catchable sizes (1 to 3 pounds),
                                       egy that might work. Since all
a potential for over harvesting                                                this carrying capacity is ex-
                                       situations are different, there is no
the bass in ponds less than one                                                ceeded when more than about
                                       single recommendation you can
acre.                                                                          150 catfish are present. Attempts
                                       easily apply to all cases.
                                                                               to exceed this natural limit in farm
Stocking Rates                              After you complete the initial
                                                                               ponds without supplemental aera-
                                       stocking of fingerling fish, do not
and Sequence                                                                   tion, feeding, and such will usu-
                                       add any fish to the pond except
Follow these fingerling stocking                                               ally stress and cause disease in
                                       on the recommendation of a fish-
rates and sequences:                                                           the catfish. In extreme cases, oxy-
                                       eries biologist. Adding fish, in-
• Bream at 500 per acre stocked                                                gen can be depleted and cata-
                                       cluding catfish, to the pond year
   in the fall or winter. One third                                            strophic losses may occur.
                                       after year can lead to overcrowd-
   of these can be redear sunfish.

    Recreational catfish ponds are     ing 750 hybrids and 50 bass per        since they are less vulnerable to
intended to be much less inten-        acre and then following a good         predation than smaller fish. They
sively managed than their com-         fertilization program and feeding      will, however, cost more, and you
mercial counterparts in the            supplementally.                        may prefer to compensate by
Mississippi Delta.                         It is important to remember        stocking higher rates of smaller
                                       that hybrid sunfish management         (and cheaper) fingerlings. Restock
Hybrid Bream                           is for production of trophy bream,     at the same rates as the initial
Stocking hybrid sunfish offers         and bass growth will be less than      stocking.
some attractive management pos-        desirable. Bass are stocked pri-
sibilities in small ponds, if you      marily as a management tool to         You can maximize growth of hy-
meet certain conditions. These         keep hybrid reproduction down          brids by taking three steps:
conditions are critical to success     and to influence growth of hy-         • Stock with largemouth bass.
of ponds stocked with hybrid sun-      brids favorably. Also, this is a       • Conduct a good fertilization
fish, and you will be disap-           “put and take” fishery, meaning          program (request Extension
pointed unless you take proper         that hybrids are grown, caught,          Information Sheet 229,
consideration before stocking. Do      and replaced by other hybrids            Fertilizing Mississippi Farm
not stock hybrids into ponds con-      stocked in subsequent years. In          Ponds).
taining other fish, and never stock    this sense, hybrid ponds are more
them in combination with other         like cattle feed-lot operations than   • Feed supplementally.
bream species. Always stock hy-        some other, more traditional pond
brids in combination with a pred-      management scenarios.                  You can establish a feeding pro-
ator fish since, contrary to               In many ways, managing hy-         gram using floating catfish pel-
popular belief, they are not ster-     brids is similar to managing most      lets. A handy guide is to feed all
ile. Most hybrid populations are       other species. You must stock hy-      the feed the fish will consume in
85 to 95 percent males, and this       brids into appropriate conditions,     5 to 10 minutes and adjust the
results in lower reproductive po-      provide ample space, cover, and        amount as fish grow. If fish do not
tential. They will, however, still     food, and protect them until they      eat all the feed offered in that
tend to overpopulate, and the off-     reach desirable sizes. Hybrid          time period, you are probably
spring are not desirable. There-       management is specialized,             overfeeding and wasting feed
fore, stock hybrids in combination     though, in that protection of these    and money.
with either bass or catfish.           fish is absolutely essential, since        A demand-type or automatic
    When stocked with bass, hy-        they can be easily fished out.         fish feeder is a good investment.
brid offspring do not survive,         Also, hybrid populations, unlike       One problem with hand-feeding
since the predacious bass quickly      bluegill populations, are not self-    is that someone has to be there to
consume all of them. This pre-         perpetuating. The second genera-       do it! Research shows that most
vents overpopulation and pro-          tion is not desirable, and we          people tire of the novelty of feed-
vides conditions for optimum           manage the population to prevent       ing fish within the first season,
growth of the originally stocked       that generation from occurring.        and then the fish may become
hybrids. Hybrids are best suited           Periodic restocking is neces-      neglected. Installing a feeder en-
to ponds of 3 acres or less.           sary to sustain a fishery for more     sures that the fish receive feed on
    The most commonly used hy-         than a few years. Pond owners          a regular basis, regardless of
brids result from crossing male        should keep records of the num-        your schedule and availability.
bluegills with female green sun-       ber of hybrids removed and plan            For more information on
fish. These hybrids are usually 95     to restock when 50 to 70 percent       managing hybrid sunfish, request
percent males and are highly vul-      of the originally stocked fish have    Extension Publication 1893,
nerable to fishing. They readily       been caught and removed. This is       Managing Hybrid Sunfish in
accept artificial feed and grow        one more reason security from          Mississippi Farm Ponds from your
faster than bluegills or redear sun-   poachers is paramount. At re-          county Extension agent.
fish under similar conditions.         stocking time, larger fingerlings
You can get best growth by stock-      (3 to 4 inches) are preferred,

MANAGING                                         This should ensure an adequate                       If the pond is also stocked
                                                 number of bass for reproduction                  with channel catfish, spread the
You can enjoy good fishing for
                                                 as well as control of the bream.                 fishing for them over 3 to 4
years if you follow a sound pond-
                                                     When too many bass are re-                   years. Channel catfish may repro-
management program. Building
                                                 moved, the remaining bass can                    duce, but offspring usually do not
the pond properly, stocking the
                                                 no longer control the bream, and                 survive because of bass preda-
correct species at recommended
                                                 the bream become overcrowded                     tion. Restock with channel catfish
rates, having a good fertilization
                                                 and stunted. Once bream be-                      when most of the originally-
program, and controlling weeds
                                                 come overcrowded, bass repro-                    stocked catfish have been re-
are steps in the right direction.
                                                 duction is reduced or stopped                    moved. In a bass and bream
Continued good fishing depends
                                                 completely. To keep this from hap-               pond, it is necessary to restock
on harvesting the correct number,
                                                 pening, keep a record of fish har-               with 8- to 10-inch channel catfish
sizes, and species of fish each
                                                 vested and ask others who fish                   fingerlings to ensure the bass do
year. See the Farm Pond Calen-
                                                 the pond to tell you the number                  not quickly consume these finger-
dar on page 28.
                                                 and size (length and weight) of                  lings. Do not overstock catfish,
Fishing                                          bass and bream they remove                       since overstocking leads to poor
For bass and bream ponds,                        from the pond. A record sheet is                 growth and possible disease
begin fishing your pond two                      on page 27.                                      problems as well as excessive
years after the initial                                                                           competition with bream for food.
stocking of bream. This                                                                                   Management
will be in the fall, after the
original stock of bass has
spawned for the first time.                                                                               After the second year, you
To ensure a balanced fish                                                                                 must decide the kind of
population, release some                                                                                  fishing experience you
of the bass that are                                                                                      want the pond to provide.
caught the first, and possi-                                                                              A bass-crowded condition
bly the second, year of                                                                                   commonly occurs in Mis-
fishing. In most cases,                                                                                   sissippi ponds where bass
after the first year of fish-                                                                             fishing is primarily catch
ing you can remove as                                                                                     and release. In such
many bream as you de-                                                                                     ponds, most bass caught
sire without harming the                                                                                  are less than 12 inches
population.                                                                                               long with poor body con-
    Most of the fish har-                                                                                 dition, and the bream are
vested from the pond                                                                                      hand-sized and in good
should be bluegill and re-                                                                                condition. If you want
dear sunfish. Bream repro-                                                                                large bream, a bass-
duce throughout the                                                                                       crowded pond will pro-
summer and are the most                                                                                   duce these results. If you
numerous fish in the                                                                                      want good fishing for
pond. A general recom-                                                                                    both bass and bream, re-
mendation is to harvest 3                                                                                 move 3 to 4 pounds of
to 4 pounds of bream for                                                                                  bream for every pound of
every pound of large-                                                                                     bass harvested. This man-
mouth bass. It is extremely                                                                               agement situation is suit-
important to keep the                                                                                     able for most ponds.
bream harvest in line with                                                                                Trophy bass fishing will
the bass harvest. Many                                                                                    require careful protection
Mississippi ponds are                                                                                     of certain sizes of bass,
under fished for bream         Most of the fish harvested from the pond should be bluegill and redear     usually through a speci-
and can stand a much           sunfish. It is important to keep the bream harvest in line with the bass   fied protective slot limit,
                               harvest.                                                                   and also harvest of some
greater bream harvest.
of the smaller (10- to 12-inch)             is probably overpopulated with              think your pond has problems
bass to prevent them from becom-            bream. In some instances, heavy             similar to these.
ing crowded. You can often deter-           fishing on the crowded species
mine the balance between bass               can bring the pond back into                Management
and bream by using a short seine            balance.                                    Recommendations
and/or by close examination of                                                          for Tables 2 and 3
fishing results (Tables 2 & 3).             Corrective Measures                         1. Remove 10 to 40 pounds
When fishing produces large                 Corrective measures vary accord-               (depending on productivity of
numbers of small bass and large             ing to circumstances. Recommen-                the pond and location within
bream, you will probably have               dations for common balance                     the state) of bass per acre by
an overpopulation of bass. When             problems are listed below.                     fishing (one time only).
only a few large bass and many              Consult a fisheries biologist for
small bream are caught, the pond            specific recommendations if you

      Table 2. Assessment of pond balance using a seine.

                                       Many recently hatched bluegills;   Temporary balance;
                                       no or few intermediate bluegills   bass crowded. See Table 3,
                                   A                                      recommendation 1, 2, or 3

                                       No recent hatch of bluegills’      Unbalanced; overcrowded
                                       many inermediate bluegills         bluegills. See Table 3,
                                   B                                      recommendation 4 or 5
                                       No recent hatch of bluegills;
                                       many intermediate bluegills,       Unbalanced; overcrowded
                                       may tadpoles or minnows            bluegills; few or no bass
                                       or crawfish.                       present. See recommend-
                                   C                                      ation 5 or 6
          I. No young largemouth
             bass present                                                 Unbalanced, population;
                                       No recent hatch bluegills;         crowding due to cmpetitive
                                       few intermediate bluegills         species (bullheads, crappie,
                                   D                                      suckers, shad, etc.)
                                                                          See recommendation 6

                                       No recent hatch bluegills;         Unbalanced; crowding
                                       few intermediate bluegills,        due to green sunfish.
                                       intermediate green sunfish
                                   E                                      See recommendation
                                                                          5 or 6

                                       No recent hatchbluegills;          Unbalanced or no forage
                                       few intermediate bluegills         fish present. See
                                   F                                      recommendation 7 or 8

                                       Many recently hatched bluegills;
                                   A   few intermediate bluegills         Balanced. See
                                                                          recommendation 9

                                       Many recently hatched bluegills;   Bass crowded; will have
                                       few or no intermediate bluegills
                                   B                                      large bluegills. See
                                                                          recommendation 1, 2 or 10
          II. Young largemouth
              bass present             No recent hatch of bluegills;      Unbalanced; may be no
                                       no intermediate bluegills          blugills; bass may be
                                   C                                      spawning, but not bluegills.
                                                                          See recommendation 7 or 8

                                                                          Temporary balance, leading
                                                                          to imbalance; competing
                                       No recent hatch of bluegills;      species with bluegill likely,
                                       few intermediate bluegills
                                   D                                      especially shad. See
                                                                          recommendation 11

2. Stock 200 to 300 3- to 5-inch          7. Check catch data to see if                10.If you like catching large
   bluegills per acre.                       any bass are caught; if bass                 bluegills and can live with
3. Do nothing; you will have a               have been caught, stock 200                  poor bass growth, do
   crowded bass pond with                    to 300 intermediate-to-large                 nothing. You a have a trophy
   large bluegills; see Table 3              bluegills per acre.                          bream pond!
   (Catch Record Data), and use           8. Check catch data to see if                11.Check catch data; if you have
   the table for analysis.                   any bass are caught. If no                   seen shad, do a selective
4. Remove intermediate bluegills             bass are caught, rotenone                    shad kill. Refer to Extension
   with shoreline poisoning in               and restock; see Extension                   Information Sheet 1479 for
   the early fall; see Extension             Publication 1954 for                         procedures.
   Publication 1954 for                      procedures and Publication                12.If catch rates are desirable,
   procedures.                               1892 for selecting species to                monitor catch and restock
                                             restock.                                     when catch rates decline.
5. Stock 25 to 35 10- to 12-inch
   bass per acre.                         9. Do nothing; you have a
                                             balanced pond. Check catch
6. Rotenone and restock; see                 data (Table 3) to be sure
   Extension Publication 1954                fishing is desirable.
   for procedures and
   Publication 1892 for selecting
   species to restock.

         Table 3. Analysis of pond balance using catch data.

                                          Most bass are large and plump;’               Condition
                                          few or none are less than 2 to 3
                                          pounds; bluegills are small,           Unbalanced; overcrowded
                                                                                 bluegills. See
                                      A   mostly less than 5 to 6 inches.
                                                                                 recommendation 4 or 5
                                          Most bass caught are small
                                          (9 to 12 inches) and few exceed
                                          2 pounds; bluegills are large,         Unbalanced; bass
                                      B   mostly 6 inches or longer.             crowded. See
                                                                                 recommendation 1, 2, or 10
             I. Largemouth bass are       Bass of all sizes caught; most bass
                caught by fishermen       10 to 15 inches, but some larger;
                                          all in plump condition. Bluegills of
                                          all sizes caught, mostly 5 to 8        Balanced; do nothing, but
                                      C   inches, all in plump condition.        enjoy your fishing

                                                                                 May be stocked with
                                      A   Only catfish are caught                only catfish. See
                                                                                 recommendation 12
                                          Only bream are caught; all are
                                          in poor condition; and all are         Unbalanced, overcrowded
                                          less than 4 to 5 inches.               bluegills. See
             II. No largemouth
                 bass are caught      B                                          recommendation 4 or 5
                 by fishermen
                                          No bream are caught; other species,
                                          such as mudcats, shiners, and green    Unbalanced; undesirable
                                          sunfish, are caught.                   species. See
                                      C                                          recommendation 6 or 7

CONTROLLING                               back. Don’t allow trees to become                      animals provides longer-term con-
                                          established on new dams.                               trol than other means, since the
AQUATIC                                       One mechanical technique,                          animals usually have a lifespan of
VEGETATION                                called a drawdown (removal of                          several years.
                                          part of the water), can be effec-                          The most common and effec-
Aquatic plants fulfill many natural       tive and economical in controlling                     tive biological control for aquatic
functions and are vital in aquatic        many kinds of aquatic weeds.                           weeds is the grass carp. The
and wetland environments. But             (See drawdowns on page 22.)                            grass carp, also known as the
they may interfere with fishing,          For detailed information on win-                       white amur, is a Chinese carp im-
swimming, and boating in private          ter drawdowns, request Extension                       ported into this country for bio-
ponds and lakes. Since some               Information Sheet 1501, Winter                         logical aquatic weed control.
aquatic plants are desirable and          Drawdown: A Useful Manage-                             Because of concerns about the
serve as food sources for water-          ment Tool for Mississippi Farm                         potential impacts on the environ-
fowl and other wildlife, they             Ponds, from your county Exten-                         ment and native fish populations,
should be controlled only when            sion agent.                                            several states restrict or prohibit
they become pests by interfering                                                                 their use.
with the owner’s preferred use of         Biological Control                                         Triploid grass carp are sterile,
a particular pond or lake.                Biological control involves use of                     so they cannot reproduce if they
     Prevention should always be          an animal or other living organ-                       escape into the wild. It is recom-
the first choice, if practical, since     ism to control the weeds. Many                         mended that pond owners stock
it is usually easier and cheaper to       rural residents are familiar with                      only triploid carp.
prevent an aquatic weed problem           the biological control of weeds                            How much vegetation they
than it is to cure one. Preventive        and other plants provided by                           will consume depends upon sev-
methods include proper pond lo-           farm animals such as sheep and                         eral environmental conditions,
cation, construction, fertilization,      goats. Biological control has                          such as water temperature, water
and drawdown. Refer to the sec-           many advantages over other                             chemistry, and the kinds of plants
tions on site selection, pond con-        weed control means. It takes                           available. Consumption rates
struction, and fertilization for          much less human effort than most                       also vary with fish size. For ex-
specific details on these aquatic         mechanical control means and                           ample, until they reach weights of
weed prevention measures. If you          does not require expensive and                         about 6 pounds, grass carp may
use proper preventive methods,            sometimes hazardous aquatic                            eat 100 percent of their body
aquatic weeds are seldom a                herbicides. Additionally, use of                       weight in vegetation per day.
     If aquatic weeds become a
problem, you can control them
through mechanical, biological,
and chemical methods. Each
method has advantages and dis-

Mechanical Control
This may be as simple as cutting
a willow tree or removing a few
unwanted plants (such as cattails)
that have just gotten started along
the water margin. While cutting
and removing a few plants by
hand can be effective in small
and limited areas, mechanical
aquatic weed control on a large
scale is generally difficult and ex-
pensive. A properly maintained          Irregular features, such as islands, peninsulas, and coves, provide greater shoreline habitat diversity,
dam can be mowed, front and             increasing the attractiveness to anglers.

(This is equivalent to a 150-            and cover for sport fish. The               Chemical control has its limita-
pound human’s eating 150                 problem occurs when weed               tions. Applying herbicides may
pounds of food per day.) As they         growth passes the “fine line” be-      require specialized equipment
grow larger, consumption de-             tween desirable and undesirable        and expertise. Some herbicides
creases; up to about 13 pounds,          amounts. For most farm pond situ-      can be very expensive, and some
they will eat 75 percent of their        ations where weeds have already        may not provide prolonged weed
body weight per day, and above           become a problem, 5 to 10 grass        control. Rooted aquatics usually
13 pounds, they slow down to             carp per surface acre will             develop in water that is too shal-
about 25 percent of body weight          achieve desired weed control           low or too clear. Even after treat-
per day.                                 without crowding the fish.             ment of the vegetation, the
     Grass carp prefer soft, low              In severely weed-choked           conditions may still be there for
fiber aquatic weeds such as duck-        cases, higher rates of 15 to 20        aquatic weed growth. Getting
weed and various underwater              grass carp per acre may be nec-        back the same or another weed
plants. Table 4 provides a list of       essary for control. In such cases,     problem is often likely, requiring
plants that grass carp typically         it is sometimes more effective to      more applications of herbicides.
control. If the more desired             treat the pond with a herbicide        It is important to eliminate the
species of plants are not avail-         first, and then stock moderate         conditions that encourage the
able, they will feed on plants           numbers of grass carp. You can         growth and spreading of aquatic
above the water surface; and in          get assistance in diagnosing the       plants.
cases where no aquatic food is           situation by contacting your                Before using any chemical
available, they will feed on over-       county Extension agent or a fish-      control, correctly identify the
hanging brush and tree branches.         eries biologist from other state or    aquatic weed to be treated so
It is this strong appetite for plants    federal agencies.                      you can select the most effective
that makes grass carp useful in               In new ponds where you stock      and economical herbicide. Publi-
controlling aquatic weeds.               grass carp as a weed preventive        cations on the identification and
     The number of grass carp re-        measure, three to five fish per        control of aquatic weeds are
quired to control weed problems          acre usually do the job. In new        available from the Mississippi
varies, depending on the degree          ponds, fingerling grass carp may       State University Extension Service
of weed infestation, kind of             be successfully stocked anytime        (your county agent), the Natural
weed, size of pond or lake, and          before the bass are stocked.           Resources Conservation Service,
size of fish stocked. The general        Once bass are established, how-        and the Department of Wildlife,
rule of thumb in farm ponds is to        ever, a carp size of at least 8        Fisheries and Parks. Assistance in
stock enough grass carp to con-          inches will be required to ensure      aquatic weed identification is
trol the weeds in one to two sea-        the bass do not eat the carp. Al-      available from any of these agen-
sons but not so many that they           though this size fish costs more, it   cies. In most cases, you can ship
quickly eradicate all vegetation.        is a cost-effective stocking tech-     or mail a sample of your weed in
The best approach is to consider         nique, since you lessen predation      a Ziploc bag with no water to
the carp as a weed maintenance           losses.                                any one of these offices, and a
tool rather than an eradication                                                 biologist can make an accurate
tool. This usually results in less en-   Chemical Control                       identification. Table 4 lists many
vironmental disturbance of the           Chemical control requires using        of the common aquatic weeds
pond, and the carp are not sub-          aquatic herbicides that have met       that occur in Mississippi and the
ject to starvation from complete         strict EPA standards for use in an     herbicides that are usually effec-
loss of vegetation.                      aquatic environment. The herbi-        tive in their control.
     Also, recent research indicates     cides are of low toxicity to fish           You must know the surface
that eradication of weeds from a         and wildlife (and humans) when         area and/or volume of water
pond may not be desirable, since         used according to guidelines,          in the pond, since the amount
vegetation harbors many tiny or-         rates, and restrictions specified      of herbicide to use is determined
ganisms that contribute to produc-       on the label for each herbicide.       by either the surface area or
tivity in the pond. Fishing around       Some herbicides have limited live-     water volume to be treated,
weed beds and other vegetative           stock (cattle) restrictions before     depending on the type of
“structures” can be highly desir-        reentry into treated areas.            vegetation problem.
able, since they provide shade

    The herbicide label will tell               and Lake Management, from                                       water plus a surfactant before
how much to use per surface                     your county agent.                                              being used. Always follow label
area of vegetation or per volume                For effective aquatic weed con-                                 instructions and precautions when
of water to be treated. For assis-              trol, you must select the proper                                applying herbicides. Some may
tance in calculating treatment lev-             herbicide and apply it properly.                                be applied by hand (low volume,
els and pond volumes, request                   Some herbicides may be used di-                                 spot spray), while others require
Information Sheet 673, Common                   rectly from the container; others                               the use of power sprayers (high
Calculations Used in Fish Pond                  must be mixed with water or                                     volume, tank mix).

Table 4: Control of some common aquatic weeds with herbicides and grass carp.

                                                                                                 Aquathol (granular)3
                                                  Cutrine-Plus1, K-TEA,
                                                  Komen, Algae Pro,

                                                                                                 Aquathol-K (liquid)
                                                  Other Complexed

                                                                                                                                Sonar (liquids

                                                                                                                                                 Grass Carp
                                                                                                                                & pellets)


                                                                                      (2, 4-D)

     plankton (single cell)                               •
     filamentous & water net                              •                    •
     Chara & Nitella                                      •                                                                                        •
 Floating Weeds (not attached to bottom)
     duckweed                                                                  •                                                     •
     watermeal                                                                 •                                                     •             •
     water hyacinth                                                            •        •                                •                         •
 Emersed Weeds (attached to bottom)
     american lotus                                                                     •                                            •
     watershield                                                                        •                                            •
     white waterlily                                                                    •                                            •
     frogbit                                                                            •
     water pennywort                                                           •
 Submersed Weeds (not attached to bottom)
     bladderwort                                                               •                        •                            •             •
 Submersed Weeds (attached to bottom)
     coontail                                                                  •                        •                            •             •
     bushy pondweeds (Najas)                                                   •                        •                            •             •
     parrottfeather                                                            •        •               •                            •             •
     eurasian watermilfoil                                                     •        •               •                            •             •
     fanwort                                                                                                                         •             •
     pondweeds (Potamogeton)                                                   •                        •                            •             •
     hydrilla & elodea                                                         •                        •                            •             •
     spikerush                                                                          •                                            •
     hairgrass                                                                 •                        •                            •             •
 Marginal Weeds
     alligator weeds                                                                                                     •           •
     water primrose                                                                     •                                            •
     smartweed                                                                          •                                •           •
     arrowhead                                                                          •                                            •
     willows                                                                            •                                •
     cattail & cutgrass                                                                 •                                            •             •
     bulrush                                                                                            •
     burreed                                                                                            •
     water leaf (Hydrolea)                                                              •                                •
 NOTE: It is not intended that any suggested usage in this table be in violation of existing regulations or manufacturer’s label.
   Use products containing copper with caution because its toxicity to fish and its effectiveness in controlling aquatic weeds depend on
  total alkalinity of the water.
   Diquat has a 14-day livestock restriction. Use only in bright sunny weather. Do not use in muddy water or cloudy weather.
   Aquathol and Hydrothol have a 7-day livestock restriction. Do not eat fish from treated water for a period of three (3) days.

Time of Application                        The legal aquatic herbicides            fertilization to have good fishing.
The time to apply herbicides is       listed in Table 4 are provided for           But a heavily fished pond has to
very important. Usually, treat-       educational purposes only and                be properly fertilized to produce
ments applied in the spring or        generally represent various prod-            the best fishing.
early summer when the weeds           ucts on the market at the time of                Many Mississippi fish ponds
are actively growing bring the        publication. References to com-              do not develop a satisfactory phy-
best results. Herbicide applica-      mercial products or trade names              toplankton “bloom” when fertil-
tions in the late summer and fall     is not an endorsement and is                 ized at recommended rates
are generally less effective. Fail-   made with the understanding that             because of low soil pH and water
ure to control some problem           no discrimination is intended of             alkalinity. Lime can increase fish
aquatic plants can result in an in-   other labeled products that may              production in ponds with acid
crease in the affected area requir-   also be suitable or become avail-            bottom mud and soft water by al-
ing treatment. Many of these          able in the future. Read and ob-             tering the soil pH and alkalinity of
plants make mature seeds by mid-      serve label precautions before               the water.
summer that will sprout the follow-   using any chemical in an aquatic
                                      environment. Follow these steps              Soil Testing
ing year.
    In hot weather, be careful not    in aquatic weed control:                     If you are building a new pond,
to deplete oxygen by killing too      • Identify the problem weed.                 have Extension’s Soil Testing Lab-
many weeds at one time. Low                                                        oratory test the soil to determine
                                      • Choose the most economical
“dissolved oxygen” levels result                                                   how much lime is needed before
                                        and efficient control method.
from the natural decomposition of                                                  the pond is filled. Soil sample
                                      • If you select a chemical method            boxes, instructions, and informa-
treated (killed) aquatic plants.        of control, be sure it is econom-
Fish kills may result if the dis-                                                  tion sheets are available at your
                                        ical, safe, and effective.                 county Extension office.
solved oxygen level becomes too
low in your pond. It is seldom        • Calculate pond area or volume                  Here is how to sample pond
safe to treat more than half the        affected (to be treated).                  soils:
pond at one time in the summer                                                     1. If pond is larger than 3 acres,
                                      • Follow label instructions.
unless you are treating marginal                                                   partition the pond into 3-acre
aquatic weeds. A good rule-of-
thumb to prevent oxygen deple-        LIMING AND
tion is to treat one third of the     FERTILIZING
pond; wait one week, and treat
                                      Fertilizer stimulates growth of
another one third of the pond;
                                      microscopic plants, called
wait a week, and treat the re-
                                      phytoplankton. Phytoplankton
maining one third.
                                      form the base of the food
    For many types of marginal
                                      chain and are eaten by small
(shoreline) vegetation problems,
                                      animal organisms, which
you may simply spot treat as
                                      serve as food for bream,
needed to maintain good control.
                                      which in turn are eaten by
On older ponds and lakes where
                                      bass. Phytoplankton make
aquatic vegetation is well estab-
                                      the water turn green, or
lished, seek professional help to
                                      “bloom,” which also shades
gain the level of control you
                                      the bottom and discourages
                                      growth of troublesome
    It is against Federal Law to
                                      aquatic weeds. (See Figures
use any chemical other than
                                      2 and 3.)
aquatic herbicides approved and
                                          Proper fertilization will
registered by the Environmental
                                      significantly increase the total
Protection Agency. Improper use
                                      weight of fish produced in a
of chemicals may result in serious
                                      pond. If only a few people
environmental damage, fish kills,
                                      will fish a larger pond, it        Figure 2. Fertilization and liming increase fish production
contaminated water supplies, and
                                      does not necessarily need          by increasing the natural food supply.
danger to human health.
blocks, and sample each block                Lime                                       ment will usually last from 2 to 5
separately. (If the pond is less                  Ponds in the Delta generally do       years, depending on how much
than 3 acres, collect three sam-                  not need additional lime, and         water flows through the pond and
ples per acre, and treat each                     ponds in the Black Belt and thick     how acid the bottom muds are. A
acre as a block.)                                 and thin loess soils need only        method that usually works well on
2. Collect about a pint of soil                   small amounts. Ponds in the red       ponds with very acid soils is to
from each of ten locations per                    clay hills of North and Central       apply the lime the soil testing
block.                                            Mississippi usually need 2 tons of    report calls for, then apply one-
                                                  lime per acre, and the sandy soils    fourth of that much each follow-
3. Thoroughly mix the ten sam-                                                          ing year to be sure the lime
ples together in a bucket.                        of South Mississippi usually need
                                                  from 2 to 3 tons of lime per acre     requirement is satisfied.
4. Take one sample from the mix-                  (see Figure 4). The lime needs
ture and air-dry. Place this sam-                                                       Type and Rate
                                                  time to react with the bottom
ple in a soil sample box and                      muds and be beneficial, so add
                                                                                        of Fertilizer To Use
submit to the Soil Testing Lab at                 lime in the fall and winter, before   Several methods and types of fer-
Mississippi State University. Be                  spring fertilization.                 tilization programs can be used,
sure to indicate in the “crop                         The best lime in Mississippi is   and all can be effective if the
grown?” window on the submis-                     agricultural or dolomitic lime-       pond soil pH and water chemistry
sion form that this sample is for a               stone. This is the same form of       are in the right ranges. Pond fer-
farm pond.                                        lime that farmers use on their        tilizers are available in liquid,
5. Repeat this procedure for each                 crop and pasture land. You can        granular, or powdered forms.
3-acre block in the pond. The                     buy it in bulk or bag form. Do not    Liquid fertilizers dissolve most
sample will be analyzed, and                      use quicklime, hydrated lime, or      readily, followed by powders,
you will receive a report indicat-                other more potent liming agents!      and then granular types.
ing if your pond needs lime and                   Lime spreader trucks can be used           Typical formulations for liquid
how much to apply.                                in new pond sites (and those that     fertilizers include 10-34-0 and
                                                       have been drained) before        13-37-0. The key ingredient is
                                                       flooding. On older estab-        phosphorous (middle number),
                                                       lished ponds, it may be nec-     and any similar formulation will
                                                       essary to back the spreader      be adequate. Apply these fertiliz-
                                                       truck to the edge of the         ers at the rate of ½ to 1 gallon
                                                       water and turn on the            per surface acre, depending on
                                                       spreader. This works well if     pond location and soil fertility
                                                       there is good vehicular ac-      (Table 5). Powdered, highly
                                                       cess to the edges of the         water-soluble fertilizers, such as
                                                       pond. In some cases, it may      12-49-6 or 10-52-0, have re-
                                                       be necessary to spread lime      cently become available and
                                                       evenly along the upper           have proven to be effective and
                                                       shoreline and allow it to        convenient. These formulations
                                                       wash by runoff into the          are typically applied at the rate
                                                       pond, or you can spread the      of 2 to 8 pounds per surface
                                                       lime from boats. Even distri-    acre, again depending on pond
                                                       bution is preferable, since      location and soil fertility (Table 5).
                                                       the lime needs to be applied          Granular fertilizers are more
                                                       to the bottom muds.              traditional and are available in
                                                           Sometimes in very limited    many formulations. Most older
                                                       access areas, a small in-        ponds respond well to a phos-
                                                       flowing creek is the only        phorous-only fertilizer such as
                                                       way to get lime into the         Triple Super Phosphate (0-46-0),
                                                       pond, but this would be the      which is the most economical for-
                                                       least beneficial of the meth-    mulation. Rates range from 4 to
Figure 3. Fertilization and minimum depth combine to   ods mentioned. A lime treat-     12 lb per acre per application
prevent aquatic weeds.

(Table 5). In some areas, it may              Figure 4. Location of major soil types.                                  DeSoto               Marshall       Benton                Alcorn

be difficult to buy 0-46-0, but 0-                                                                                                                                     Tippah
20-0 is usually available. If it is,                                                                                   Tate

use twice the amount recom-                                                                                                                                    Union                      UPPER
                                                                                                                         Panola              Lafayette

                                                                                                                           L O E S S )
mended for 0-46-0.
                                                                                                                                                               Pontotoc            Lee

                                                                                             Coahoma          Quitman
When To Apply Fertilizer

                                                                                                                                                              IN TERIO

Begin fertilization in late winter                                                                                                                                   Chickasaw
                                                                                                              Tallahatchie                               Calhoun

or early spring, but definitely by                                                      Bolivar
the time water temperatures have                                                                                                     Grenada                              Clay

stabilized at 60 °F or higher. Usu-                                                                                                                        Webster

                                                                                                                           H I C
                                                                                                  Sunflower Leflore


                                                                                   D E L T A

ally this temperature occurs                                                                                                    Carroll                                                   Lowndes



around March 15 in south Missis-                                                                                                                    COASTAL



                                                                                                                       ( T
sippi and April 1 in central and
                                                                                                                                                     PLAIN Winston

north Mississippi. Early fertiliza-                                                                                                             Attala


tion will shade the pond bottom                                                                                                              Leake


and help control filamentous                                                            Sharkey


                                                                                                                                                               Neshoba               Kemper

algae, a common problem in Mis-                                                    Issaquena

                                                                                                               Madison                      Scott            Newton             Lauderdale
sissippi ponds in spring.


                                                                                                       Hinds                      Rankin


    Make the first three applica-


tions of fertilizer two weeks

                                                                                                                                             Smith           Jasper            Clarke

                                                                                   B R
apart; then apply whenever you


                                                                                                      T H
                                                                                                   Copiah               Simpson
can see your hand clearly with
your arm under water at elbow                                               Jefferson
                                                                                                                                            Covington       Jones
depth. By fertilizing only when                                                                   Lincoln

                                                                                                                                                     L OW E R
water is clear at18 to 24 inches,                                               Franklin                                        Jefferson
you will fertilize the pond at ap-                                                                                     Lawrence
                                                                                                                                          Lamar Forrest                Perry       Greene

                                                                                                                                                    C OA S TA L
proximate 3- to 5-week intervals                                                    Amite                   Pike

from spring through September.                                                                                         Walthall

                                                                                                                                             Pearl                                  George
                                                                1. Delta
                                                                2. Thick & Thin Loess Bluffs                                                                                      Jackson

                                                                                                                                                                AT WOODS
                                                                3. Blacklands
                                                                                                                                                           L FL

                                                                                                                                                C O A S TA
                                                                4. Upper Coastal Plains and
                                                                   Interior Flatwoods
                                                                5. Lower Coastal Plain

Table 5. General fertilizer recommendations for the various soil regions in Mississippi.
                                                                                                                                                                     Water Soluble
Region                     Lime                       Liquid                                                (0-46-0)                                                 Powder
1. Delta                   not needed                 usually not                                           usually not                                              usually not
                                                      needed                                                needed                                                   needed
2. Thick & Thin            usually not                ½ gal/acre                                            4 lb 0-46-0/acre                                          2 to 4 lb/acre
    Loess Bluff            needed                     each application                                      each application                                          each application
3. Blacklands              usually not                ½ gal/acre                                            4 lb 0-46-0/acre                                          2 to 4 lb/acre
                           needed                     each application                                      each application                                          each application
4. Upper Coastal Plain     2 tons/acre                ¾ to 1 gal/acre                                       8 lb 0-46-0/acre                                          4 to 6 lb/acre
    & Interior Flatwoods                              each application                                      each application                                          each application
5. Lower Coastal Plain     2 to 3 tons/acre           1 gal/acre                                            12 lb 0-46-0/acre                                         6 to 8 lb/acre
                                                      each application                                      each application                                          each application

How To Apply Fertilizer                  46-0 or other low nitrogen fertil-       ance and to correct problem
Never broadcast granular fertil-         izer don’t work, even after liming       populations.
izer, and never apply undiluted          the winter before, use a more          • Catfish ponds and small bream
liquid fertilizer. The fertilizer will   complete (high nitrogen) fertilizer,     ponds with feeders. It is not
rapidly sink to the bottom and be        such as 20-20-5, at a rate of 40         necessary to fertilize these
tied up in soils instead of becom-       pounds per acre on the specified         ponds if you follow a feeding
ing available in the water. Broad-       schedule until the pond gets a           program. If you don’t follow a
cast powdered fertilizer into            green bloom. Continue with your          commercial feeding program,
areas at least 2 feet deep so it         normal application of pond fertil-       fertilize the same way as for
can dissolve before reaching the         izers after that.                        bream-bass ponds.
                                         When Not To Fertilize                  • Too much water flow. In some
     If you use granular forms,                                                   spring-fed ponds, too much
apply them in a way that mini-           Some ponds should not be fertil-
                                         ized. Here are some cases where          water flows through the pond
mizes fertilizer-soil contact. You                                                to maintain enough plankton
can do this by making fertilizer         this is true:
                                         • Muddy ponds. Mud keeps sun-            blooms. In this case, fertilizer is
platforms – one for each 5 to 6                                                   constantly being diluted and
acres of water. Build the plat-             light from passing through the
                                            water. Plankton must have sun-        will have little positive effect.
forms so you can raise or lower
them. Lay the right amount of fer-          light to grow. If a pond stays
                                            muddy most of the time, do not      Important Points
tilizer on the platforms so 4
                                            fertilize the pond until the mud    • Do not try to kill aquatic plants
inches of water will cover them.
                                            problem is corrected.                 by applying fertilizer.
Tear off the top layer of each
sack. Waves will distribute the          • Ponds infested with undesir -        • Continue fertilization from year
fertilizer throughout each pond.           able fish. If undesirable fish         to year. Ending a fertilization
     Building a platform construc-         dominate the pond, poison the          program will leave you worse
tion can be difficult in existing          pond, restock, and then begin          off than if you had never
ponds. An alternative method is            fertilizing. Request Extension         started one.
simply to place bags containing            Publication 1954 for details on      • Improper fertilization, once or
the needed amount of fertilizer in         renovating farm ponds.                 twice a year, is worse than no
shallow water with the tops cut          • Ponds infested with weeds.             fertilization.
out. The bags separate soil and            During warm months, pond             • If a bloom does not develop
fertilizer, and waves will dissolve        weeds use up the fertilizer the        after four applications of fertil-
and distribute the fertilizer.             microscopic plants should get.         izer, check for lime require-
     Dilute liquid fertilizer with at      The pond stays clear even after        ments, too much water outflow,
least two parts water to one part          repeated fertilizer applications.      too many weeds, or muddy
fertilizer before application. In
                                         • Ponds not fished heavily. Fertil-      water.
small ponds, you can spray liq-
                                           izing a large pond is a waste
uids effectively from the bank
with hand-held sprayers. Boats
                                           of time and money if you fish it     Muddy Water
                                           only occasionally. You just pro-     Muddy water limits fish produc-
make application easy in larger
                                           duce more fish that aren’t           tion because the fish must have
ponds. You can spray the diluted
                                           caught.                              sunlight to grow. Silt and mud de-
fertilizer over the water surface or
let it flow into the prop-wash of        • Crowded bream population.            posits also cover fish eggs and fill
an outboard motor. You can pour            If the bream population is over-     the pond.
powdered formulations directly             crowded, it means there are              Controlling the erosion in a
on the water surface.                      not enough bass to keep the          pond’s watershed is essential for
     New ponds, or those that              bream down. It would be              permanent control of most muddy
have never been fertilized, some-          counter productive to fertilize if   water problems. Ponds that stay
times fail to respond to fertilizer,       this is true. Request Extension      muddy because of suspended
and it can be difficult to start up a      Publication 1952 and Informa-        clay particles can be cleared by
plankton bloom. If your first ef-          tion Sheet 1479 for informa-         using one or more of the follow-
forts to produce a bloom with 0-           tion on how to determine bal-        ing methods:

• 500 pounds of organic mate-              growth of bluegills by a supple-                       • Do not try to feed fish up to
  rial per surface acre such as            mental feeding program. Bluegills                        large sizes without some
  hay (approximately 10 square             readily accept feed and can be                           harvest to reduce the number
  bales broken up and broadcast            attracted quickly to feeding                             of fish. Otherwise, crowded
  evenly over the pond surface),           areas.                                                   large fish may become dis-
  cotton seed husks, compost,                  Small ponds stocked only with                        eased and die.
  manure, and such. Be careful             channel catfish or hybrid sunfish
  in the summer, since decompo-            should always be fed to maxi-
  sition may deplete oxygen.               mize fish growth. Not feeding will                     KILLING FISH
                                           give poor results. Here are some                       Occasionally, a fish kill occurs in
• Apply 20 pounds of triple
                                           points to consider about feeding:                      farm ponds because of water
  superphosphate (0-46-0) per
                                           • Feed at the same time and                            quality problems, infectious dis-
  acre at 2- to 3-week intervals.
                                              place each day.                                     ease, swarming fire ants (in the
  This should be well dissolved in
                                                                                                  spring), or misused agricultural
  solution.                                • Use floating feed, with a pellet
                                                                                                  chemicals (pesticides). In some
• Apply 5 to 15 pounds of alum               size small enough to be easily
                                                                                                  cases, the losses may be enough
  (aluminum sulfate) per surface             eaten.
                                                                                                  to affect the balance of the fish
  acre of water.                           • Never feed more than the fish                        population. Get professional help
• Use gypsum (calcium phos-                  will eat in 5 to 10 minutes.                         to evaluate the fish population
  phate) at the rate of 15 to 35             Keep in mind that uneaten feed                       balance after a fish kill. In many
  pounds per 1,000 cubic feet of             may pollute the water.                               cases, a phone call will provide
  pond water. Spread the gyp-              • If fish quit eating, stop feeding                    enough information.
  sum from a boat over the pond              for a few days. Watch for
  surface, and stir with an out-             signs of disease.                                    Fire Ants
  board motor. The gypsum will                                                                    In warm spring rains, fire ants are
                                           • Do not feed in very cold or
  keep the water clear as long                                                                    often washed into ponds, and
                                             very hot water.
  as the gypsum is not washed                                                                     small and intermediate sized
  from the pond. When used                 • Taper the feeding rate as                            bream may die from eating these
  according to recommenda-                   winter approaches to about                           insects. Bass are rarely affected.
  tions, it will not kill fish, change       one fourth of the feed rate of                       This generally does not hurt the
  the pH of the water, or harm               the previous summer.                                 population balance.
  livestock. When water clears,            • Automatic feeders will give
                                                                                                  Oxygen Depletions
  return to your regular fertiliza-          good growth results where
  tion program.                              small ponds are unattended for                       This is probably the biggest cause
                                             long periods.                                        of fish kills in farm ponds. Oxy-
    If livestock are muddying your                                                                gen depletions usually occur July
pond, fence off the pond and in-

                                         Warm                                                                                High
stall drinking troughs below the
    Consult your local Natural Re-
sources Conservation Service of-
fice for erosion control techniques
and suggestions.


You do not have to feed fish in a
fertilized bream and bass pond
to produce good crops of fish.
Natural food organisms will also

                                         Cool                                                                                Low
be abundant enough to feed fish
in fertilized bass/bream ponds.
But you can significantly enhance
                                                  Figure 5. Stratification of different temperature layers during summer.

through September in the time of             As we stated earlier, never       • Number of fish lost since the
highest water temperature. Die-          throw bream back, and remove            die-off started.
offs caused by low dissolved oxy-        bass with sores from the popula-      • Approximate number of fish
gen levels result from natural           tion. Occasionally, bass and            lost each day.
biological processes, and there          bream have small white or yel-
are rarely any effective preven-         lowish grubs imbedded in the          • Date and time of day the losses
tive measures.                           flesh. These grubs, although not        started.
    One common cause of oxy-             pleasant to look at, pose no          • Number of surface acres per
gen depletion is die-off of micro-       threat to humans. You can trim          pond (or exact dimensions of
scopic algae during several days         away the affected area, and the         the vat or holding tank).
of cloudy weather. Decay of              rest of the fish is safe to eat.      • Average pond depth.
these microscopic algae uses up              Infectious diseases and para-
the dissolved oxygen the fish re-        sites of channel catfish are com-     • Number of fish stocked in the
quire to breathe.                        mon problems in catfish ponds.          pond.
    Another condition, often             Overstocking, inconsistent feed-      • Condition of the bloom:
called “pond turnover,” can occur        ing, and poor water quality con-              Light – You can see at
after heavy cold rains in late sum-      tribute to this in recreational         least 18 inches deep, and the
mer or in early fall when tempera-       ponds. Disease and parasite             pond has no accumulation of
tures drop suddenly. This is             problems of catfish rarely occur        algae in the corners or on the
actually a mixing of warm sur-           when you use low stocking densi-        downwind side.
face waters with cooler bottom           ties (100 to 150 per acre) are
                                                                                      Moderate – You can see
waters (Figure 5), more properly         used. Stress from handling may
                                                                                 12 to 15 inches deep, and the
termed “destratification,” and           cause die-offs of fish within two
                                                                                 pond may have some algae in
often results in an oxygen deple-        weeks of stocking new or estab-
                                                                                 the corners or on the down
tion. An early symptom of a low          lished ponds.
                                                                                 wind side.
dissolved oxygen level is fish at            If you choose to stock catfish
the surface of the pond at sunrise.      at rates higher than we recom-              Heavy – You can see no
Fish appear to be “gasping for           mend, (100 to 150 per acre),            more than 12 inches deep.
air.” Adult fish die first, and inter-   then you should plan ahead to
mediate fish follow if the low oxy-      cope with problems that may           Transporting and
gen level continues for many             occur. Your county agent can pro-     Shipping Samples
days. Usually, some fingerling           vide you with Information Sheet       Place live fish in a plastic bag
fish will survive, but there is a ten-   667, Selecting and Shipping           with no water and seal. If you are
dency toward overcrowding                Samples To Determine Cause of         sending catfish, clip the spines to
bream afterward.                         Fish Kills and help you shipping      prevent them from puncturing the
    Following a fish kill, stocking      catfish samples to Mississippi        bag in transit. Then place the bag
yearling-sized largemouth bass in        State University diagnostic labo-     in an ice chest containing
the fall is advisable if there are       ratories in several locations. You    crushed ice.
no undesirable species (such as          must make arrangements for                If the fish are to be hauled for
crappie) in the pond.                    someone to receive your catfish       a short distance, you may place
                                         before you ship them. Do not          them in a container or ice chest
Infectious Diseases                      send fish samples to the Missis-      containing well-oxygenated
and Parasites                            sippi Department of Wildlife,         water. Add a few chunks of ice to
Bream and bass generally do not          Fisheries and Parks or to any         keep the water cool.
have significant problems with in-       agency other than the Mississippi         You can freeze fish for trans-
fectious diseases in well-balanced       State University College of Veteri-   port to the lab when there is no
ponds, although you may see an           nary Medicine.                        other way to keep them from
occasional sore on individual fish                                             spoiling. Frozen samples are
during spawning season or after          Determining Factors
                                                                               hard to work with. Avoid them
an injury. These external sores          in Fish Kills                         whenever possible. Frozen sam-
do not pose any health hazard            If possible, send this information    ples are acceptable if they are for
to humans.                               and the fish sample to the disease    pesticide analysis.

     Ice down immediately all            down exposes weeds to air-dry-         taining viable bass populations.
dead fish collected but which are        ing and freezing temperatures.              The increased predation by
still acceptable for examination         This can be an effective weed          largemouth bass reduces bluegill
(red gills, etc.) to slow further tis-   control technique, especially if       numbers and provides more food
sue breakdown.                           done in successive years. It also      for the bass. In some cases, rou-
     Arrange for shipping and de-        has other advantages related to        tine annual drawdowns have
livery. Samples should arrive at         fish population management.            helped the pond manager main-
the lab within 12 to 18 hours.                For effective weed control,       tain a balanced bass/bluegill
Call the lab and provide details         drop the water level of the pond       fishery.
on your case and the anticipated         to expose aquatic weeds in the              Winter drawdown also pro-
arrival time. Mississippi State Uni-     more shallow portions of the           vides a good opportunity to do
versity operates two labs, one on        pond. Usually, water levels are re-    repairs on piers, docks, and boat
campus (662-325-3432) and one            duced enough to expose 35 to           ramps, as well as minor dam re-
at the Delta Research and Exten-         50 percent of the pond bottom,         pairs and shoreline renovation.
sion Center (662-686-9311).              but this percentage may vary           Fish attractors, such as brush tops
                                         greatly, depending upon topogra-       and gravel beds, can be more
DRAWDOWNS                                phy and design of the pond.            easily put in place while the
                                         Maximum drawdown should be             water is down, and this is a good
One of the most useful and
                                         accomplished by mid to late No-        time to deepen edges to the rec-
inexpensive pond management
                                         vember, and the water level            ommended minimum depth of 18
practices is called a “winter
                                         should remain low through Febru-       to 24 inches. You can use dirt
drawdown.” This is reducing
                                         ary. Spring rains will fill the        from the shoreline-deepening op-
water levels in a pond to some
                                         pond.                                  eration to build earthen piers at
predetermined level, and gener-
                                              After reflooding, if weeds per-   various locations around the
ally you use it to expose 35 to 50
                                         sist and begin to sprout, apply an     pond. These piers increase the
percent of the pond-bottom area.
                                         appropriate herbicide. The com-        shoreline area of the pond and
Winter drawdowns can be useful
                                         bination of a winter drawdown          also provide increased access for
in controlling aquatic weeds and
                                         and effective early spring herbi-      fishermen.
can help manipulate fish popula-
                                         cide application usually does a             In most farm ponds, lowering
tions. They are also useful in
                                         good job of eliminating or greatly     the water level 2 to 4 feet ex-
doing pond repairs, redesign,
                                         reducing aquatic weed infesta-         poses the proper percentage of
and liming. The main disadvan-
                                         tions. For additional information      the pond bottom, but this is only
tage is the pond must have a
                                         on aquatic weed management             a rule of thumb. You must con-
drain pipe that will let the water
                                         and control, request Information       sider the topography of the pond,
levels be lowered and kept down
                                         Sheet 1036, Methods of Aquatic         amount of shallow water, and
throughout the winter. Ponds with-
                                         Weed Control from your county          pond shape and design. Reach
out a drainpipe can be retrofit-
                                         Extension agent.                       the maximum depth of drawdown
ted; detailed information on how
                                                                                by late November, and let the
to do this is available through          Drawdown for Fisheries                 water remain down through Feb-
your county Natural Resources            Management                             ruary. In south Mississippi, the
Conservation Service office.             Winter drawdown is also a good         stand pipe can be raised a little
Drawdown for Aquatic                     fish population management tech-       earlier, perhaps mid-February, to
                                         nique in largemouth bass/bluegill      let the pond refill and not hamper
Weed Control
                                         ponds. By reducing the water           bass spawning activities that
Aquatic weed problems are com-
                                         level and pond area, you drive         begin earlier in that part of the
mon in farm ponds and usually
                                         forage fish, such as bluegills, out    state.
represent a challenge. Of the
                                         of shallow water refuges and con-           Winter drawdown can be a
three basic weed control methods
                                         centrate them in open water, mak-      useful tool for the farm pond man-
(mechanical, biological, and
                                         ing them more vulnerable to bass       ager if done properly. It poses no
chemical), mechanical control
                                         predation. This is a good tech-        threat to the fish population and
can be the least expensive and
                                         nique to use in ponds having           costs nothing if the pond is
most convenient if it consists of a
                                         “crowded bluegill” but still con-      equipped with a water control
winter drawdown. Winter draw-

structure. Drawdowns should be           15 feet tall are sufficient. You can   Gravel Beds
done only in the winter, however,        use larger trees in larger lakes. In   as Fish Attractors
never in summer! The extreme             ponds of less than one acre, one       Gravel beds are extremely attrac-
temperatures in Mississippi sum-         brush shelter is enough. Larger        tive to bream for spawning. Se-
mers, coupled with the increased         ponds need one or two shelters         lect an area in water 2 to 4 feet
metabolism of fish and reduced           per acre.                              deep that is convenient for fish-
oxygen levels in warm water,                 Select attractor sites anglers     ing. Drive a stake to mark the
would prove disastrous in most           can get to. Good locations are in      spot, and place washed gravel
farm pond situations.                    water 5 to 10 feet deep near           (1/2- to 1-inch-diameter) around
                                         creek channels, off points, or at      the stake, creating a bed of
ATTRACTING                               dropoffs. Drive a stake or use a       gravel 4 to 6 inches deep. A 3-
                                         floating buoy to mark the shelter      to 5-cubic-yard load will make a
FISH                                     site permanently. Place three to       gravel bed 12 to 15 feet in diam-
The primary purpose for most             five trees at each location. Green     eter. You can add gravel beds to
farm ponds in Mississippi is recre-      trees will usually sink without        flooded sites or strategically
ational fishing. With proper man-        weights. Some trees, such as           place them during drawdowns.
agement, even small ponds can            cedar, will float. Add weights to      Avoid sites that have a high silt
provide excellent fishing and            these varieties to keep the shelters   erosion problem.
recreational experiences. One of         in place.                                  Bream will be using gravel
the best ways to enhance the fish-           Many new pond sites have           beds frequently throughout the
ing experience is to create fish at-     trees in the basin. Cut and sal-       spring and summer. Remember to
tractors at strategic locations in a     vage most of these, then cut and       keep all the bream you catch.
pond or lake with a well-man-            pile or burn them. You can keep        Never throw them back into the
aged fish population.                    some trees, bushes, and brush          pond no matter how small they
    Gamefish such as bass and            piles to use in establishing fish      may be unless advised by a fish-
bream are attracted to cover or          shelters. Up to 10 percent of the      eries biologist.
shelter of all types. Shelters pro-      pond area can have some tree
vide areas where prey fish can           shelter.                               Other Fish Attractors
hide from predators and where                Leave bushes and trees in          If trees or brush piles are not
predators can find prey species.         deeper water areas, along creek        available, you can place other
They also provide spawning               runs, and in the middle of ponds       types of structures in the pond to
areas and harbor large numbers           and lakes. Leave the trees in          attract fish. Developing irregular
of invertebrates and insects that        small clumps, then cut the stand-      bottom features during construc-
small fish feed on. Natural cover        ing trees about 2 feet above the       tion, such as ditches and under-
that provides shelter for fish in-       normal water level and anchor          water dirt mounds, also provides
cludes ditches, creeks, trees,           the brushy tops to the bases of        fish-attracting cover and creates
stumps, vegetation, and irregular        the stumps. The tall stumps will       excellent places to fish.
features of the bottom. In ponds         serve as permanent markers for
where natural shelter for fish is        the shelter locations. Do not leave
missing or is inadequate, you can        trees or bushes in shallow areas,
establish artificial structures to act   in narrow coves, or along pond         PONDS
as fish shelters that will attract       banks, because these areas will        The ultimate fate of many farm
and hold fish.                           become difficult to fish and may       ponds in Mississippi is an unbal-
                                         develop water plant problems.          anced fish population that is un-
Trees as Fish Attractors                 Also, too much cover in shallow        desirable to anglers, and has little
You can develop fish shelters that       water will make it hard for bass       recreational fishing value. Once
will increase fish harvest and an-       to control bream successfully and      a fish population reaches such a
gling success in existing ponds          will prevent navigation of the en-     condition, the best alternative is
with small trees such as blackjack       tire shoreline by boat. Fish will      usually to eliminate the resident
oak, post oak, or cedar. For small       immediately inhabit the brush-top      fish and restock with a desirable
ponds, bushy-crowned trees 10 to         shelters.                              combination of fish at recom-

mended rates. Consult a fisheries           Rotenone breaks down when           this time, and the weather is usu-
biologist by calling any MDWFP          exposed to the environment. The         ally dry, allowing easy draining.
district office to determine the        breakdown is rapid and is af-           Killing the fish at this time reduces
condition of your pond and the          fected by temperature, light, oxy-      the time between the kill and the
possible need for a complete fish       gen, and alkalinity. Most waters        restocking, which minimizes the
population renovation. This is          are safe for restocking within 5 to     chance the pond will be contami-
free.                                   6 weeks. In general, the cooler         nated by unwanted fish before re-
    Antimycin-A and rotenone are        the water, the longer rotenone          stocking. This is an important
two pesticides registered by the        lasts.                                  consideration, since letting in un-
Environmental Protection Agency                                                 wanted species can defeat the
for eradicating fish. Only              Preparing the Pond                      purpose for the renovation.
rotenone is economical for eradi-       You can treat ponds of any size              If there are any puddles or
cating fish populations and is the      with rotenone, but it can be diffi-     pools in the upper part of the
more commonly used compound.            cult to spread rotenone for an ef-      pond after draining, it is critical
You can use Antimycin to selec-         fective fish kill in larger ponds or    to treat these to kill any fish there.
tively kill scaled fish from catfish    lakes. It is also expensive to treat    Many small fish can survive in
ponds, but treatment is usually ex-     large volumes of water. For these       these pools, puddles, or stump
pensive.                                two reasons, you will need to re-       holes for a long time. You must
                                        duce the water area and volume          kill these to have a successful ren-
What Is Rotenone?                       as much as possible before treat-       ovation. Otherwise, these surviv-
Rotenone is available at most           ing. You can do this by draining        ing fish can contaminate the new
farm and chemical supply stores.        the pond as low as possible with        fish population, and the renova-
It is classified as a “restricted use   a built-in standpipe, pump, or a        tion will have been for nothing.
pesticide,” and you cannot buy it       siphon device. The less water you       For more information on using
without a private pesticide appli-      treat, the more cost effective the      rotenone, request Publication
cator’s certificate. You can get        treatment.                              1954, Using Rotenone To Reno-
this certificate through your                                                   vate Fish Populations in Farm
county Extension agent.                 How To Apply Rotenone                   Ponds from your county Extension
     Rotenone is in the roots and       Rotenone is available in a wet-         office.
stems of several tropical plants.       table powder or a liquid formula-
Jewel vine (Derris spp.), Lacepod       tion. Liquids are easier to get into    When To Restock
(Lonchocarpus spp.) ,and hoary          solution and are more reliable for      It is important to wait until the
pea (Tephrosia spp.) are the more       total fish kills. The liquid formula-   rotenone dissipates before re-
common plants from which                tions typically contain 5 percent       stocking. If you kill in early fall,
rotenone is derived. Rotenone           rotenone, although some contain         the rotenone should be detoxified
has many common and brand               2.5 percent in a synergized form.       by the time winter rains come to
names, including Cube, Derris,               All formulations must be di-       refill the pond partially. A good
Fish-Tox, Nox-Fish, Prentox,            luted with water and evenly dis-        general rule of thumb is to wait
Nusyn Nox-Fish, rotenone dust,          tributed throughout the water           one month. A simple test can help
and Chem-Fish.                          column. You can spray the chemi-        determine when it is safe to re-
     It keeps fish from using oxy-      cal over the pond surface or drip       stock. Place a few fish (bream,
gen as they release energy dur-         it into the prop wash of an out-        goldfish, minnows) in a small
ing normal body functions, but          board motor. The key is to have         cage in the pond or in a con-
rotenone does not remove oxy-           an even distribution; otherwise,        tainer with water from the pond.
gen from the water. Fish treated        fish may find “safe” areas and          If the fish survive 24 to 36 hours,
with rotenone move to the shal-         not be killed. Application in a         it is safe to restock the pond.
low water or to the surface of          random “S” pattern throughout
deeper water soon after exposure        the pond will maximize even cov-
to the chemical. Fish species re-       erage.
                                             The best time to eradicate fish    Turtles usually aren’t a biological
spond differently to rotenone, so
                                        from a pond for restocking is late      problem in farm ponds, but they
it is a good idea to know what
                                        summer or early fall. Water tem-        might sometimes compete with
species you have before you treat
                                        peratures are at their highest at       fish for food items such as craw-
the pond.

                                                                                           This trap has boards leading up
                                                                                           from the water, with pivoting
                                                                                           “balance boards.” When the tur-
                                                                                           tles crawl onto these platforms,
                                                                                           they weigh down the boards,
                                                                                           dropping the turtles into the col-
                                                                                           lection box (Figure 6).
                                                                                               Check traps daily and remove
                                                                                           all turtles, then take the turtles to
                                                                                           another location and release
                                                                                           them into their natural habitat. If
                                                                                           you do not plan to use the trap
                                                                                           for a long while, flip it over on its
                                                                                           side so turtles are not captured
            Figure 6. Typical turtle trap with pivotal boards.                             and left in the trap.
                                                                                               Refer to Figure 6, and modify,
                                                                                           using your own ideas and avail-
                                                                                           able materials. Your county agent
fish, insects, or other small food                       Shooting turtles as they bask     or Natural Resources Conserva-
items. They can, though, create a                    in the sun or as they swim in the     tion Service office can provide
nuisance to anglers when they                        water is an old practice you          you with other design illustrations.
are caught on hooks and must be                      should never use. Shooting into
removed, when they take baits in-                    or across water is dangerous!         BEAVER AND
tended for fish on trot lines, or                    Shooting also creates the possibil-
when they eat fish on stringers left                 ity of killing a protected species,   MUSKRAT
in the water. Turtles also become                    since identification from a dis-      DAMAGE
a problem in ponds where fish                        tance is impossible. You can’t use
                                                                                           Beavers and muskrats can se-
are being fed, because turtles                       repellents or toxicants, so trap-
                                                                                           verely damage farm ponds and
quickly learn that fish food tastes                  ping is the only choice.
                                                                                           lakes. Their burrowing can cause
good and represents an easy and                          Trapping can effectively re-
                                                                                           failure of the dam and result in
free meal.                                           duce local populations. The best
                                                                                           expensive repairs. Tree cutting
    But turtles can be beneficial.                   seasons for trapping are spring,
                                                                                           can cause an uncontrolled loss of
Their greatest service is as scav-                   summer, and early fall. Most tur-
                                                                                           valuable timber resources. Beaver
engers to eat dead fish and other                    tles are inactive through the win-
                                                                                           dens or huts may be great places
animals or to eliminate diseased                     ter and feed very little, which
                                                                                           to catch fish, but it is at the
or weakened fish. Except for                         makes baited traps ineffective
                                                                                           landowner’s expense. Fish attrac-
snapping varieties, turtles do not                   during that time.
                                                                                           tors you install will give the same
capture many live fish at all and                        Although you can trap snap-
                                                                                           success with no sacrifices.
should not be considered a prob-                     pers and soft-shelled turtles using
                                                                                               The best control is immediate
lem in this regard.                                  underwater baited traps, you usu-
                                                                                           action at the first sign that either
    Before pursuing any type of                      ally don’t have to remove these
                                                                                           of these animals is living in your
control method, consider whether                     species from a farm pond. The
                                                                                           pond or lake. Trapping is the
or not turtles are a genuine prob-                   more aggravating species are the
                                                                                           most effective control. For de-
lem in your pond. Unless numbers                     “baskers,” which often crowd to-
                                                                                           tailed assistance, contact USDA
are high and the interference with                   gether in large numbers on
                                                                                           Wildlife Services (662-325-3014)
other pond uses is severe, it is                     stumps, logs, or other structures
                                                                                           or your Extension county agent.
probably best to leave the turtles                   above the water surface. By tak-
                                                                                           Do not make repairs until you
alone. But if you have significant                   ing advantage of this, you can
                                                                                           have controlled the problem
problems, you may need to con-                       trap these species with a trap-box
sider removing some turtles.                         in the area turtles normally use.

Properly designed, constructed, and managed farm ponds not only provide tremendous fishing, but also provide ideal wildlife habitat,
erosion control, and often, splendid natural beauty.

                                 FARM POND AND LAKE HARVEST RECORD
     Instructions: Accurate and complete data are important to fisheries management. All anglers should complete a record after each trip. For con-
     venience, you can group fish by size-length as follows:

     Bass categories:       8 to 12 inches, 12 to 15 inches, > 15 inches
     Bluegill categories:   3 to 6 inches, > 6 inches

     Under each column, in each size group, enter the number of fish harvested (H) or released back into the lake (R).

                                                                BASS                                  BLUEGILL                       CATFISH           OTHER

           Date             Fisherman      8 to 12 inches   12 to 15 inches   > 15 inches   3 to 6 inches       > 6 inches
                                           H                H                 H             H               H                    H                 H
                                                                        R               R              R                     R                 R               R

                               FARM POND CALENDAR
JAN        FEB        MAR    APR       MAY       JUN        JUL   AUG      SEP    OCT      NOV         DEC
Lime                                                                                       Lime
                       Chemical weed control
                                  Biological weed control (grass carp)
                                                                                    Stock bluegills,
                                                                                    redear (1” - 3”)
                                           Stock bass                      then
                                       fingerlings (1” - 3”)
       Stock catfish                                                                     Stock catfish
                                         Balance analysis
                                       Catfish spawn
                     Bass spawn
                                                   Bluegills spawn
                                   Redear spawn
                                                   Feed catfish and bluegills
  Winter              then                                                                      Winter
drawdown                                                                                       drawdown
                                  Fishing and harvest of all species
                                              Construction or renovation

FOR MORE                              The Mississippi State University           If you have questions about in-
                                      Extension Service and the Natu-        formation in this publication, or if
INFORMATION                           ral Resources Conservation Serv-       you have situations or problems
This publication contains a wealth    ice maintain offices in every          not mentioned here, we encour-
of information that should be         county of the state. Also, you can     age you to seek professional
helpful as you develop, improve,      contact the Mississippi Depart-        help. Proceeding with manage-
or maintain your Mississippi farm     ment of Wildlife, Fisheries and        ment techniques when you are
pond. Remember, though, that          Parks district offices at any of the   uncertain about the correct thing
trained professionals – county        following locations:                   to do can be frustrating and
agents, district conservationists,                                           sometimes expensive! It can also
and district fisheries biologists –   Enid          662-563-6330             delay the progress and develop-
are available to help you man-                                               ment of your pond. It is wise to
                                      Brookhaven 601-835-3050
age your pond to achieve your                                                remember and heed the old
goals and objectives. And this        Wiggins       601-928-3720             adage, “A wiser person asks
service is free!                      Jackson       601-432-2200             many questions!”
    Many other sources of infor-                                                 This publication and many
                                      Meridian      601-692-2776             others on the management of
mation are also available, such
as publications, local workshops,     Canton        601-859-3421             farm ponds and small lakes are
and seminars. Contact any of the                                             available on the world wide web
                                      Tupelo        662-840-5172
three agencies that have pro-                                                at http://www.msucares.com
vided this publication for details.

Revised by Dr. Bronson Strickland, assistant Extension professor, Wildlife & Fisheries; Don Jackson, MSU pro-
fessor, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Dennis Riecke and Walter Hubbard, Mississippi Department of Wildlife,
Fisheries and Parks; based on an edition originally written by Thomas L. Wellborn, Jr., former leader, Extension
Wildlife and Fisheries.

Discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or veteran’s status is a viola-
tion of federal and state law and MSU policy and will not be tolerated. Discrimination based upon sexual orienta-
tion or group affiliation is a violation of MSU policy and will not be tolerated.

Publication 1428
Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in
furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. VANCE H. WATSON, Director                  (1M-08-07)

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