| 05/23/2009 | ‘Pond doctor’ helps people create their own dream fishing holes<
A couple of years ago, Jack Rudnay realized that his dream of developing a trophy bass lake was starting to slip away. Thick vegetation covered one portion of the lake, making it virtually inaccessible. The bass were skinny, obviously lacking in food. And while there were big fish in there, the fish were predominantly in the 12-inch range. That’s when Rudnay called Shawn Banks, known as the “pond doctor.”
Banks, who runs Midwest Lake Management, a business that specializes in rehabilitating small fishing holes, took a series of steps to get Rudnay’s private lake in central Missouri back in balance. And on a recent fishing trip, it was obvious that the steps were working. As Rudnay fought a 13-inch bass to the boat, he said, “That’s a healthy boy bass.” Banks nodded and added, “Two years ago, that fish would have been skinny. But he’s in good shape. He’s getting enough to eat.” That was the goal when Banks set out to work with Rudnay, the former Chiefs center, to achieve his dreams. Rudnay moved to the country years ago, built a home overlooking a valley and had a pond constructed to his specifications. He spent hours building brush piles, designing ledges and dropoffs, and developing spawning and feeding flats for the bass. And for a while, things were good. “Like a lot of people, I had always dreamed of having my own Walden Pond,” said Rudnay, who played for the Chiefs from 1970 to 1982. “I wanted to move out into the country, live out in nature and have a fishing spot of my own. “I put a lot of sweat equity into it, but it was worth it. When my grandson caught his first bass there, I knew I had done something right.” >But eventually, the pond got out of balance, partly because of the lack of harvest. “Those bass are like my babies,” Rudnay said. “I just couldn’t bring myself to kill them.” Troubled by a lack of big fish, Rudnay turned to Banks.
The fisheries biologist started by electroshocking the lake to find what was there. Then he set a plan into motion. Because Rudnay didn’t want to remove any of the bass, Banks advised providing the fish with a heavy dose of food. He stocked 12,000 golden shiners into the lake, providing a high-protein food source. Banks also removed the water shield vegetation that had overrun part of the lake. That made it easier for the bass to find their forage and opened a whole segment of the lake to fishing. Today, Banks continues to stock golden shiners in the lake. And the results are evident. Rudnay caught the biggest bass his lake has yielded — a fish that weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces — a year ago. And he is convinced that there are even bigger ones out there. Most of the fish are still growing, the first phase of the renovation. But Rudnay sees a bright future. “I think we’re on the right track,” he said. “The fish already look healthier.” Rudnay got a reminder on this fishing trip. As he cast spinnerbaits and pitched bass jigs to the brushy shallows, he caught a number of healthy bass in
the 12- to 15-inch range. Banks also found success, catching some of the bass he was managing. For both, it was proof that sometimes Mother Nature needs a helping hand. Banks, a former fisheries biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, started his private business several years ago when he noticed the demand from fishermen such as Rudnay who wanted personal attention in developing a dream fishing hole. Today, he provides fisheries management for 35 customers, and provides aquatic weed control for another 100. He uses everything from setting up automatic feeders to providing aeration systems to providing cover such as brush piles and PVC “trees.” He also sets up plans to stock forage in ponds and lakes, and tests to make sure the pH of the water is in balance. “We get everything from people who want us to manage a three-quarter acre pond for their grandkids to fish in, to people who want a trophy fishery,” Banks said. “Every body of water is different. What works one place won’t necessarily work at another.< “But we’ve been able to come up with some things that will improve the fishing almost everywhere we go.”
Problems and solutions Farm ponds can be great fishing holes. But because of their small size, they can also get out of balance quickly. Here are some of the problems, and some of the solutions advised by Shawn Banks, who runs the Midwest Lake Management business that specializes in managing small bodies of water.
; Problem: Stunted fish.
>Solution: Increased harvest of small fish and/or stocking forage such as golden shiners.
Problem: Not enough cover.
Solution: Sinking brush piles or PVC structures in key spots such as at the edge of dropoffs.
Problem: >Low oxygen levels in the summer.
Solution: Aeration systems or fountains to recirculate the water.</P>
<P>•<STRONG>More information: </STRONG>Call Banks at 816-804-5604.</