Been reading as much of this forum as possible over the last year, thanks so much for all the wisdom.
Creating an account because I want to give back, if possible, but also so I can ask questions geared towards my particular situation. My pond is smaller than most, and I live farther north than most... and it can be a challenge to find information that pertains to my situation.
I moved onto this property almost 2 years ago. The pond is about 1/3 acre and from 1-8 feet deep. It was stocked with bass 15 years ago... and that's all that was done. After fishing it a bunch the first year, I realized the pond was full of stunted bass... and nothing else.
My goals? Healthy fish my kids can catch for fun. I just sickened me to see all the emaciated bass in this pond.
This past year, after a bunch of research, we took 2 steps to start correcting the problem: 1. Caught a bunch of mature bluegills (approx 300) from a friend's pond and put them into my pond 2. Caught and removed every bass we could from my pond and culled them
At this point, I'm really debating what to do with this pond. I was pretty sure that BG and LMB were the answer... but now I'm realizing that most of the BG/LMB stuff I've read comes from southern ponds... and might not work in such a small northern pond??
So that leads me scratching my head as far as what to do with my pond. I don't need trophy fish, just healthy populations of healthy fish. Can I make bass/bluegill work? That would be my preference... but healthy and balanced is the real goal. Does that mean bluegills and cats? Ok. Does that mean perch only? Fine. I'm open to almost anything.
I just want a self-sustaining, healthy pond... and I'm willing to put in the work to make that happen! Thanks so much!
Ps. I don't own the property... so expanding the pond is out of the question, as much as I'd like to.
Topic - Minnows ""I'm happy to feed my bass some fathead minnows for a few weeks to train them. I have a bait farm nearby that is reasonably priced. How long would the minnows live in a kiddie pool? I could aerate it, but would the ammonia buildup kill them or anything? I currently don't have a mesh/netted place for them to live in the pond and would have to keep them in a pool or bucket in the garage.""
How well the minnows live in a kiddie pool or bucket will all depend on how well you maintain good water quality and size of the container. The two main harmful water quality factors are dissolved oxygen(DO) and as you mention ammonia (NH4). A bubbler will help maintain good DO. DO with a bubbler aerator should not be a big factor unless you have lots of minnows per gallon of water. Some aquatic plants or filamentous algae in the pool should absorb ammonia and keep the ammonia at acceptable concentration. Regular water dilutions or exchanges with fresh pond water will help to maintain good water quality and reduce ammonia.
The other good option is do not overcrowd the minnows in the small pool or use a bigger pool. 3 or 4 dozen FHMinnows should be plenty to train the bass to eat your welfare training baits. If you need more, go buy more from a bait shop or trap or catch some small fish from a pond or ditch/creek as in the video below. Creek chubs are common in most small Midwest creeks and large drainage ditches. Note that the one larger "bluegill" that he caught was actually a green sunfish. 4 minnows a day X 12 days = 4 dozen minnows. Those kids even had the white heron or egret trained to eat BG!
This is how I would welfare train the bass to eat your minnows. You can also use small 1.5"-2.5" BG that you catch from a local pond. For every small fish you add to the pond I would trim off the tail or a couple of side or belly fins. Make them very vulnerable to the bass eating them. The bass will quickly respond to the free meals.
When you have only one or two bass remaining do this good option for real hook shy bass. After the bass are eating your minnows and are used to you standing there feeding them go get some small 2" BG or some local creek chubs that you can trap or catch with small hook and worm. Hold or store them as you did the minnows. Then each day for a few days trim the tails and add 2 -4 BG to the bass. After a couple days then rig each one as a minnow or small sunfish on the end of a line as in the following link. Notice closely how he attaches the fish to the line on his pole. Variations to this barbless hook rig hook-up can be created depending on individual conditions.
When bass are readily accepting and are pulling BG off your line, and when you are ready to remove the last bass embed a hook in the BG. Be sure to allow the bass to firmly swallow the BG before 'setting the hook' to insure catching it. Don't waste all your valuable money and time by having the bass spit up the BG. This results in strong negative reinforcement to the bass that you are not their friend.
I have seen LMB get so hook shy that when they see a human standing on the bank with a stick (fishpole) they turn and swim away. A human standing on the bank waving a stick is a signal to the bass there is TROUBLE in paradise and they should be very wary and cautious. I have had to lay flat on the ground to make me appear low profile to catch hook shy bass.
Dan - 1,2&7 PONDWEEDS There are quite a few species of pondweeds but usually just a few common local ones. IMO you really should know the species to determine how best to deal with your particular one or two. Grass carp(GC) like some weeds better than others and some weeds are more sensitive to chemicals than others. Know your weed is important. Definitely wait until end of 2023 before adding more GC because too many will do more a lot more harm than good. Let yours mature to see what they can do to your particular weed problem. You mention that you think you have mainly American Pondweed. This one normally only grows in shallow water and not much in water over 6ft deep unless the water is very clear. We need to see close up clear pictures of the green slimy "weed". There are very few true weed species that fit slimy definition.
5. Bass Remaining. After removing 30 bass you should be close to only a few left. You only need to have one pair to make all your efforts about wasted. Do everything creative to see what bass you have remaining. Since you have adult BG in the pond the worm baiting trick may not work well. BG really like 2” pieces of worm. You will probably have to resort to using minnows from a bait shop or local fish farm. Use this time of remaining winter to develop a plan for spring to hold minnows in a tank, kiddy pool, or net cage in the pond. Daily add a few minnows. Bass will be very hungry after ice out and in preparation for spawning in May. Any remaining bass will quickly learn and show you how many remain. Your water should be clear to see bass a few weeks after ice out. They will be eager daily for your minnows as their favorite food. Condition the remaining bass to eat the minnows for about a week or two even if it costs you $10-$20. The bass should quickly learn to attack the minnows as soon as they are tossed into the pond. It is money well spent getting out the last few bass who can cause you numerous headaches and expense if they are able to spawn this spring. When you have bass eagerly attacking minnows then as you add a couple or few minnows hook one up using your light line and tiny BG hook. Let the bass swallow the bait for a positive hook up. I doubt very much that even the smartest bass will ignore your offerings of free live minnows. Killing the pond with rotenone as ‘esshup’ suggested will cost you several hundred dollars. So a few dollars minnow training a few bass is a cheap option.
YOUR QUESTIONS 1. “At what point can I be sure that I've removed "enough" of the bass?” I would keep trying to take out bass as long as you see some bass eating your welfare minnows. For the last few bass you will have to try your best to hide the smallest hook you can find. Worst case there will be one bass or one pair of bass in the pond. One remaining bass is a lot better than one male and one female who will complicate your problem as soon as they spawn. Then IMO you will have to live with those youngsters who will likely grow normally as long as they live providing they get lots of FOOD. You might get Las Vegas lucky and the last two bass are both male or both female. I am never that lucky. Ideally you want to make a concerted effort to restock pellet trained bass. All the well fed pellet trained bass will provide numerous 16”-18” plump bass who will do well to achieve your fishery goals. The pellet fed bass will provide 3 times more bass poundage of bigger bass in your 1/3 ac pond compared to natural fed LMB.
2. WEED REMOVAL. A. “When is the best time of the year to remove weeds?” Best time for weed removal will strongly depend on what weed specie it is. Different pondweed species can have noticeably different growth cycles. Know the weed specie and then this can be best answered. My guess is your main pond weed is called ‘small pondweed’ (Potomageton pusillus) which has a couple varieties and is a very common weed in ponds. The other real common pond weed is curly leaf pond weed (Potomageton crispus).. These two species have very different growth cycles and habits.
B. “Should I try to rake before the spawn, or wait until after?” Generally but not always you can rake and manually remove weeds pre and post spawn. However not all pondweed species have the same growth cycle. Some are cool season and some are warm season species. Know the weed specie involved then this can be best answered. Bass spawn and egg hatch should be compete by May 24. C. “And when exactly would the key spawning time start?” LMB in BG-LMB combo will spawn first and in your area will begin close to May 10. Male nest building starts at temp of 60F and egg laying starts at 62-65F. BG spawn next and spawning begins at temps of real close to 67F. Monitor your water temps and then you will know exactly the timing.
3. A.“ Water is blueish and sometimes brownish, but never green”. For general water plankton production I like to use the Secchi disk measurement. I your case just get a white Cool Whip lid and nail or screw it to a broom stick or pole. I clear water attach it to a cord. Because your pond has ample weed growth the water should generally be clear with visibilities of 3-5+ft. With weed growth, blueish water tells me the water is relatively clear, and brownish suggests either silty after runoff or maybe a form of plankton bloom. Brownish water can also come from tannins in the water from tree leaf leachate.
B. Should I be fertilizing? And if so, what time of year would I do that to help the zooplankton growth, without putting the weed growth on overdrive?”
In NY, never fertilize unless you own a fish farm. If you feed high protein pellets then this extra fish manure will provide more than enough nutrients to stimulate plant growth hopefully much of it is composed of plankton not rooted weeds. The submerged weeds are robbing water nutrients from the plankton; whichever is most abundant wins the nutrient battle. The fewer weeds in the pond the more plankton that will be in the water as evidenced by water clarity using the white disk measurement. As the grass carp grow and eat lots of weeds, the weeds will usually be converted to lots of grass carp(GC) manure which will help create nutrients for more plankton due to fewer rooted weeds. DO NOT ADD FERTILIZER. Ideally your want 5% to 20% of the bottom to have some weed species. You don’t want the GC to eat all the weeds. You want the GC to THIN the weeds NOT eliminate them. Some weeds (5%-15%) are ALWAYS VERY BENEFICIAL for various ecological reasons. I tell pondowners to remove 20-30% of the weeds, have the GC to eat 40-50% and let 15-20% be present to compete against filamentous. You know when too many submerged weeds are removed when you start getting filamentous stringy algae problems. Lots of filamentous algae means not enough submerged weeds and too many nutrients are present.
If you can remove most all the bass or hopefully all or all but one bass,,, the shiner fry from Anderson is a good option. 10" bass will mosty ignore the shiners until they grow to 1+". April is a little early for the American pondweed to provide good weed refuge for the shiner fry that manage to survive BG predation. It will help a lot if you get GSH fry, that you start feeding them about 1/8 -1/4 cup every day or two of ground powder type fish food when the fry are 1/2" long clear up to when they are 2"-3" long. Grind the fish food in an old garage sale blender. .