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Hello, I first discovered this site a few weeks ago and am amazed by the breadth of knowledge on here! Many of the threads have been incredibly helpful with information. I have had an issue come up this weekend and I decided to turn here for some information and advice.

I built a new 1 acre pond in 2021. Roughly 15-20 feet deep in the deepest location and generally probably around 10-15 feet in most places. It was constructed with sloping walls on most of the sides with a more gentle transition on 2 of the banks. This pond is primarily designed to grow very large bass.

I stocked the pond with 4-6in bluegill, catfish, lots of flathead minnows and a few sterilized grass carp for vegetation control in the fall of 2021. The plan is to introduce 8 - 12 inch bass this spring, after the bluegill have a chance to spawn.

Upon stocking the pond with the current fish, my pond stocking guy told me that we overstocked the pond and I would need to fish it aggressively after the first couple of years to cut down on the bluegill count. Originally the plan was to build a 2 acre pond as opposed to a one acre, however we ended up not being able to do that. However, due to a miscommunication, it was still stocked as a 2 acre pond instead of a 1 acre. No big deal, I was happy to fry up lots of bluegill in a few years.

Fast forward to this weekend. I went out to check the pond water temperature to see if it was warm enough to begin my supplemental feeding program and was devastated to see that one of the walls of the pond (essentially a dam wall) suffered a catastrophic failure. As I mentioned, the walls are sloping and not a deep vertical dive. I lost probably a 30 -35 foot section of the wall that extended probably 10 -15 feet deep (sloping). The overall pond water levels were down probably 5+ feet on average over the 1 acre. Suffice it to say, MASSIVE amount of water escaped the pond. To make matters worse, it was not a slow leak. I went to the pond 2 days before the check it and there were no issues. The water rushed out fast enough to take a tire off of the tire wall I had built for the minnows and leave a large trail of dirt and silt over a very large area.

Which brings me to my issue. I have gone to the pond the last couple of days and verified I still have a good bit of fish in the pond. This can be confirmed visually as well as I have seen quite a few bluegill and a couple of catfish come up to eat food as I utilized the feeder the last couple of days. What I have no idea of however, is how many fish I lost.

Technically, if I lost 50% of the fish, its not the end of the world, its just properly stocked. However, what if I lost 90% of the fish? What is all the bluegill stayed but I lost all the minnows and most of the catfish? My concern is I don't want to add another 50% of optimal stocking levels if I only lost 10% of fish, as I will be greatly overstocked now. However, I also don't want to understock my bluegills and not have enough forage fish for the bass once I put them into the pond. I cant think of any good way to determine how much fish I lost vs what is remaining in the pond. Same with the species, maybe I lost all of the Carp and now wont have good vegetation control. Maybe there are only a couple of catfish remaining out of what was stocked previously.

My dirt guy is going to reinforce all of the walls this week and also line all of the sides with clay to prevent this from happening again.

So I turned to the Pond Boss Forum to ask for some advice on the situation. What are your thoughts?


I included a picture of the failure below for context.

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

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I don’t know of any way to accurately measure that. However, in a flood, most fish try to go upstream. I think a bigger problem is how to fix the damage before you get more washed out.


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Dave, Thanks for the insight. I didn't think to mention the fix initially, but I have since updated my original post.

My dirt guy is going to reinforce all of the walls this week and also line all of the sides with clay to prevent this from happening again.

I also thought the same thing about fish swimming upstream as a natural instinct and that is the primary reason I am concerned about current stocking levels.

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Sorry to hear the news.

To be honest, if your dirt guy is saying he can fix things the way they are now, to get you back to 'normal full pool,' I'd be questioning his knowledge or abilities. This is just judging from what you've shared. IMO, that area will just wash out again.

Regarding what to do with trying to figure out what kind of fish populations you have left, I'd take the 'wait and see' approach for the rest of the spring and summer. If you feel that you need more fish, maybe do it in the Fall '23.


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What about the primary spillway and emergency spillways? Was there a major rain event or did the dam dam just break (which as mentioned above if it wasn't build properly to start it should never have failed)?

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I agree with Sunil. Just adding clay and packing it in the blown out part of the dam won't guarantee a repair. If your guy is only reinforcing the back of the dam, then that doesn't keep the dam from getting saturated again.


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Worry about the pond holding water, then worry about the fish. Did the dam have a core trench? What are the primary and emergency spillways like? How many acres of watershed feed the pond? Was there a significant rain event to trigger the washout?

Re: Triploid Grass Carp. If you don't have a weed problem, I wouldn't be worried about having them in the pond.

re: Catfish. If the goal is to grow larger bass, then once the catfish reach 3 pounds they will be competing with the bass for groceries. Start harvesting the catfish.

re: Bluegills. How many did you stock initially?

What other fish were in the pond, how many and what size were they when stocked?


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SSJSayajin, the fish are the lesser of 2 evils here.
As for your blow-out, I've been through this and I'm going to be brutally honest here because I don't want you having to come back and fix this next year... The top needs scrapped off near level to the deepest part of washout-then- another core needs to be made and superior (read good clay) needs to be built back up and compacted in thinner layers at the proper moisture content. When that freeboard is reached, it should be nothing less than 12' wide on top, then sand, gravel and riprap need to be placed on face, grass and erosion mats need to be used a couple of feet above water line-over and down back side.
Your picture looks like there was a weaker vain of material in that berm, I see no indication of proper, layered compaction-also doesn't appear wide enough to me, for the height of berm.
Where are you in Ks?

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If that berm is part of the dam, there are a number of things wrong. Snipe hit them for you.
A properly constructed dam, even one for a one-acre pond, needs to be properly built. Compaction is a "must". If that blown-out section wasn't properly compacted in lifts/layers, I would expect the rest of it is the same. Fix the break and you move the weak link. It becomes strong, but if the rest of the dam (if that's what we see in the image) is the same, it runs the same risk. Having an emergency spillway is a must and you can see why.
Post a picture of the whole dam and entire pond and let's give it a look.


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I am no big time professional but I have built a few ponds, finished one earlier this week and it is filling as we speak. Like most of these guys have said, it doesn't appear very well constructed or compacted but you may have got by with a little of that if the dam had been a good bit taller then the overflow spillway. it is imperative that the dam be well above your spillway point so that when water does overflow it does not go over the newly constructed dam, it will fail every time.
There has never been a dam compacted well enough or built with good enough clay, to withstand water over-topping it, no matter how well it was built and compacted. Good Luck!


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Firstly listen to experience offered here. Snipe especially talks from experience and dealing directly with this type of problem.
1. When a wall wash out occurs it is a VERY good sign that the pond wall was not built properly. Properly built and compacted walls or dams do not wash out and when they do it is a strong signal the method used was not very good. The wash out side or top berm may not have been wide enough plus very likely it was not compacted properly using thin layers and a sheepsfoot roller or vibratory sheepsfoot. These are a type of special compaction equipment just for that purpose. The importance of a proper spillway and over flow has been noted. IMO if that whole wall is not properly rebuilt do not be surprised if it fails again in another area with another big rain event. Seeing a picture of your problem, I expect there are other weakly compacted spots in that entire wall or dam. The 2nd weakest spot will be the next one to fail. Ideally to get that washout fixed properly the pond should be drained to best get the equipment back in there to fix and repack the entire dam side. Build a spillway or proper overflow. See the problem of improper cheaper poorly planed and poorly implemented construction?

2. Fish problem. For growing biggest bass get rid of each CC. They were a mistake for getting big bass. Each one takes the place of 1 bass. Larger CC are competitors - predators not bottom cleaners. To start growing big bass you want an over abundance of BG as unlimited food for fast growing bass. Your initial BG 2X numbers were correct for growing trophy bass.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 03/24/23 10:52 AM.

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All,

Thank you very much for the advice and insight. Allow me to provide some information as well as answer some of the questions.

First and foremost, based upon the guidance provided, it does not appear that I have a "properly built pond". However, I feel I would be remiss if I did not explain my process as to how I created my pond as there appears to be concerns about me having a "budget build" or "cutting corners".

This is my first experience with a pond. I know relatively little of pond construction or best practices from a personal standpoint. This is not a pond built but a friend, or a buddy that "has done it before". I did quite a bit of research to find a reputable fish hatchery in my state. I reached out to him prior to building the pond and explained my goal was to build a pond that grows trophy bass for myself and my family. He referred me to a "dirt guy" who has extensive experience in Western Kansas. Over a month or two, this referred person built my pond. At this point I petitioned the proper government agency's to allow me to install a completely separate well system specifically for my pond. (my property line is on a river, however I was told by the fisheries person that well water is ideal for what I was looking for as opposed to river water). After months of fighting, I was granted a permit. Then 2 more months later, I had someone to dig my well. 2 More months after that, I was able to install an 80GPM pump into my well and a gravity feed system to flow water into my pond.

I was asked about initial stocking. 100 catfish 8-12in, 20 grass carp (sterilized), 600 4-6in bluegill, 10,000 minnows, 20 redear sunfish. Bass were planned to be stocked this spring. (now) There were no other species in the pond as it was created from scratch.

As mentioned above, I realize I dont have a properly built pond. To my knowledge, I dont have a proper spillway or emergency spillway. I need to do some additional research on what that looks like from a construction , but from a couple of searches, I am lacking that in my pond.

The pond is primarily fed by a well. As mentioned, a river runs through my property, however the dam was built to keep water out of the river, not the opposite. Western Kansas has been in a drought situation for the past several years with minimal rain and watershed.

Below are 2 separate photos of the failed section showing a cross section of the compacting. I am not experienced enough to verify it is the multiple layers outlined, however it does not appear so from a laymans standpoint. With that said, I tried to post multiple pictures of the dam and pond as requested and can take more as necessary.

Lastly, I was asked where I was in Kansas. I am in Western Kansas near Hays and Dodge City. As a point of reference, almost everyone I have spoken to build catfish ponds. However, I am a bass fisherman and have focused on building a pond to grow for trophy bass. It is possible that is part of my difficulty in creating what I am looking for. However, it was my understanding (previously) that I had hired the correct people for the job. Clearly that does not appear to be the case.

With that said, I did a quick search here, but is there a specific link someone can provide relating to spillways that I can work on implementing immediately?

Several pictures below as requested:

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

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[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

[Linked Image from i.postimg.cc]

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SSJ,

It makes my stomach a little upset looking at your beautiful pond getting ruined.

It is difficult to evaluate something over the internet, but yes - it looks like your contractor was not a pond builder. He did a beautiful job shaping the pond, but apparently did not understand the correct engineering.

Look at the next to last picture you posted. Do you see all of the plant roots still in their original position? That bank has NOT been cut and then compacted in lifts! It appears that he mostly just dug and shaped a "hole" on your property and called it a pond.

Lots of questions need to be answered before the people on Pond Boss can give you some good advice.

1.) Is the bank of your pond actually adjacent to the river? When the river comes up during a flood stage, will water be rushing past your bank? If so, that will always be exposed to significant erosive forces. You would need to take measures to protect your bank, but there are lots of rules about altering the banks of rivers and streams in Kansas.

2.) You talk about filling your pond with well water. Does any significant surface water run into your pond from the slope of the land after a rain event? If not, you do not need an outlet structure or spillway - as long as you don't leave your well on and flood your pond over the top of a bank.

If you do get surface (rain) water into your pond, then yes, you must have an outlet system and perhaps an emergency spillway. One of the most important factors in the design of the system will be the size of the area (acres) that drains into your pond.

3.) Even a perfectly constructed dam or pond levee is likely to be breached when water starts running over the top. The water usually creates a small crevice and that channels more of the flow into that spot, which works to erode a continuously larger channel, until the water cuts right through the dam or bank.

Looking at your first picture, I think most of us thought that is what happened to your pond. However, reading your additional postings, it appears that may NOT have been the case? Did water go over the top of your bank and cause the damage, or did the bank collapse with not a chance that the pond level was higher than the bank?

If the latter, then I think your bank collapsed just due to the poor construction of the bank. I suspect that as your pond filled, your banks slowly became water saturated. Did you walk around the perimeter of your pond after it was mostly full? Did you observe the outside slopes of your banks being soggy or even weeping some water?

There is a good chance that water slowly worked through that un-compacted bank where you see all of the plant roots. When the water reached the outside of the bank, it started washing out just a few grains of dirt. However, as those grains were washed out of the path of the slowly moving water, the path very slowly grew a bit wider each day. Eventually, there was a rapid flow of water and "whoosh" there went your bank.

Please examine your pond construction closely while thinking about some of the things people have written in your replies. Hopefully, you can then determine the likely cause of the bank failure. Take more pictures and write up your thoughts and observations. You must accurately diagnose the problem before you can determine the best solution.

Good luck on your pond repair!

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SSJSayajin:

Here is the NRCS booklet on how to build a pond. There is more information in this booklet that you download to your computer than I can copy/paste here. Read the booklet before you allow the dirt guy to do any more work. That will help you understand the correct process. Whether you need to keep water OUT of your pond or IN your pond, the basic process of building the dam is the same.

https: //nrcspad.sc.egov.usda.gov/distributioncenter/product.aspx?ProductID=115

I had to add a space between the https: and the //. To view the place, copy/paste what I put above, delete the space and then go to the site. OR google Pond Construction USDA publication 550.

I sent an email to LeighAnn tellling her about my issues......

Last edited by esshup; 03/24/23 10:51 PM.

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[quote=SSJSayajin]All,

Thank you very much for the advice and insight. Allow me to provide some information as well as answer some of the questions.



Lastly, I was asked where I was in Kansas. I am in Western Kansas near Hays and Dodge City. As a point of reference, almost everyone I have spoken to build catfish ponds. However, I am a bass fisherman and have focused on building a pond to grow for trophy bass. It is possible that is part of my difficulty in creating what I am looking for. However, it was my understanding (previously) that I had hired the correct people for the job. Clearly that does not appear to be the case.

With that said, I did a quick search here, but is there a specific link someone can provide relating to spillways that I can work on implementing immediately?


SSJSayajin, I'm 1.5hr from you and would GLADLY come put eyes on this-no charge- and help you however I can.
Next question: what is the white material that appears to be placed with a drop spreader???

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SSJ,

He won't toot his own horn, but I will!

Snipe is a pond professional that does consulting and raises fish for sale.

If you can get his eyeballs on your problems, then I would say that is definitely your best option for determining the cause of your bank failure.

If you click the blue "Snipe" in his post, you can send him a private message out of the view of the public forum.

Cody Edit - Snipe not only raises fish for sale, he grows high quality fish with high quality TROPHY genetic potentials with the extensive background knowledge of how to keep those fish growing to trophy sizes.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 03/26/23 03:40 PM. Reason: enhancement
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The finished pond from the surface looked nice. Looks can sure be very deceiving. The stuff underneath the nice smooth surface appears to be interlaced with junk. On the positive side - - It is much better that the side wall failed now before you had a well established population of large bass. With all those roots mixed in with the side wall of the dam,,,,, it is no wonder the weakest spot failed. One should never intermix tree roots, limbs and other non good soil materials into the wall of a dam or side walls if you want to pond to NOT leak or have minimal seepage. Constructed with that intermixed soil consistency and poor compaction, it is no doubt many other spots along that wall have a very similar pond wall weakness. Those walls do not appear to be well built and well compacted. IMO He dug a hole but did not really create a WELL BUILT pond. You dig a hole however you BUILD a pond.

As questioned and noted above - did water flow over top the wall to cause the breach or did water soaked lose dirt composing the wall just soften and succumb to seepage until water started moving through the wall????

My worry would be how much of the entire wall had this intertwined rotten material for that long distance of your entire long narrow pond. That root infested dirt should have never been used for the wall of a pond. Bad bad decision. That buried stuff made the wall composed of very lose weak dirt. Sooner or later in time maybe numerous years all those rotted decayed roots would turn to mush and will make the wall actually porous and even less strong.

Was the wall that failed next to the river/stream? Flood events soaking the outside wall with rushing swirling current will strongly tend to erode the wall facing the river. If yes and if you want long term strong wall structure of the outside side wall facing the river side, IMO that whole wall should be rebuilt. You will likely have to drain the entire pond to get the built strongly and correctly. I even question the other embankment walls for long term structural integrity and strength to resist major seepage when buried roots turn to soggy mush.

Also I do not think very much of your fish stocker by putting catfish into a pond for growing big LMB. Buyer always beware. 2nd and 3rd truly professional experienced opinions are always best in pond management and for when taking care of your health and body. Homework, homework, homework. Fish farms are always good at selling and pushing small bass & various fish - growing trophy or even just consistently large bass takes special knowledge and management. You have always got to remember Fish Farms are in business for specializing in small fish, selling fish, and making money --- AND not necessarily are they real knowledgeable for achieving the goals of growing specialized, big or trophy fish.

Overall - Our mentor Bob Lusk will say you just paid a big dumb tax. You did not know - what you did not know. Now you are beginning to learn a lot about pond building and fish management. YOU PAY TO LEARN! . You pay to go to school to learn, You pay by your mistakes, or Pay in time to fix your mistakes.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 03/28/23 08:58 AM. Reason: enhancements

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Just wanted to say I agree with what others are saying here. On this site the members feel each others pain and want to share in your success. They are speaking from the school of hard knocks. We have all had failures in building our dream ponds, knowledge is key to being successful. Don't give up, you will get there.

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Lets try this again....






Last edited by esshup; 03/27/23 11:48 AM.

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I don't see a proper spillway. Looks water went over the top of the bank and washed away the bank.

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Originally Posted by jludwig
I don't see a proper spillway. Looks water went over the top of the bank and washed away the bank.

That's what I'm seeing in the photos, the waterline is right at the top of the dam and obviously went over, no dam has ever been built well enough to withstand that, it usually drains the whole pond, cuts its way down as it goes.


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Thanks for the additional insight and information. I just returned from a camping/fishing trip yesterday evening and wanted to provide some updates and answer questions.

The pond is not really "near" the river. The river is probably 50-75yds away from the pond and down about 20-30 feet. I supposed in the event we get historic rains like what is occurring in California there is a chance of river water reaching the pond, however it is extremely unlikely.

There is no significant rain water that will run into the pond unless the above mentioned historic event happens. There is a large depressed area around the pond (naturally occurring) and then the area the pond was constructed on is probably 10ft above that area.

With that said, I do not currently have a spillway area in the pond. I plan to read the document that esshup provided me to do some additional research on one.

My guess is that the failure of the wall was a mix of collapsing dirt area and then water getting over the top of the wall. As several people mentioned, the top of the wall was not properly compacted. I believe that the water washed away or soaked through several inches of dirt towards the top of the pond. This created a location that allowed the water to rush over the top of the pond and therefore erode the backside of the pond. This is what caused the overall failure. As I mentioned, this happened between Friday when I last went to the pond and Sunday when I went back, so extremely quickly. Someone also asked did I notice water weeping out of the side of the pond. The answer is no. However, in hindsight, there may have been areas on the backside of the wall where the dirt was moist. At the time, I did not realize that was a concern. Obviously, I do now.

@Snipe, I appreciate your offer to come see the pond in person and may take you up on that. I want to do some more research on my end to make sure that I have a good working understanding of what areas I was lacking in before doing anything else.

I absolutely understand what was said about roots and "junk" in the walls. They were not visible until the pond wall failed, but it makes sense they could have been a contributing factor. I am going to see if I can see any other areas where this is potentially the case as well.

Understood about the Catfish in the pond as well. While my pond stocker may have good working knowledge of stocking overall, he is not a trophy bass specialist. I actually called 3 or 4 fisheries before finally deciding on the one I used. Everyone else I spoke to were pretty clear that they are used to stocking Catfish ponds. With that said, clearly I didint look far enough out as I did not discover Snipe`s company.

@esshup, I am not able to view the couple of YouTube videos that you posted. I get error messages upon clicking play.

As far as an update, see the attached photos below. As I mentioned in my initial post, the person who built the pond was coming to look at the failure within the next few days. He came while I was out of town and made "repairs" to the area. I will go out this weekend to do a full inspection, however I snapped a couple of photos last night.

The biggest difference I saw immediately was the overall width of the wall. It went from being something that had enough space for someone to walk on, to me being able to drive a pickup truck on as far as width. It is also significantly more compact (from a feel of walking on it vs prior). I assume much of this has to do with the clay that the dirt person used this time. With that said, there is a still a section of the wall on the other side of the breach that has had nothing additional done to it.

I don`t plan to do anything or fill the pond back at this point in time until I do some more research. However, I wanted to share photos of what has actually been done already.


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SSJSayajin, those youtube videos were me trying to post that USDA link. Since they don't work, I left them in place so LeighAnn could direct the forum hosting "guru" to it to see what was wrong.

The WHOLE dam needs to be fixed, or the area that is still soft will most likely be the next failure area.

Get Kenny out there asap for both of your schedules, you will learn a lot more talking to him than reading. Then go ahead and read, then you will have a better understanding of what you are reading.


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3/4 to 1 1/4 ac pond LMB, SMB, PS, BG, RES, CC, YP, Bardello BG, (RBT & Blue Tilapia - seasonal).
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SSJ,

I don't understand how water went over the top of your wall.

Did you leave the well pump on too long? Was the pond absolutely full, and a small rainstorm did it?

If the latter, then yes you have significant surface acres draining into your pond and you need a water outlet system and perhaps an emergency spillway.

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FishinRod,

I dont necessarily believe that water went over the top in the 2 manners you described. The high water line was roughly a foot or two below the "top". My "assumption" is that as the dirt on top was not properly compacted, the water either seeped through the top or eroded away the dirt. This caused the area that was a foot or two above the water line, to now be at the water line and that is how water ran over. As I mentioned, this is what I am assuming happened and I am not 100% sure. We did not receive any appreciable rain. We have actually been in a drought most of the year.

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