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In addition to the large pond I'm building, I'd like to build a small pond for raising minnows as forage for the larger pond. The goal would be to have a self-sustaining minnow population in this small pond. I'd sometimes trap small numbers for bait, and periodically seine out large numbers to replenish the forage base in the big pond. I'd have no other types of fish in this pond, and a flat bottom with no structure other than some wooden pallets for spawning. This will hopefully make seining easier.

My questions are:

--What minimum depth do I need to allow minnows to survive through the winter in NE Oklahoma?

--What minimum surface area do I need to produce enough minnows to make a dent in replenishing the forage needs of a 3-5 acre LMB/BG/CC pond?

--What species of minnow would be best for this purpose? FHM?

--Any thoughts on how often I'd have to seine and dump?

Thanks!

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There's a couple of "it depends" in there.

1) will you be aerating the forage pond? (with aeration you probably could get away with less depth if aerated in the winter)

2) what size and species of fish are you targeting for feeding with your forage? (LMB >12" will need different forage than ones <12", etc.)


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I'd like to get by with no aeration if possible.

I'm not really sure on the exact sizes of fish I'm shooting for. I'm planning to have LMB, BG, and CC in the big pond. I'd like to have plenty of medium sized bass and BG for the kids to catch, with a few monsters in there to keep the adults entertained. I'd like eating sized catfish. My thoughts on the forage were that the bluegill would eat the minnows and then the bigger bass would eat the bluegill. Does that make sense?

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Minnows will be eaten mostly by the bass. BG eat basically minnows 3/4" long and smaller. Largest BG (9"+) may occassionally eat 1" minnows. Minnows 1" and larger swim too fast for BG to regularly prey on them. BG as feeders are basically "cherry pickers".
I would build the forage pond shaped like a paint roller pan. Slightly deeper at one end. This will give you the most management options. This way it can be partially drained and concentrate the minnows/shiners into one smaller area for periodic seining. Partial draining to low pool during winter has numerous benefits. See below. Get yourself a used trash pump if you do not want a drain pipe.

A deep end depth of 5-6ft should be plenty deep enough in OK to allow for sedimentation and muck accumulation. If you compeltely drain the pond every 2-4 yrs, let the bottom dry out, lots of organics will decompose over winter thus the accumulations on the bottom will be less over time. This will keep pond in better shape also help reduce weed growths. Periodic complete draining and restocking minnows will be the best management plan for the forage pond. Undrained ponds dedicated to forage fish over time tend to become laden with fish parasites; primarily black spot and white/yellowgrubs. Periodic draining and restocking "cleans up" the forage fishery.
Size of pond will be determined by how many fish you want to raise. Typically a fertilized and well maintained pond can grow 1000-2000 lbs per acre. Expect to grow 60-100 maybe ideally up to 150lbs of minnows in a 0.1ac pond. Consider getting a windmill aerator (new/used) to mix and better manage this pond.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/12/09 12:23 PM.

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This thread is relevant to my interests. There is a .1 acre pond, max depth at full pool about 6" on of the the plots my dad owns, usually drops to around 3" during the summer. We were going to stock some minnows in it this fall, but there was only about a foot of water.

Would stocking a few RES with minnows in a small pond be a viable plan to prevent parasite problems?


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Adding RES to the forage should dramatically reduce the parasite problems. Initial RES should be big enough (5"-7") to eat the medium and larger snails. Adult RES are not able to eat adults of some species of snails. RES biomass in the pond will reduce amount of minnows that can be raised in the pond. Adding single sex just male or female RES is an option if small RES are not wanted. Adult RES may also eat some small minnows. Young RES would be good for restocking. Over time and without perodic draining, RES populations could build up to overpopulation type densities.

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Would Golden Shiners or Fathead Minnows be the best choice for a smaller pond? Maybe just a few pounds of both, see who wins.

If you're going to draw the pond down and remove all fish before it gets cold anyway, adding some tilapia might be a good call. Reading indicates that without predation mixed-sex tilapia ponds just become a mess of 3"-5" fish, which is great if you're using them to feed LMB.


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Shiners and FHM together is poly culture and does work. The main disadvantage is if you need to have only one or the other (selling, angling, sharing, restocking) then the catch needs to be sorted. Otherwise they work okay together.


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Are minnow traps effective at collecting GSH and FHM in ponds? I've seen them work well in streams on minnows, and I improvised a trap from a coffee can once that caught a bunch of juvenile sunfish in a pond, but I've never tried setting one of these in a pond with lots of gsh/fhm:



Seems that it'd be a good way to catch some forage for transport to another ponds without having to drain the pond or catch any larger RES present.


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FHM are easily caught in minnow traps. I never tried to get GSH in them, but they certainly hook easy enough. I removed over 500 of them from my pond in one summer by angling.


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i have 2 of those type minnow traps in my pond almost all the time. i only catch bg and gsf in it. never have caught a minnow in them in the pond.. i can put the trap in the moving water below the pond and catch minnows though..


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The trap shown above is one of those with rubber coated mesh. I have not had as good of trapping success with them as the type with bare wire. For some reason the fish do not go in those rubber coated traps as well. I tried painting those traps a drab color thinking it may be the black color; that did not much improve the catch success rate. I'm not saying one cannot catch fish in that style trap; just saying it has not caught as many fish as other similar style bare wire traps fished side by side.

I paint the new bare shiney wire traps a drab color and that seems to help catch rate. I think poor traping success with rubber coating has to do with the overall mesh thickness with rubber coating. IMO rubber coating slows rusting but does not increase catch rate.

I have been able to catch lots of golden shiners in traps if GS are common in the pond. Larger traps are sometimes better than the smaller traps for g.shiners. Lift nets are also good for catching smaller shiners when they are abundant. As Theo says, when larger GS (4.5"+) are common one can catch lots of them with a No.14 hook baited with bits of worm using light line & tiny bobber.

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 Originally Posted By: Bill Cody
The trap shown above is one of those with rubber coated mesh. I have not had as good of trapping success with them as the type with bare wire. For some reason the fish do not go in those rubber coated traps as well. I tried painting those traps a drab color thinking it may be the black color; that did not much improve the catch success rate. I'm not saying one cannot catch fish in that style trap; just saying it has not caught as many fish as other similar style bare wire traps fished side by side.

I paint the new bare shiney wire traps a drab color and that seems to help catch rate. I think poor traping success with rubber coating has to do with the overall mesh thickness with rubber coating. IMO rubber coating slows rusting but does not increase catch rate.

I have been able to catch lots of golden shiners in traps if GS are common in the pond. Larger traps are sometimes better than the smaller traps for g.shiners. Lift nets are also good for catching smaller shiners when they are abundant. As Theo says, when larger GS (4.5"+) are common one can catch lots of them with a No.14 hook baited with bits of worm using light line & tiny bobber.


Could it be that the coating is giving off a distinctive odor or leaching out chemicals that fish tend to avoid ?

I had one of those, gave it to my brother to catch minnows. Never even caught one. Nice concept.

My dad use to make minnow traps from glass jars for a local bait shop. He would form up some wire and braze it together to keep everything intact. The bait shop had the jars and lids custom made. They worked (sold) quite well as my dad was making several hundred per month for about, maybe, six years.

Materials were: Glass, Polypropylene, Galvanized wire, and brazing rod. I know that they were very well cleaned off before shipment.

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I doubt the rubber coated traps are leaching chemicals or giving off odors to repell fish. Some fish do go in the traps; just not to the extent that enter bare wire traps. Glass traps also work. Their main draw back is breakage.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/15/09 04:01 PM.

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 Originally Posted By: Bill Cody
Minnows will be eaten mostly by the bass. BG eat basically minnows 3/4" long and smaller. Largest BG (9"+) may occassionally eat 1" minnows. Minnows 1" and larger swim too fast for BG to regularly prey on them. BG as feeders are basically "cherry pickers".
I would build the forage pond shaped like a paint roller pan. Slightly deeper at one end. This will give you the most management options. This way it can be partially drained and concentrate the minnows/shiners into one smaller area for periodic seining. Partial draining to low pool during winter has numerous benefits. See below. Get yourself a used trash pump if you do not want a drain pipe.

A deep end depth of 5-6ft should be plenty deep enough in OK to allow for sedimentation and muck accumulation. If you compeltely drain the pond every 2-4 yrs, let the bottom dry out, lots of organics will decompose over winter thus the accumulations on the bottom will be less over time. This will keep pond in better shape also help reduce weed growths. Periodic complete draining and restocking minnows will be the best management plan for the forage pond. Undrained ponds dedicated to forage fish over time tend to become laden with fish parasites; primarily black spot and white/yellowgrubs. Periodic draining and restocking "cleans up" the forage fishery.
Size of pond will be determined by how many fish you want to raise. Typically a fertilized and well maintained pond can grow 1000-2000 lbs per acre. Expect to grow 60-100 maybe ideally up to 150lbs of minnows in a 0.1ac pond. Consider getting a windmill aerator (new/used) to mix and better manage this pond.


This response is concise and invaluable - crystalizes the forum as the incredible resource it is. Years of research and trial and error contained in a few sentences. Great work Bill - thanks!


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Great information everyone. Thanks so much!

Bill I really like your idea of a "paint roller pan" shape to allow draining and concentrating the fish on one end for easy seining.

To take it one step further, how about a small cove bulging outside of the rectangular outline -- just large enough to accommodate wooden pallets for spawning. The idea is that this would keep the pallets outside of the seining area and out of the way. Here's a crude illustration:



I realize that some fish would stay around the pallets and be un-seinable, but I should be able to get the majority, right? Any thoughts on why this would or wouldn't be a good idea?

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Much easier to stay with just the rectangle. Use small bundles of 1 foot long pvc for spawning that are easy to add and remove from the pond. Put them in for spawning and take them out to seine. Once you seine add them back and put back enough FH to repopulate. You can also use the seine to divide the pond into 2 parts and simultaneously grow 2 species ( do a search for blocking nets here). Good articles in PB mag on forage ponds and blocking nets.


















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So they'll spawn on smooth plastic surfaces ok? I guess they must or you wouldn't have recommended pvc. Now I'm wondering about plastic pallets like these: http://tulsa.craigslist.org/bfs/1500593234.html

Would the fish spawn on them if I just floated one or two on the surface?

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FHM will spawn on the undersides of items floating although this is not the preferred habitat and will not result in the most production.

The bay, pocket, hernia or bulge in the side of the pond will tend to collect excess "trash items" and organics. It will not get good water circulation or mixing from wave action and accumulated organics and decomposition in this area will be poor compared to the more exposed sections / shorelines of the pond.

Pallets can fairly easily be drug out of the pond using a small tractor or pickup truck prior to seining.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/15/09 04:17 PM.

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As I ready the machines to start digging, this thread is of most interest to me. Since I will need to move clay from one part of the plot to the dam area, I would like to incorporate 2 small forage ponds to raise FHM and GSM for the large pond. Most of the questions have been answered and I don't want to steal the thread so I will be brief. I am building in Southern Wisconsin so my thought is a forage pond 4 ft at one end and 6 at the other with a small aerator. The pond would be seined out and drained down come the winter (great info, Bill) Will I get enough reproduction from the minnows since they would be seined out in the late fall before freeze and new minnows added in the spring once the water opens up? Last question, is there a size min for a forage pond? I was thinking of 50 by 50 for each?


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With adequate spawning sites and a reasonable initial stocking rate, and with either some fertilizer or ground pellets you will be absolutely AMAZED at how many minnows you can grow each year in these small ponds with out predators present.

At the end of each year, expect to also have lots of small minnows in the 1/2"-1" range due to late spawns or the PBoss famous "rolling spawn" concept. You may not be able to harvest those due to their small size and their ability to pass thru the mesh of the seine. Thinning minnows out during the growing season will help growth of remaining minnows and increase the total annual production.

Kurt asks -""Last question, is there a size min for a forage pond? I was thinking of 50 by 50 for each?"" Basically the larger the pond the more minnows it will grow. A 50X50 pond with aeration and feeding should be able to easily grow 50-70 lbs maybe 100 lbs of minnows "it all depends".

In the shallow minnow pond, plan for and expect to deal with filamentous algae and/or rooted weeds if the water is clear. I raise crayfish in my minnow pond and they help keep FA and weeds controlled. Crayfish (papershell) when abundant will clean out weeds (even curly leaf pondweed) & FA in a pond.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/23/09 11:55 AM.

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I am amazed at the information available and given away. Thank you.

I have an abundance of limestone at the pond site. I read in some of the other threads talking about forage fish and aquariums and it was stated (I think)that rock (gravel) is good for the bottom to provide surface area for bacteria to help with the break down of nitrates and other junk. Would it be worthwhile to layer the bottom of the forage pond with limestone gravel? Would the gravel bottom help in weed reduction? I realize that it may make it a bit harder to seine or I might miss a few minnows but would the advantages outweight the loss?.


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It depends. Limestone rock is good for many purposes. If thick enough it will help reduce rooted weed growth. It helps with alkalinity (reduces pH fluctuations). It is great as a place for craws to forage and live . In the right location it will help survival of bottom spawned fish yoy ( BG/LMB/RES etc). It helps with many microorganisms growth as it contains Ca which is essential. If you have high alkalinity you may not want to add more. It is very tough on bare feet.
















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Kurt - I would not put limestone rock on the pond bottom. 1. It will quickly get covered with layers of sediment - organic and silt - mud. 2. It will make seining, harvesting and walking on the bottom very difficult. 3. It will reduce drying time for the bottom sediments whenever pond is drained. 4. Layers of organics on the bottom rock will not improve denitrification of ammonia. 5. It will not prevent rooted plant growth for very long. Plants will soon grow among the rocks once a thin layer of organics accumulate esp if the pond is productive. Regular draining and drying will help reduce organics, keep rocks cleaner and suppress weed growth longer. 6. If the pond bottom is ever scraped or cleaned one will have to deal with all that rock. 7. It will generally be a pain one way or another compared to a bare pond bottom.

The rock of various sizes will be useful along the edges of the pond. 1. It will help reduce soil erosion. 2. Provide some extra surface area for bacterial and invertebrate colonization. IF the pond is not periodically drained and allowed to dry and organics to decompose, rock intersticial spaces along the shore will also over extended time become filled with "sediments" depending on size of rocks.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/24/09 02:48 PM.

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This is so much fun. I love just brainstorming ideas and trying to learn about all the nuances. I just ordered some back orders of Pond Boss which may help answer some of these questions but let me throw them out there now anyway.

I am going to build two 50 by 50 forage ponds shaped like a paint pan . In the spring I will put in 1-2 pounds of FH or GSM and allow them the to breed and pull them out some out during the summer to put in the pond. The ones left in will hopefully continue to breed until the water temp is too high or until late in the fall.

1. Is 1-2 pounds a good amount of FH and GSM? The pond they will be supplementing is or will be 1-1.5 acres SM, YP, WE

2. Bill wrote that late in the season spawns will have small minnows by size. When I am ready to draw down for the winter seining the small minnows will be difficult due to the size of the minnows. How does this sound? The forage ponds will sit above the pond (slope wise) and in between the forage ponds and the pond will be a 150 foot long by 8 foot marsh area. The 5 acres above the pond will be graded so all water in the watershed will filter into the marsh for cleaning (control sendiment). The marsh will then have water run from it into the pond via an overflow but could have a drain down pipe for winter. This all sounds more elaborate than it really will be. My question is could or should I have a drain down pipe in the forage pond and come winter just drain the forage pond and small minnows into the marsh and then into the pond. With that I would not have to worry about the smaller size minnows from the later spawns being lost. Or is this just too much work for the cost of minnows?

3. When seining the minnows during the season, is it worthwhile, important, necessary, to separate the larger from smaller or can I just pull out so many and leave others in the forage pond for breeding?

4. I am thinking about the PVC tubes one foot long. They seem like they would be easier to put in and take out rather than pallets. Do you screw together or attach the foot long sections together? Or are they tossed in seperately?

This is great fun. Thanks


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