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Question for northern pond owners
#516161 01/27/20 03:19 PM
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i have a half acre pond, 6 years old now, and am wondering about different goals for northern ponds. We are always talking about trophy fish, but what about the guy who wants a little as possible maintenance pond? Can you get away with not feeding? Can you not run that aerator during the winter and not worry? Can you have a "mother nature" kind of pond, just keeping an eye on the health of the water, and let most everything else go it on it's own? Are there any out there who do this now? I am just asking, because I an curious, again there is so much talk about big ponds and heavy feeding and trophy fish just looking for the other side....if it is there! Thanks and any and all who comment, it is winter and not much to do at the moment!


half-acre pond, LMB, HBG, BG, GSH and CC ....goal is to
have fun fishing. And I subscribe!
Re: Question for northern pond owners
Funky #516166 01/27/20 05:19 PM
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One can easily have a relatively low maintenance pond with lower natural density fish community. No feeding, only warm season aeration, natural fish balance with maybe occasional fish harvest to maybe adjust fish numbers.

IMO experience and opinion the biggest thing for a lower maintenance pond is build the pond so it receives minimal external organic inputs. Without feeding in a 1/2 ac pond, with central MI soil fertility, expect around 80-100 to maybe 120 total fish pounds in 0.5ac. You determine how those pounds of fish are distributed among the fishes present. More little ones, more larger ones, or some sort of nature's reproduction balance based on predator - prey species. A good fish combo for mid-Michigan would be perch, maybe pumpkinseed sunfish, and smallmouth bass. SMB very poorly control bluegill numbers. LMBass would soon eliminate all perch once the original stockers died of old age unless the pond has beds of submerged vegetation, but common weed beds would not be low maintenance. Weeds would tend to become over abundant. They always do. If you stock perch with LMB you usually eventually have just LMB one the stocker perch die.

If you want a real low maintenance fishery then just stock several smallmouth or largemouth bass. No forage fish; let them eat just invertebrates. Imlay City Fish Farm has pretty good fish. A bass only pond. They won't grow bigger than 10"-12", but will achieve a numbers balance as mostly adults, and keep larger invertebrates and frogs at lower numbers. Imlay sells redear sunfish but they likely come from Arkansas and southern RES will desperately struggle to live in mid-MI. If Imlay produces their own RES fingerlings from their brood stock then maybe those could tolerate MI winters??. Interesting to know those results.

A good resource for you is the detailed information on fish pond management you can order Managing Michigan Ponds for Sport Fishing Extension Bulletin E-1554 from the Michigan State University Extension Bookstore or your county Extension office.
https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/managing_michigan_ponds_for_sports_fishing_e1554

The Bulletin tries not to tell owners and users what the right kind of pond or pond management is. Instead, they explain principles and describe alternatives from which to choose. Many owners soon discover that having a fishing pond is a bit like having a pet or an automobile. It needs to be well cared for if it is to serve its purpose. Trying to maintain a prime fishing pond is like striving to keep a hunting dog or racing car in good shape. Performance depends on great attention to details. Do you really have time for that?

I went to grad school at CMU so I know those winter conditions. Snow arrived in early December and stayed until late March-April. Without winter aeration, the pond would have to have some depth of 16-20 ft for a reduced chance of winter fish kill long term, as suggested in the MSU Pond Management Bulletin noted above.

Pond needs a 'good' amount of water depth during MI snowy winters to maintain adequate DO for fish survival. This is not as important when the pond is young (1-10yrs). As the pond ages it develops a higher internal biochemical oxygen demand that consumes more DO during dark conditions under snow and ice cover. Deep water provides a large water volume to surface ratio thus it has more DO available compared to DO consumption during the winter snow cover. It is the buildup of organic inputs that contribute to decay and DO consumption and causes winter fish kills under snow-ice. The shallower the pond is and the more leaves - dead plants it receives the more chance of fish kills; sooner or later. It is nature's way of doing things.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 01/27/20 08:31 PM.

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Re: Question for northern pond owners
Funky #516178 01/28/20 06:23 AM
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I have a low maintenance 1 acre pond built in 2003. It is stocked with RES, BG, and LMB. It has had 2 partial winter fish kills over the last 15 years due to prolonged snow on ice (never restocked). It is currently low maintenance because it has a natural edge which actually required some initial work to establish (pulling cattails and wiping willows with glyphosate). We still spend an hour a year doing this. A neighbor pulls 50-60 BG out a year and a friend harvested this guy last Fall. I throw a few ounces of feed in occasionally to watch the BG feed at a cost of less than $10 a year. I don't feed at all in my other 2 ponds but they are newer and still require more effort to control cattails and willows. I will say that the most work that I have put in on the ponds is learning from this forum to keep me from making common mistakes. However, it's a labor of love!






Re: Question for northern pond owners
Funky #516187 01/28/20 10:35 AM
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Thanks for the comments! I am really happy to see how this could work over time and with a few adjustments, as I get older and am looking for a bit less work and more fun.


half-acre pond, LMB, HBG, BG, GSH and CC ....goal is to
have fun fishing. And I subscribe!

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