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Looking for some good ideas from the experts on a new "pond" project. I need help on the preferred depths and proper fish selection and management for this unconventional project.

Our farm has a live stream that runs throughout the year. There is also a cut off oxbow that meanders around adjacent to the stream. This oxbow fills with water and turns into a "pond" whenever the stream has a minor flood and overtops its banks.

This pond only lasts a few days in places, but some of the deep pools may survive up to six months. I originally thought the oxbow pond had a hydraulic connection to the nearby stream through the sandy soils. However, I have shot the water levels in the oxbow and they are higher than in the stream. (After the stream subsides back to the normal flow level following a flood.) Therefore, the oxbow soil conditions create at least a partial seal and are capable of creating a "perched" water table.

I dug a test pit and discovered that at least one of the perched pools is sealed by sitting on bedrock composed of shale.

This oxbow is situated in the floodplain. I am allowed to excavate, but not allowed to build any embankment or raise the ground level more than 1 foot from the existing grade. I could go big with an excavator and dump trucks and create a nice, deep pond by hauling the spoils out of the floodplain. However, that would not be money wisely spent, because the new pond will always be subject to flooding when the adjacent stream rises high enough. I would have undesirable fish coming in, and my good fish going out during the flood events.

I believe I can "enhance" the existing pools via excavation to make them both wider and deeper. I can then spoil the material right next to pond and spread it as a flat berm only one foot tall. The dimensions of the existing oxbow and the surrounding topography will largely control my pond design. However, I would like some help optimizing the depths/features of the pond for the proposed fish population. I am considering 3-4' deep pools with 1-2' deep waterways to connect the pools. There may be a few places where the soil will allow some small pools up to 8' deep.

This needs to be a fairly low budget project because it can never be a "perfect pond" due to creek incursions AND I cannot excavate too many yards of material without running out of space to place the spoils. The proposed pond would be long and narrow. Total surface area could be as small as 0.20 acres, or could be as large as 1.5 acres.

Questions:

1.) What fish species combo would you recommend for this type of "pond"? [It will probably have some undesirable fish (mainly GSF) dumped in via flooding every 1-3 years.]

2.) For that type of fishery, what should I focus on creating with my excavations? For example, more depth in the pools, or more surface area (width) to the long, narrow pond.

3.) I can divert water from the creek into the oxbow most of the year (since it flows back into the creek on our property). How much is the minimum required amount of water to divert (in daily % volume of the pond) for the fish to thrive? (They will be in a simulated shallow stream environment, rather than a typical Pond Boss type pond.)

Thanks for any help on this project while it is still in the "pie in the sky" design phase.

Feel free to add any comments on the myriad things that I have not yet considered!


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What type of fish do you find in the stream?

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I have a spring fed creek on my place. It’s one mile from the house. It starts about 150 yards upstream from my property line. I also have a 1/4 acre pond about 50 yards uphill from the creek. The creek gets fish from the pond when it overflows. Thus, it has channel cats, bluegills and green sunfish. I stop my 4 wheeler and toss pellets to the bluegills and GSF when I go to feed at the small pond.

On occasion, I’ve trapped some and returned them to the pond. I find that the cats roam about 100 yards in the creek. I find that I like the creek more than I do my ponds.


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Originally Posted by Dave Davidson1
I have a spring fed creek on my place. I find that I like the creek more than I do my ponds.

I think I will have the same situation! No matter how much work I do on any ponds that I build, they will never be beautiful in my lifetime. They are just going to be holes filled with water set in a large expanse of prairie grass.

OTOH, the creek has a rugged and wild beauty. It is lined with trees and has a rough topography of sand bars and small terraces.

I think I can create a "mini" version of the creek in the abandoned oxbow channel.


Fish we have caught or seen in the creek:

GSF
LMB
CC
BG (rare?)
White Crappie
Spotted Gar
Flatheads
Large Sucker Fish (Redhorse?)

Lots of species of forage fish

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Is the intention to 'over-winter' by having some kind of creek/river-like flow through the BOW?

Last edited by Sunil; 11/29/21 08:23 PM.

Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
"She took another microscopic bite of her sandwich, then pushed it away. Maybe she absorbed nutrients from her surroundings."

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Maybe enjoy what gets in the pond from the creek and stock the pond with fish that would be good to have in the stream. Maybe some SMB?

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Originally Posted by Sunil
Is the intention to 'over-winter' by have some kind of creek/river-like flow through the BOW?

Yes, that is one aspect that could be advantageous relative to a small farm pond. I think I could divert some water flow from the bottom of the creek, even during the coldest portions of our Kansas winters.

The creek sometimes gets thin ice during portions of the winter, but then the water level drops and a nice air pocket develops under the ice. Or we get a warm front and some precipitation raises the water level and messes up the ice.

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Originally Posted by RAH
Maybe enjoy what gets in the pond from the creek and stock the pond with fish that would be good to have in the stream. Maybe some SMB?

SMB are one of the species I considered. Would they reproduce if I gave them some preferred spawning habitat? That way I could lose some during a flood, but still have a spawning population. However, they would have to compete with whatever was introduced during a flood.

I believe the best adapted "creek" bass in our region are the Spotted Bass. I wanted to try some in a pond, but could not find a supplier.

Since my management of this "pond" will definitely be imperfect, I was considering fish that could have explosive growth in two years. Would HSB be an option? I could guarantee they would be the largest initial predator - even if I stocked inexpensive small fish. They might have to compete at a later date with some other predators that make it through my screens as fry.

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I am guessing that spotted bass and bluegill would outcompete SMB, but perhaps the SMB would establish in the creek and be reintroduced during flooding events. Having a pond that gets "stocked" by a creek does introduce a "fun factor" in that you may get surprised by what you catch. Embracing this reality may be more satisfying than trying to fight it. I am planning a small wetland near a small creek that runs through our place, but maybe I'll try to make it a small pond so I can have this type of pond myself.

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There are no Spotted Bass (that I have seen) in our creek. I used to catch tons of them in the rocky creeks that are 70 miles east of our property. I don't think they exist in the big muddy rivers (and tributary creeks) out my way that run through plowed farm land. However, our creek is very clean. We are in a sandy area, and most of the rainfall is "sand filtered" before it hits the creek. I think Spots would like our micro-environment conditions. I suspect SMB would too!

Maybe the best idea is just to create the oxbow "pond" and use it for any fish that I need to cull from our farm ponds? The pond could then have a very diverse fish population. No worries about it getting out of balance, because things will necessarily change in a year or two anyway!


P.S. I recall you talking about creating a small wetland. Was that going to be Pond #5? If so, why not do a combination wetland and pond? You can make a wetland to the preferred depth of the future inhabitants, positioned where the water source comes in. It will trap some silt, and any big fish that are introduced from the creek should be able to make it over to your "pond" portion of the project.

You could then have a marsh wildlife habitat project combined with a "mystery fish" angling pond!

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I have multiple wetlands and some are in the creek flood zone. We actually had a bunch of warmouth in one of the deeper wetlands that my neighbor had a blast catching (and eating). My 4th pond has not yet filled, but it is connected to a wetland of similar size to the pond, but neither is in the creek flood zone. The area that I was planning to make the next wetland is quite small, so even a pond of sufficient depth to avoid winter kill might be a challenge. I actually have 2 more wetlands planned within the creek flood zone, but one would be a challenge to make deep due to water coming in, even in a drought. We are blessed with a place that is great for making water features. Nice to think about future projects when its cold outside!

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Sounds like fun, good luck!

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The whole thing sounds like a great project and well worth it. I love the idea of smallies, and I wonder if you potentially did some pellet feed in certain areas of the oxbow, if you could get some vigor added to the SMB to perhaps make stronger spawn thus prolonging their existence.

I've heard in general that a fish that has lived in running water won't do so well if relocated to a pond environment, and maybe vice versa. so a KS source for smallies, may be all pond raised. That may be no issue, but I only mention it if you're going to have some kind of real flow, creek like, going through.


Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
"She took another microscopic bite of her sandwich, then pushed it away. Maybe she absorbed nutrients from her surroundings."

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[quote=Sunil I've heard in general that a fish that has lived in running water won't do so well if relocated to a pond environment, and maybe vice versa. so a KS source for smallies, may be all pond raised. That may be no issue, but I only mention it if you're going to have some kind of real flow, creek like, going through.[/quote]

If I put in "pond" smallies, maybe the second generation will have a few fish that thrive in the semi-stream environment.

Hopefully, it will be an interesting and entertaining experiment!


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