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Hello,

First post but have been reading the site for the past few months since I purchased a property with a 1/2 acre pond. I purchased the property in December but had looked at it several times in the fall.

Prior owner said the pond was 18-20 feet deep and it may have been when it was built in the 50s or 60s but he did not do any sort of maintenance that I am aware of. After taking a boat out and testing a few spots I found it to only be about 9.5' deep in the middle, disappointing to say the least. The silt does seem to be soft for several feet. As the picture below shows there is little around for trees for organic matter so I believe most of the sediment is from erosion and the upstream ponds. The pond will turn hot chocolate brown during heavy rains then turn back to the blue/green color which looks normal for the area quite quickly.

There seems to be little to no structure in the pond. The only thing other than the sediment is the limestone around the dam and some smaller gravel around where some muskrats live(d). There is also zero vegetation in the water but that is likely because of the muskrats. I plan on trapping them but it will be a constant problem with two ponds just above mine, although they are considerably smaller at maybe 50' diameter. I was out on the ice this winter and dropped my camera down and could tell the bottom was fairly smooth and maybe some BG nesting holes here and there. No leaves or other debris.

PO said there was 5# LMB in the pond and a single koi. I tried worms and some jigs with no hits before winter came. I did catch one nice sized pan fish through the ice however and lots of them around the camera. I thought something maybe happened to the koi because it took two months until I saw it trolling near the surface. I have yet to confirm a LMB of any size though. I did see thousands of tadpols in November/December in the shallows that were fairly good sized.

I know from reading on here the answer to de-mucking would be to break the dam and use a dozer/track hoe to clean it out. I have not inquired about any of the enviro sludge pumping services yet. I would like to try a full trash pump first and see how that does cleaning up around the dock at a minimum. I do have a 12' jon boat that I made into a 90hp jet boat which I could use for a venturi pump if needed. Being that there is little debris in the water to clog an intake screen and top layer of the sediment is soft I think I will have some success with this approach.

The plan is to try the trash pump here in a month or two when it warms up before adding any structure and forage base. I'd assume the muskrats must be gone before having success with plants as well and the plan is to live trap them and relocate (per the Mrs).

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Using a trash pump may require a slope with some terraces, wooden wiers, geotextile filter, or some other good drainage structure in order to get the silt pile to ever dry out.


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Welcome to active posting on Pond Boss!!


I don't know anything about using a trash pump to remove all that silt, but it will be interesting to see how it works.

Is the water source run off, or something else?

I live in Murrysville, BTW.


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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Both run off and I assume natural springs up hill from my property.

As far as drying the silt out I was either going to pump it over the backside of the dam or down the 20" overflow.

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The only fish ive caught but a pretty nice BG. Maybe 8".

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Welcome to the forum. I know what the Mrs wants, but I wish you good luck live trapping the muskrats. Personally? I'd find their runs and use 110 conibears. Snap and done.

You might not be seeing any plant life because of it being winter, or not enough sunlight getting to the bottom of the pond to germinate seeds. I can't imagine how much time it would take to dredge the pond out, I would think you would run out of water first.

Go out in a boat, take a piece of EMT tubing and shove it into the pond bottom as far as you can. You know how deep the water is, the difference between the bottom of the EMT tube and the water level on it is the thickness of the muck you have to deal with.

Measure across the pond. If the slope was a 2:1 slope, how deep would it be in the center? (for every 2' horizontal the bottom drops off 1'.) Remember to go out from the dam the correct distance to measure across the pond..... I doubt it was ever deeper than that.

i.e. 50' across = 12' max depth.


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Thanks for your reply.

I can't keep the dog out of the water or I'd have set one of the traps the PO left. 17HMR also make quick work of them.

Did you see the attached satellite photo? Summertime shows no plants other than some algae on the mud bottom. When we looked at it maybe early fall I didnt see any either. I'd think the muskrat would have eaten them all plants that were edible and did see some grass clippings around some of the holes which there are a lot of.

As far as the time involved, well I have all summer to piddle around with it here and there. Sure its not efficient but if I enjoy it then it could take 200 hours. That said I'd like to focus on some key areas and clean the muck out, specifically around the dock, rip rap on the dam. As far as the pump draining the pond if has a lot of flow coming in since we've purchased the property, probably enough to keep an 8" pipe full. I would be able to run the pump an hour or two at a time without impacting water level too much.

Corner to corner on the dam is 145' and dam to water coming is in 345'. The hillside to the north is nearing 30 degrees slope near the top so it naturally could have been fairly deep with just the dam. I didnt measure how tall the dam is to the bottom but I'd guess 20' and the overflow runs under that.

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Congrats on your nice looking pond!

I looked at your satellite view, and thought "no way was that pond 18-20' deep". It looked like a very shallow pond in flat grass land.

However, looks were obviously deceiving me from just the satellite view. Your ground views that show the valley setting are a much better depiction of your pond.

That being said, it does not look (to me) like a pond that would have filled with 8-10' of organic muck. I suspect it lost a lot of depth due to erosion along the steep banks of the pond before they stabilized. There may have even been significant sediment filling from the valley slopes during the brief period after construction but before the good grass cover was re-established. Finally, there is probably also some sediment (and organic debris) coming from further upstream based on the looks of your valley.

Regardless, silt is much more difficult to move than muck. I highly recommend following esshup's advice with the pipe probe to try and determine how much fill is "fluffy" and how much is more solid.

I think there have been a few threads on Pond Boss where people did suck out a significant amount of fill. However, I think it failed, or was too much effort/money most of the time.

The nature of your pond construction and your geography does present another option. Especially, if your current fish population is not worth saving. You could drain the pond (fully or partially) and use a backhoe or excavator to cut a slot in the dam. Pushing silt down and out is usually much easier than trying to go up and over. It looks like you even have a spot for the muck and silt to dry out below the pond, so you could spread it a year or two later.

If that option appears viable to you, then search for some old threads on that topic, or start a new post on that specific question. Further, a completely fresh start on the fish population would probably give you a much better fishery by Year 3 with less effort and money compared to modifying your current fish population.

Finally, it does look like there are some plants in the SW corner (of the photo) on your satellite view. If not, then your old pond definitely does have something suppressing the rooted aquatic plants. It could be muskrats, carp, crayfish and/or severe competition with algae. Keep posting about how your pond progresses this spring and summer (if you don't dredge or drain this year), and the experts can give you a lot of advice on that topic.

Good luck on your good pond project!

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Thanks. Yeah I'll have to see how things progress as the weather warms. With tadpoles and sunfish the water must be at least fairly clean. The over flow stand pipe has to be over 20 foot tall but I'll need to actually measure.

As far as filling with 8 feet of muck/sediment, I believe the PO said it was built in the 50s so its at least 60 years old with no maintenance/draining, ect.

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So, is your timeline to try and do as much muck removal as you can before tinkering with the fish population?


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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Correct. Next steps will depend on how successful pumping is. Everything has been unmanaged for decades.

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As you'll effectively be removing water along with any muck/silt, how comfortable are you with getting 'new' water into the pond?

I ask because you may not have seen the pond through cycles of summer without rain, or even some of the droughts we experienced over the past few years in Western PA.


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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Spring and fall I dont have any concern about water flow to keep levels up. If I do successfully pump out some muck there will still be more water when levels do go down when its very dry.

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PAfarm, trash pumps don't play nicely with muck or silt removal. They do much better with small pebbles or rocks. The issue I've had is the pump housing gets ground down by the silt behind the cast iron impeller, and although it will continue to pump, the GPH numbers drop, and getting any lift while priming the pump can be tricky. I've had my 2" and 3" pumps for a while, and I'm already on my 3rd housing on the 3" pump. If you can get it to work, the boat venturi option would be much better.


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Originally Posted by PAfarmPondPGH69
Spring and fall I dont have any concern about water flow to keep levels up. If I do successfully pump out some muck there will still be more water when levels do go down when its very dry.

Sounds good to me. Maybe it is time to try a little pump/dredge experiment.

I would just pump it right out on the bank and see how well your lifting system works, the consistency of the discharge, etc.

After you work out the very first steps on your "learning curve", then you can try your process on a larger scale.

If you are NOT moving fill with just your hose suction, you may need a second person with a rake, hoe, paddle, etc. working just ahead of your intake to fluff up the sediment into the water column so you can suck it out with the pump.


P.S. I was typing while FireIsHot was posting. I too am worried about how much debris can effectively pass through your trash pump. Both short term (effectiveness) and long term (pump wear and damage). That is why I posted to try a very brief initial test of "proof of concept".

Last edited by FishinRod; 03/14/22 01:34 PM. Reason: Added to my response.
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There isn't much out there on this, sure a few failures or people not thinking its worth it. I couldn't really find any substance on YouTube which I though would have some examples good or bad.

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I am pretty sure there was a discussion on that topic on Pond Boss within the past year. However, it is sometimes difficult to enter the correct search terms to find past threads.

I believe that thread may have even referred to a few older threads that also had some information from people that had attempted pumping.

Good luck!

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It was probably me posting about trash pumps. I've drained and refilled my forage pond dozens of times, and I've got a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn't with the pumps. 24-30 hours to drain, and another 24-30 hours to refill, does test a pump. Full trash pumps are made to pass bigger objects, not smaller, so that doesn't help much either.

If you decide to try a pump, here's a few thoughts. Make absolutely sure that replacement pump housings are available. I buy Northern Tool NorthStar semi-trash pumps with the Honda engine, and the 8 hour fuel tank. N Tool sells the complete housings, and after doing a few, it doesn't take that long to do the replacement. I keep one dedicated 20' hose to connect to the pump, that I know doesn't leak air at the pump inlet fitting. Overlooking this, and assuming there's a pump problem, will open up a whole new colorful world of cuss words when you figure out the time you wasted trying to fix the pump. Pump inlet hoses are extremely rigid, and it makes them difficult to move on the bottom of the pond. Also, most pumps require 80-90% clean water to work their best. Following that would mean it would take eons to de-muck a pond, and keep those numbers in play. Finally, if you're going to really work that pump hard, and don't give it a mani/pedi after each usage, then bite the bullet and buy the warranty. If I drain and refill the pond 3 times in one year, I change the oil 3 times, and have had very few issues by doing that.


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Great tips. I had similar thoughts on getting a warranty for this and can count on one hand how many times I have in the past.

If it worked but the pump wasn't powerful enough I'd be willing to rent a big one after getting the process down.

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Following. I've been loosely researching a gold dredge setup to clean muck out of my pond. I'm considering the purchase of a reusable dewatering bag and a gold dredge nozzle, then rent a 3" trash/semi-trash pump to see how it works. The gold dredge arrangement does not have the muck/silt/etc. going through the pump housing.

A more expensive option I found along the DIY route is this: https://weedersdigest.com/portable-suction-dredge-pump-system/. I guess I would see the auger being beneficial to chew up anything before it gets into the hose and minimize clogs.


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Update to the trash pump. Have a 301cc/3" full trash pump with 65' intake and 350' of exit hose.

Pump works great but as expected progress is a bit slow. There is some clogging in the shallows around the edge but out in the deeper spots its pure sludge with nothing to clog the intake screen.

In the deeper end the sludge is about 2' deep starting at 5-6' water depth but I have not yet been to the deepest spot.

The muck on the inflow end is 2' deep where the water is less than a foot. I did a test spot and while there was a lot of sticks and leaves I was able to pump it down to hard clay. I will have to get a picture once the water clears.

For a much smaller pond or one thats less than 6' deep I think this would be a viable solution.

The muck is dark almost black so I'd think its mostly organic matter which I plan to treat once I get more pumping done.

A guestimate I've pumped 10-15000 gallons of muck. I'll have to measure and time some pumping but I'd expect 1500 gallons of muck an hour.

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Good job improving your pond!

If you just cleared the easy muck in the deep spots, would the muck in the shallows eventually works its way down into the deep spots in a few years?

If so, then perhaps you should just clear the deep spots every few years as opposed to doing a "perfect" job now.

OTOH, have you seen a fish kill when you stirred up all of the muck this time? (I believe you were previously not sure of the fish population in your pond.) If your pumping project causes a fish kill every time you perform it, then obviously you can only use that method in the future when you are planning on a new fishery.

It sounds like you have already performed an impressive amount of labor. Good luck on getting your pond back into tip top shape!

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Not much is stirred up since its sucking up all the muck aground the intake so the water is not getting muddy.

I dont think the muck would migrate very quickly even if I pumped out the deep spots. Its slow going even if I am adding 10,000 gallons worth of water each day I spend doing this. I dont mind doing this just have to make time to spend and only when there is water going out the stand pipe.

Lots of golden shiners, sunfish and some blunt nose minnows but no predator fish.

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Originally Posted by PAfarmPondPGH69
Update to the trash pump. Have a 301cc/3" full trash pump with 65' intake and 350' of exit hose.

Pump works great but as expected progress is a bit slow. There is some clogging in the shallows around the edge but out in the deeper spots its pure sludge with nothing to clog the intake screen.

In the deeper end the sludge is about 2' deep starting at 5-6' water depth but I have not yet been to the deepest spot.

The muck on the inflow end is 2' deep where the water is less than a foot. I did a test spot and while there was a lot of sticks and leaves I was able to pump it down to hard clay. I will have to get a picture once the water clears.

For a much smaller pond or one thats less than 6' deep I think this would be a viable solution.

The muck is dark almost black so I'd think its mostly organic matter which I plan to treat once I get more pumping done.

A guestimate I've pumped 10-15000 gallons of muck. I'll have to measure and time some pumping but I'd expect 1500 gallons of muck an hour.

I'm encouraged by your progress!

What are you doing with the muck - Retention pit? Trailer? Dewatering bags? Your garden/field?

What is your technique? Are you actively having to work the intake hose around?

I was in my pond on Sunday adjusting the dock. I don't know many steps I was out, but it wasn't very far before I was in 12"+ of muck.

Any pics of your setup you can share, either here, or I'm happy to PM you and share an email.

Thanks!

Last edited by zuren; 06/28/22 11:23 AM.

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Originally Posted by PAfarmPondPGH69
Not much is stirred up since its sucking up all the muck aground the intake so the water is not getting muddy.

I dont think the muck would migrate very quickly even if I pumped out the deep spots.

A really awesome job if you are not making the water too muddy!

My idea for letting the shallow muck "migrate" to your deeper holes was to allow for some wave erosion on the muck while either the weather or you pull down the water level in the pond. Let natural processes work hard for a week (while you take a break) and then pull the water down a few more feet and give it another week to work on an entirely new band of muck.

The wave action should at least work some of the muck down into your deepest water.

I also don't think you need to try to re-establish the original 18-20 foot depth. 12 feet max should be sufficient in your area. Maybe a few deeper holes if you are planning to add some cool-water fish.

You also might try some muck removal in the areas where you have a weed problem and see if adding a little depth there gives you some positive results.

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