Hello PB. We recently moved to a rural property with a pond site. I have fished farm ponds my whole life, and now I am living the dream of having my own pond (and money pit). Having come from the suburbs, I have a lot to learn.
I believe the pond (almost an acre in size) was naturally occurring, and Mother Nature slowly reclaimed her to a shallow muck hole by the time we moved in this past summer. The previous owners built a dock and left rowboats behind, so the pond provided recreation back in the day.
My goal is a proper fishing pond. I wish I came upon this forum sooner. However, I plowed ahead and hired an excavator to dig out the pond and clear shoreline. Digging ended this week, and the contractor will return in the spring to grade the shorelines and spoils.
Much of the spoils are loam and peat with layers of blue clay and brown clay mixed in. The maximum depth of the pond is about 17' and it was all clay at this level. This is a dug pond, no dam nor embankments. I am a little nervous about the ability of this thing to fill with water and leaving me with a very expensive hole in the ground. The contractor is confident that seepage and runoff will do the job, and my neighbors on both sides have similar dug ponds. I assumed the water was devoid of any fish, but as the water was pumped out, about a thousand one inch minnows were discharged from the hose. Attached are arial photos - before and after the excavation, and the minnows.
I will have lots of future questions on stocking, fish structure, plants, algae and erosion control. Thanks for listening!
Last edited by Knobber; 12/22/2210:16 PM. Reason: photos
Welcome Knobber!! Hearty greetings from a fellow Michigan-Pond owner. My tiny ground water dugout pond is near Grand Rapids. Ponds don't have to be a money pit, but certainly many who came here were hoping to staunch the bleeding of money from their bank accounts.
I'm not an expert on pond construction and it sounds like the excavator is gone and you are probably best off working with what you have left. I don't know if you can post the original pictures rather than the tiny resized ones? I can't seem to see much in those pictures.
Hopefully the clay level at the very bottom will help with keeping the bottom sealed. There most likely are ground water veins somewhere in the bottom or side walls if some water stayed in the pond year around. You will have to decide what the inflow and outflow is when the ground water table rises and falls. If you live on site and have a well then you would already have data about the water vein and what depth it runs between. You could also look at a topographic map or be aware of where the 'low' spots are around you and monitor them.
I'm glad you dug down to 17' when the long arm excavator was there. You will be glad you did since ponds tend to fill in too rapidly with sediment, leaves etc. There is so much to go over and so much to read in these forums. The best way to search them is to use google rather than the search box in this forum.
I would not be concerned about losing water till you have had some time to monitor it. Evaluating water loss from summer time heat, evaporation and the wicking action of the churned up soils all around the pond are easiest to do in the summer. It will take some time for the ground to recompact and water to find its level.
I can't make out those fish. They looks distorted and a bit dirty. If you have other pictures, post them. They look a bit hungry and bug-eyed. They must be native if they overwintered every year in the pond prior to clean out.
I'd be happy to help you if I can. IT sounds like you are going to get walloped with a blizzard this weekend. Not much to do in the winter except plan for placing your structure BEFORE the pond fills. I also would highly recommend thinking hard about your stocking plans and posting it here for feedback. Please try to be patient and build your forage base first. Lots to say about how to do that but the more forage you can get in the pond as it fills without any predators, the more money will stay in your wallet later if things get out of balance.
If you need help with pictures I may be able to have you email to me and I can help resize from originals.
Thanks, canyoncreek! Yeah, those pics came via text message and got resized. I have other photos from the excavation that I can post.
My reference for stocking is the bulletin from the MSU Extension: "Managing Michigan Ponds for Sport Fishing." Do you know this book? It is old - probably originally written in the 1980's. From this, my plan at this point is simply LMB and FHM, but I am sure lots has changed in 40 years!
There have been a few threads recently about the stocking plans of days gone by. The official stance of the various State departments of natural resources is that in northern ponds you do minnows, bluegills, LMB and catfish. We have many threads indicating that this is standard is not necessarily good for smaller northern ponds due to how quickly the pond gets predator 'heavy' with the LMB and the channel cats eating everything in a certain size class. Then the struggle becomes trying to fine enough forage for the LMB which continue to multiply. You end up with skinny 12" bass and stunted bug-eyed bluegill.
If your goal is growing large LMB then you would start you pond way differently than if your goal is to have a large bluegill pond. The most powerful tool you have right now is that it IS (or mostly is) a blank slate. It would be helpful to find out what those minnows are as I assume they are still in the pond. If you truly want the best possible advantage in creating your stocking plan and having control over it, you would actually apply sufficient lime (or rotenone which is expensive) to be sure all fish are dead. This is best done when water levels are their lowest to save you on cost of chemicals.
IF you start with fresh water and no fish then you can decide which kind of bait fish go in first. The little critters like scuds, insects, dragonfly larvae, waterboatmen, etc will all find their own way in. Even if you could be patient from spring till next fall and let forage do their thing it would be awesome.
Consider if you see crayfish as something you desire. They may be able to be sourced in nearby streams or lakes. Often to keep them in your pond once predators are in place you need to create habitat like an area of larger stone rip-rap for them to hide in. The double edged sword is always achieving balance. A few pond owners created lots of rip-rap and the crayfish survived so well that the pond was muddy and not a speck of vegetation. Then the challenge was trapping crayfish and these folks reported trapping thousands and not making a dent in the problem.
You can't go wrong with FHM. Giving them a chance to reproduce by laying eggs on the underside of floating boards, old garage doors panels, or letting some pallets slowly water log and sink while no predators in place would be great. Predators will otherwise remove your FHM in a pond that does not yet have much cover of plants or artificial structure.
Adding them once predators are in will cost money and each load of fish will last about a week and be consumed.
I have had more success with shiners. I have tried golden shiners and later spotfin shiners. I like the SFS much better. They have no problems surviving predation and are the first to show up at ice out when the hand feeding of pellets starts up. They are hardy, fast swimmers, and can pull off a few spawns once water temps rise. They do require special spawning structures which you can easily make with help of threads and pictures on this forum.
Please share your goals for stocking and we can help you. If you find out there actually are bluegill in your pond already then you either have to zero the bluegill population, or you have to assume the bluegill are already out of balance and will have to put predators in earlier. The predator does NOT have to be LMB but LMB are one of the best management tools once you have a reproducing bluegill population.
It sounds like you will live onsite? Do you plan to pellet feed? Do you have electricity by the pond so you can run aeration?
I didn't know that pellet feeding a bass pond was a thing until I browsed this forum. I assumed that was just a quick way to ruin your pond with excess nutrients and waste. Much to learn.
I have a 110V line and receptacle at the water's edge. The previous owners left a fountain in the pond, a new Airmax unit. I understand that fountains are mostly decorative, and I plan on bottom aeration.
Thanks for the added pictures! yes, all of us struggle mightily to add pictures. The pesky size limit of 2mb or less means you have to use a photo editor of some type to resize most pictures. I find resizing on my cell phone with an app is the easiest, several simple apps to add pictures and resize using a new pixel count or a percent reduction of the original. But it is a hassle.
Some buy access or use a free online photo hosting site like imgur or photobucket. Then they take the hosted picture webpage link and dump it in the forum and that way their pictures don't have to be resized.
We can show you how to embed pictures right in your posts if you want to do that. This process takes 4-5 extra clicks but some find it worth it so others don't have to open up their attachments one by one.
I used photobucket until they took my pictures hostage and added a watermark till I paid them money. I find their site very slow and hard to use although maybe it is handy with their app on your phone.
In photobucket on the right side of your picture there are several options for ways to link to the picture (I can't recall but it used to be one was HTML code, one was for posting a link in email, one was called 'direct' You have to fuss with those links as each is a bit different and put them in the forum software here using the full editor and the 'picture' icon. One of those settings did work to embed pictures into posts.
You don't need a lot of rocks. But you can help yourself by making SMB spawning structures. Very easy to make and some good examples in the archives. Just a few rocks will do fine.
This recent post talks about the myths that SMB can't do well in ponds or can't reproduce etc. There are many of us eager to dispel that myth and get more pond owners enjoying SMB. It is true that SMB and LMB do not do well together in a small pond so it is very helpful to do one or the other.
I thought about suggesting SMB as an option, but you need to be sure you do not already have LMB or BG. I have really enjoyed my YP/SMB pond in central Indiana. Planning the pond stocking is half the fun!
The SMB/YP sounds like a great option! I have also been reading about RES and HSB in this combination as well. Well, the pond was pumped nearly empty, so I think I am starting from scratch with no other sunfish present?
The minnows look like Fathead minnows. If you want to make sure that you are starting with a clean slate and nothing in in there that you don't want you could spread enough quick lime/hydrated lime to get the water pH to 11 or 12, and if you do it now the water will pH will have dropped enough by the Spring so you could stock fish.
Personally, I'd wait to see if it holds water first before you stock fish. Without using the clay that is there as a liner - compacting the clay and sealing the pond, you might not have a pond that is full and stays full. Time will tell.
Do a lot more reading on here about fish species and how well they do in Central Michigan. If you have a permanent inflow or outflow for water in the pond, you need to have a written stocking permit from the Mil DNR before you can stock fish. Any stocking company has to have a copy of that in their truck before they deliver the fish or they can get in the same amount of trouble as you can for stocking fish in a BOW that aren't permitted by the State of Michigan.
Get all the cover installed in the pond as soon as you can. It's easier to put it in a dry pond than a pond filled with water.
You don't know what is in your pond unless you sample it. Of course that might be hard through the ice!! next spring you can put out traps, or ag lime is pretty cheap and if you get the ph high enough nothing will survive. If your pond is truly 'empty' now and just mud then a good hard freeze over mud will go a long way this winter to making you feel comfortable about your blank slate come spring.
So is the grade around your pond likely to send much watershed runoff water to the pond or are you dependent on rain? If you only had option of rain and the ground water table is low already, you may try to think about whether you culd build a little swail or berm in the 'uphill' direction on 2 sides to better encourage runoff to go in your pond?
I agree that it is unlikely RES will survive if you are in the middle of the mitten (lower peninsula of MI) I'm pretty sheltered with trees and with lake effect warm winds and my RES didn't make it. PS are better. I know of no one who stocks them or trucks them to you so you would have to find those on your own as well.
There is more to the story about HSB and MI pond regulations. They aren't allowed and they aren't forbidden either. A somewhat gray area although if you have a hole in the middle of the woods with no inflow or outflow then the rules don't apply but that doesn't mean there can't be some sort of 'punishment' later if the wrong person wanted to make your life difficult. I can share more about my experience if you care to chat about it sometime.
SMB do not have the ability to control northern bluegill/standard bluegill populations. Some try to control the overpopulated BG problem by using hybrid BG. That definitely slows reproduction since most HBG are male. But then when some of the hybrids revert back to one of the parent strains now you have some BG and some Green Sunfish GSF. The Greenies bring in a new dimension of management conditions to wrestle with and deal with. You then are stuck adding a predator with a bigger appetite like CC or LMB and then the balance gets harder. Some have tried to use Northern Pike or even some Muskie to be that top predator but no one really has found the formula for a SMB and bluegill pond where a few bonus NP or a few tiger muskie brought it back in to balance without using LMB.
So most of us are cautious about keeping GSF, HBG and standard bluegill out of the pond if we are going to use SMB as our main top line predator. WE then try to get tons of food for the SMB, and then use a panfish that isn't going to have multiple spawns per summer.
Another very good forage option would be Tilapia. However unless you set up a large indoor tank to keep your own brood stock or know someone who has a aquaponics outfit near you, it may be too expensive to source and haul in the 40-50 pounds of Tilapia you would want to stock in your pond.
If you had any water puddle in the pond while the contractor was redoing the pond then you almost 100% have some sort old resident fish in the pond to reproduce next spring. It only takes 2 to get a troublesome population started.
Fish in your 1st post were a specie of true minnow -- maybe FHM and then even resembled bluntnose(BNM); pics were not good enough for me to make an ID?? Any Fish big enough to avoid a 2" pump evaded the pump suction. A 'Gee' brand bare wire mesh minnow trap sprayed a dark color, baited with bread or pet food, fished in shallow water parallel to shore in spring, should catch a fairly good representative sample of existing fish species, but no guarantee of all species present. Get some good close side pic of your catch in any. The trap might not be very successful due to only several fish or residual population of fish being present due to pond draining and dirt rework. The minnow trap can be always used to catch some native minnows in your area creeks or a small closest lake that would/could enhance your FHM stockings. The trap can also be useful for monitoring new YOY offspring fish (youngofyear). Note LMB will not or rarely ever enter a fish trap, fingerling SMB will enter traps. I can help with minnow identification before adding anything native. Be cautious of adding wild crayfish as you could be adding rusty crayfish(RC) that are invading MI waters and considered exotic and invasive with +and- features. Although RC are an okay but not great food for SMB and larger YP.
Starting with a "shallow muck hole" depending on starting depth, may have lent itself to winter fish kills where all the sport fish died. HOWEVER fish winterkills first kills the largest fish and small sized species OFTEN survive but not always.
Depending on location in MI there are two popular fish farms in your region. Laggis Fish Farm Gobles MI. He has high quality fish. A two hr trip to his farm is worthwhile for good fish. His perch(YP) are premium stock from domesticated pellet raised fish. He raises his own pellet trained SMB. Best fish are YP, SMB. Walleye(WE) , and pike (NP) are retailed from other growers. I don’t know much about the quality of his Hybrid Bluegill (HBG) as (BGXgreen sunfish). http://www.laggisfishfarm.com/2011%20Fish%20Stocking.htm
Imlay fish Farm/Hatchery 1442 N Summers Rd. Imlay City. 810-724-2155. Always call before going for fish to make sure what they have in stock. They have bass, blue gill, crappie, trout, perch, walleye, pike, catfish and (more?). No website. You have to look them up on Facebook. See their posts for examples of available fish. Be cautious with fish from them. The say they have wild caught BG which could be very risky business for you. Wild BG could have mixed genetics from natural hybridization.
No one in MI that I know of sells pumpkinseed sunfish or HSB.
You can grow nice fish in a 1/2ac to 1 ac pond without pellet feeding however they will not grow as fast, nor as many of them if you don't pellet feed. Feeding does not have to be daily and can be only limited amounts 1-2 per week; however production will be appropriate to the feeding amount and will not be as bountiful with minimal feedings. See your private message
Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/23/2205:17 PM.
aka Pond Doctor & Dr. Perca Read Pond Boss Magazine - America's Journal of Pond Management
The pond lies at the bottom of the hill of my 8 acres, so I am confident it will collect some runoff. There is a large lawn of 6% average grade from the top of the hill to the pond. In fact, when the contractor returns to grade, we will slightly berm up the sides of the property to "channel" more runoff to the pond and not into the neighboring properties.
We recently moved to Lapeer County, MI, which could be called "Mid-Michigan", "Southeast Michigan", or "The Thumb" depending on who you talk to. Imlay City Fish Farm is a mere 12 miles away. Yes, I ran across Laggis Fish Farm in my searches, and it looks like a quality operation. It is about a 3 hr drive for me. Also, Fin Farm in Ohio is about 3 hr drive.
Actually, I have no interest in any kind of bluegill or sunfish. I am thinking LMB/FHM or SMB/YP/FHM. Can that work, or do I need some kind of sunfish as well?
SMB/YP/FHM can be a good fishery combination. I have several clients that use just those species. SMB and LMB will grow bigger if you also use YP rather than just bass and minnows. Laggis' YP and SMB are pellet trained to get those fish growing fast. Laggis did his education at MSU. If you stock his pellet trained 5"-6" YP in May and feed them 3/16"-1/4" brand pellets bought from Laggis and that he uses, you can get YP to 8"-10" by November. Otherwise it will take 2-3 yrs to get 10" YP. You can easily grow some 14" YP and 18"-19" SMB using those fishes in your pond. I drove 3hrs to get some SMB from him many years ago. In your MI case I think you could stock FHM and 5"-6" YP in Apr-May and then add SMB from Laggis in Aug-Oct when he has them available. The YP will then spawn the next year. His genetic SMB stock came from the area where the MI state Record smallie was caught – Indian River water shed area.
If you want fairly dependable spawning and recruitment of the SMB you should build and install at least 2 of these specialized SMB spawning structures. Place them in water 3-4ft maybe one at about 5ft deep.
Creating these larger fish sizes requires good PROPER management of the numbers and size structure of the various size classes. Remember the more bigger fish that are present the fewer fish that will compose the pond’s fishery carrying capacity. The pond capacity if based on total fish poundage. How that poundage is distributed among the various fish sizes is the manager’s job. Read and understand pond carrying capacity. https://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=92440#Post92440
Too many SMB can significantly limit the recruitment of YP that minimizes the number of YP that can be harvested.
The more habitat that you install / create the more FHM that will survive and improve production . This fishery will better prosper if it has crayfish that can utilize rocky rip-rap shoreline habitat down to 4ft-6ft deep. Best habitat involves about 15%-25% of the shoreline lined with small-medium tree tops and or MI glacier cobble/boulders or broken waste concrete from contractors will work. Your contactor may have waste concrete or know where some is stockpiled for use as riprap along the shoreline of your pond. Doing this will allow the forage fishes, YOY young fish and adults to prosper. Good types of habitat and structure will increase fish poundage in the pond.
Plan on seeding the exposed dirt asap in spring using oats mixed with some type of grass seed - maybe Kentucky 31. Vegetated water shed will reduce suspended soil-clay turbidity. Oats will sprout quickly and provide soil stability for the establishment of grass seed.
Last edited by Bill Cody; 12/23/2208:24 PM.
aka Pond Doctor & Dr. Perca Read Pond Boss Magazine - America's Journal of Pond Management