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I apologize in advance for the long winded post, however I am seeking some advice on the final steps of my dream pond that is nearing completion about a year and a half after starting it.

It is a 1.4 acre pond in New England that is 22' deep, fed by watershed and groundwater and am looking for recommendations on stocking, forage selection, habitat and water chemistry. I have spent a lot of time as a silent spectator on here, learning a great deal along the way. I have read and reread every book I can find on the topic and it has become a bit of an obsession, so I want to get it right. My goals, in order of priority, are:
1. large YP with a self-sustaining population (I'd be thrilled with 10-12" perch)
2. an adequate SMB population to keep a good balance. If I could raise 3-4 lb bass I'd be very happy. They are so fun to catch and taste great as well.
3. brook trout. Although it has running water going into it 99% of the time, an expert on the matter recently educated me on the highly unlikely chance that BT would recruit in meaningful numbers in this fishery, therefore I'll likely stock them at 6"+ to avoid predation by the SMB and expect trout to be a put and take bonus.
4. esthetics. This pond is adjacent to our yard and is a focal point of our property (55 acres of forest, nothing concerning in the watershed).
5. the geothermal temperature exchange for the heating and cooling of the house. This is a contained (closed loop) system that does not circulate pond water.
6. swimming. I am putting in a small beach with non-woven geotextile fabric as a base, pea gravel instead of sand, and lined with Eastern hemlock logs to keep it all contained.
7. fire protection, on the worst day.

After scouring through this resource and any others I could find, I have tentatively selected the following forage:
1. FHM (a universal and easy choice). I have 16 pounds on order now and will be adding them in the next couple weeks when they arrive.
2. Eastern silvery minnows. This seems like a rarer option, however from what I know they could be the perfect forage for this fishery. They max out at less than 5" and are more typically about 3". I can buy them by the 1000 but not until ice-up in the winter, therefore I was planning on adding 1000 as soon as I can get them (probably mid January). GSH are easy to get, however I am leaning away from them given their bait stealing tendencies when they grow beyond the sizes that SMB tend to prefer.
3. I'm considering adding PK shrimp from the eBay source who has been mentioned several times on here. I don't see any downside to them if I can get them to thrive in my fishery although I have some doubts about how well they will do with my current water chemistry (particularly calcium and hardness, see below).
4. papershell (calico) crayfish. These seem to be highly regarded for a fishery such as this. Water hardness and calcium may be a limiting factor with how prolific they will be, however I have found virile crayfish in there already so I will give them a try.
5. The naturally occurring forage that has already moved in includes green frogs and their tadpoles (by the thousand), along with Eastern Red Back salamanders and toad tadpoles. I expect the frogs and their tadpoles may be more palatable than the toads and salamanders. If the green frogs aren't decimated by the fish, I may add some bull frog tadpoles in future years as well, in hopes of an occasional frog leg dinner.

I will also be hand feeding with whichever of the top brands of feed (Optima, Purina, etc.) that I can get delivered locally.

Habitat includes 36 tons of stone that I have added as rock bars, rock piles and erosion control. Stones range in size from 3"-40". Cattails have found there way in and I'll be doing my best to manage their spread. A rush or some sort has found it's way naturally as well. I'll add wild rice seed next Spring and am considering pickerel weed, cardinal flower and iris. I'll be adding SMB spawning beds a la Dr. Cody's articles, as well as YP spawning habitat when they need it and some structures I have made specifically for FHM spawning.

The pond is a DIY labor of love that I started about a year and a half ago. I got it about 1/3 done and let it be for about six months while I deployed last year. It filled quickly and held water well. After 1-2' of top soil, it is dense grey clay all the way to China as far as I can tell. After the clay turbidity settled out, the water was the color of ice tea, as is every other waterbody nearby. Although oak is often implicated in tannin stained waters, I believe that Eastern Hemlock is the primary tannin producer here. After letting it be for six months, there were no emergent plants below about 2' of water depth, likely due to the decreased light penetration I am guessing. Despite the dark color, there was a distinct thermocline below about 3' deep even in late summer.

I collected a water sample from the watershed (not the pond itself, as it was still very turbid with suspended grey clay). Here are the results with * denoting lower than optimal levels:
Hardness 15 ppm*
Calcium 4.26 ppm*
Alkalinity 4 ppm*
pH 6.22
Salinity 0.031 ppt*
Nitrite 0.010 ppm
Total ammonia nitrogen 0..47 ppm
Unionized ammonia 0
Chlorides 40ppm
Total nitrogen 1.1 ppm
Total phosphorous 0.05 ppm

After searching far and wide for pellet trained YP and SMB, I have finally found some and plan to put them in around early October. They are expected to be 3-5" by then.

Thanks for sticking with me so far. Now for my questions, in order of priority:

1. Is the stocking of 3-5" YP and 3-5" SMB at the same time a bad idea? I understand that it is not the typical approach, however I will be sourcing them from very far away, so I'm hoping to only make one trip (early October). How many of each is recommended?
2. Does the forage and habitat seem adequate? What adjustments would you recommend regarding species and quantity? For those who have tried Eastern Silvery Minnows, what has your experience been with them?
3. How many crayfish should I add? When is the appropriate time to add them?
4. TAMU offered the following recommendations regarding the water test: 2 tons of calcium carbonate (ag lime) to increase alkalinity, hardness and calcium and and 1.5 tons of non-iodized salt. I haven't added them yet, partly because I haven't had the opportunity to and partly because I wonder if their impact will be only transient. I estimate that I am getting a full pond turn over about every 10 days, meaning that if the pond was pumped dry, it would refill in about 10 days. This same watershed supports naturally reproducing brook trout populations who seem to be doing ok with this water chemistry. What is the advise of the experts here regarding this?
5. When should I add trout, and about how many would you suggest (given that YP and SMB are my #1 and #2 priority)?
6. Should I anticipate needing aeration? Unfortunately I don't have any DO numbers to share yet. Is there a DO meter that is reasonably priced and reliable?

Thank you in advance for any input that you have. I'll get some habitat photos up soon.

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It sounds like you've got a wonderful pond going there, so congratulations!!!

Regarding the Yellow Perch and SMB, conventional wisdom says to stock the YP first, and the SMB later, however, as you've outlined how far you have to travel to get the fish, it's reasonable to stock them at the same time. For 1.4 acres, I might go with 200-400 Yellow Perch, maybe more, and then 50-100 SMB. The fatheads should spawn all summer long, but they'll get eaten out pretty quick (not all of the fatheads, but so much so that you won't see them as much as you do prior to stocking).

Regarding the trout, I might wait until 2025 for those just to see how the SMB and YP did. In Maine, you may have a chance of year-round survival without summer trout kills like many of us experience. Trout can get pretty big in a pond, and I'm not sure what kind of forage base would be needed to feed the trout as well as the YP and SMB, hence my thought to wait. If you just can't wait, maybe stock a lower # of trout, say 25-50.

Aeration never hurts, but isn't always necessary either. I'd see what others have to say about that.

On the crayfish stocking, one risk I hear of is that they may denude the pond of vegetation, but I think you've already got established vegetation. Maybe 10-30 lbs of crayfish???

I don't know much about water chemistry, so let's see what others say.


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"She took another microscopic bite of her sandwich, then pushed it away. Maybe she absorbed nutrients from her surroundings."

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I also agree with your thought to not stock Golden Shiners right now. I'd want an established predator base before I stocked GSH.


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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Was the added rock limestone ? If so, that will help craws, PKs and alkalinity.

I would add the ag lime to start but not all the salt. I would wait to be sure the salt was needed and only add in small amounts.

Agree on stocking plan + Sunil's comments. Long term my guess is you will need more forage base with YP , trout and SMB. FYI YP are known to stunt so you and the SMB will need to control that.

If you don't have this book suggest to get it.

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You might already have spawning habitat for SMB and YP taken care of with all that gravel, depending on placement. Forming specific beds for the SMB is a good idea, however. Logs near your SMB beds are supposed to be good habitat for SMB fry; if placed with a vertical component, YP may like them for spawning as well.

WRT fire protection, put in a dry hydrant! Contrary to what subdivision developers claim, they are not hard to do - my wife and I got ours right with no experience after attending a NRCS workshop on them. Make sure you interface with your local fire department so the outlet matches what they will be hooking up to.

Last edited by Theo Gallus; 05/09/24 01:45 PM. Reason: spelling

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You will need habitat for SMB to reproduce on and reproduction for YP


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Thank you for those who have provided feedback so far. Members of this forum are exceptional!

In response to a few of the comments above:
Sunil - thank you for the advice on numbers and timing. I was thinking smaller numbers but was only guessing, so I appreciate the help.

Ewest- The rip rap was grey, so unfortunately I don’t think it’s limestone. Thanks for the advice on lime and salt. Should I expect to be able to get a lasting effect on water chemistry with the amount of water flow that I have?
Do you expect I’ll need different forage, or more of what I have already chosen?
I love the book you mentioned and would recommend it for anyone who wants to advance their knowledge in the scientific aspects pond management, beyond what other books provide. I’ve read it twice.

Theo - My plan is to add a dry hydrant as you suggested. I’ve discussed it with the fire chief already, and hope that it never gets use beyond the twice a year flush that the fire department does.

Esshup - I’m adding species specific spawning habitat for FHM, SMB and YP and will probably even put in a spawning box for brook trout in the off chance that I can have a successful spawn. I bought the back issue of PB that describes how to do it.

Keep the advice coming!

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1. Is the stocking of 3-5" YP and 3-5" SMB at the same time a bad idea? I understand that it is not the typical approach, however I will be sourcing them from very far away, so I'm hoping to only make one trip (early October). How many of each is recommended?

Where are you getting the YP-SMB? No problem stocking the YP(3-5") and SMB together ESPECIALLY if the YP are pellet trained. Pellet trained YP will often eat more pellets than minnows. If the YP are pellet trained then for a 1+Ac pond I would build a feeding ring 4ft-6ft in dia of 1" black water line or thin wall PVC anchor it on the deep side of your dock or in 5-6ft of water. When you add pellets make noise by water splashing or tapping on the dock to alert the fish pellet feeding time.

It is well worth some extra money if you can get the fish farm to pick out more of the larger YP 4"-6". These will be more a percentage of females than the slow growing males and larger ones are more likely to eat pellets better than the smaller YP. For stocking I agree with Sunil 200-400 YP is a good starting number. For best growth of SMB fingerlings I would use the lower density suggested by Sunil 50-60.

2. Does the forage and habitat seem adequate? What adjustments would you recommend regarding species and quantity? For those who have tried Eastern Silvery Minnows, what has your experience been with them?
HABITAT - If you haven't built the TJ designed SMB spawning beds create one or two of them (see the link to pics of them below).. Think about getting a small truck load of 1"-3" rock/gravel for bottom nest areas on the pallet. Planned plants are good basic ideas. Check what native submerged vegetation lives in the shallow areas of local lakes. Report back here with results for the transplant possibility.
Do your best to keep the waterfowl from eating the plants until they become established. Geese LOVE wild rice esp the new shoots of Spring. If geese are common it is doubtful the wild rice will survive two years.
You are establishing new territory for eastern silvery minnows. Good luck and keep us up dated on their survival and recruitment.


3. How many crayfish should I add? When is the appropriate time to add them? Add them whenever the young of year are available from the supplier. Where are you getting crayfish? 200-400 are okay for starting to see if they thrive. Increase the rock rubble habitat if possible as habitat for crayfish.

With more time I will return for more comments.

Last edited by Bill Cody; 05/16/24 09:44 AM.

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I second what Bill said, and I strongly recommend getting pellet trained fish if possible and feeding them. You really need to feed them regularly, and a solar powered feeder will do that for you. A lot of people want to hand feed and there isn't anything wrong with that, even so I still recommend a solar powered feeder. You can set the feed amount very low and hand feed. The days that you can't hand feed you can bump up the feed time duration and the fish won't lose any growth. Feed a good food like Optimal Fish Food, order right from their website, that price that you see is the price including shipping to your door via FedEx. Once you know how much you are feeding you can get on a schedule and they will auto ship feed at the rate that you want so you don't run out.


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Thank you all for the feedback. The YP and SMB will be pellet trained, which is something that is not easy to find as you know. Because they are so strongly and universally recommended, I'm going through significant extra effort to get them. I figure that if the pond took a year and a half to dig, some extra effort to get the stocking right is insignificant in the scope of things. I've put in a request for 300 YP and 50 SMB and should be getting them in early October.

I'll take your advice on the building an extra large hula hoop of sorts, and pellet feeding in there. I imagine that is to keep the pellets from floating into water too shallow for them to get. Is that correct?

I bought several 36" round plastic kids swimming pools that are 7" deep and will be using those for the SMB spawning habitat using the recommendations that are in Bill's articles on the topic. I figured that the little plastic swimming pools will keep any of the stones from sinking into the bottom. I'll probably put them on plastic pallets as well. I'll post some photos when I have it done.

I also have some FHM spawning habitat to add. I've read some research papers on spawning habitat for Eastern Silvery Minnows. It seems that they don't need anything specific but I'll keep reading on it. I can't get them until the winter and they won't spawn until April/May of next year, so I have some time to continue to figure that out.

Calico crayfish should be available in about a month. Based on the advice above, I'll probably order 240 of them (20 dozen).

The 16 lbs of FHM should be here in about a week. They should have ample opportunity to reproduce before they become snacks for the YP and SMB.

I've been trapping some minnows in nearby waterways, but haven't stocked any of them because they are all GSH and white suckers, neither of which I am interested in. I'm moving my minnow traps to some different bodies of water to see if I can find some species that are more desirable. I'm committed to getting this right.

I haven't seen any geese in the pond before. There are a few mallards, but no significant numbers. I suppose that the wild rice could increase their numbers, but figured it would be worth a try. The idea behind planting it is partly for forage for the waterfowl, and if there was enough, we could harvest some for ourselves.

Thanks again for all of the advice. I'll put some photos up soon.

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Pellet Feeding rings or frames are to keep pellets from floating to shore and becoming uneaten food that grows unwanted algae. I use wind baffles on my rings. I use vinyl siding cut into strips so it has 2"-3" above and below water. Aggressive fish feeding activity splashes lots of pellets out of a ring with no baffle.

See this thread where near the bottom ewest show pictures of TJ's creative and very successful fry production way of building SMB nesting sites on top of a pallet to keep it more out of the bottom sediment.

https://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=92626

Last edited by Bill Cody; 05/15/24 08:59 PM.

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Some very cool nesting sites there...first time I've seen that post.....thanks for the link.


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I have had very good luck using SMB nesting sites like this:

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

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My measure of spawning bed material is clearly wrong! (I am just trying to figure out why it is so wrong.)

The photos from our Pond Boss experts (in this thread and in the links) show much coarser material for the SMB spawning beds than I expected.

1.) I don't fish in any lakes that naturally contain materials as coarse as shown. I have therefore only observed both BG and LMB on "sandy" beds.

2.) Most of the pictures in the forum of fish on beds are of BG. Those pictures usually show sandy beds.


My question: Do SMB like much coarser spawning bed material, or do I just have "observation bias" on the spawning beds that I have seen both firsthand and secondhand?

Finally, assuming we know the "perfect size" material for each species, how much variance from optimum before you harm the reproductive capability of the fish?

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I have a sample size of one pond and got my recommendations on spawning structure here. I have been far more successful than my expectations but I have not tried other structures. I built semicircles facing the bank with large rocks and filled in the bottom with softball-size rocks. I have all sizes of SMB in the pond so it seems to have worked for me.

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I put a pond in like yours three years ago and it has really turned out nice. I had the same priorities as you, aesthetics, swimming, fishing with the importance in that order. So far, all three have been great...the fishing way better than I ever imagined. My priority species were also SMB and YP, my pond is a little over an acre and around 21' deep with clay bottom. we put in a large clay shelf in one corner and shot pea graven over it 9"-11" deep also shot a few inches of pea gravel over beach and swim area. Then last summer shot 40 tons of white sand over beach and swim area.

We put in lots of FHM and GSH the first year then added 150 4” YP in spring and then 50 fingerling SMB in fall, we also added 100 3"-4" RES and 25 WE same size when we put perch in. We went with smaller numbers stocking to see how things would go. We hand feed twice a day in the warm months, the YP average 9"-10" now and the SMB the same...with a minnow under a bobber a perch can be caught about every 10 or 20 seconds.

We have seen YP egg ribbons all over the last two springs and see some 3"-4" perch coming up to feed now, have also seen what look like 2"-3" SMB along the rip rap. We put some of the spawning structures like RAH posted on our ledge in around 5' of water. I would think with the pea gravel you put in they will find a way to spawn especially if you add the structures.
We have been happy with the RES, they don't bother swimmers, don't breed like crazy, are very shy, add to forage base and help keep pond clean.

I think the paper shell are a great add, I'm going to do same. Would be very careful bucket stocking minnows from creeks you may end up with some odd stuff you definitely don’t want.

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Thanks again for all the input. I'm hoping for the same success as those above and many others on here. A 10" perch every 10-20 seconds would certainly be a dream come true. I would be content with one very 20 minutes.

Here are a few photos of the 72,000 lbs of stone that I put in as part of my structure plan. My pond is dug, not dammed, so I was able to leave a peninsula behind and lined it with stone that was between 3-48". I still need to spread some of it out to fill in the bald areas. I purposefully made the edges of the peninsula steep.

There is also a rock bar that is about 2' high and 3-4' wide made of 6-12" stone. That should be good habitat for the paper shell crayfish I hope, and was purposefully placed where the entire length of it can be reached by casting from the peninsula. I added four 20' wide by 1-2' tall rock piles as well, and have another one or two to go in before it's full. Next up will be the SMB spawning areas and the pea gravel beach.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
View of the peninsula, rock bar and rock piles.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Rocks lining the peninsula.

All the stone was placed after the pond was pumped nearly dry. I was able to drive down into the basin with my 12 ton "wheelbarrow".
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

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Awesome!!!


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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Those rocks gonna pay big dividends in fish currency. They look fantastic!!!


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SMB like to utilize spawning structure that has 2"-3" rocks in it with a backstop on the shore side of large rocks or a large log. They will spawn on pea gravel, but the coarser material is better.

I have had great success in using the pallet, #2 limestone and cinder blocks like TJ posted years ago. I have had SMB start using them within a few weeks of putting in the pond when water temp was 60°F in the Spring. 2'-4' water depth. I used plastic netting on top of the pallet to keep the rocks from falling through the openings and plastic pallets are best because they don't degrade over time.


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Thanks for the advice. I have some stone set aside that I think will work well based on the input here. I'll take some photos when they are constructed.

I have 16 lbs of FHM coming any day now. It will be exciting to get the forage base going. Papershell crayfish will be next.

I have looked a couple times at dissolved oxygen meters and it seems that the options and price ranges are nearly endless. Does anyone have one that they think works particularly well that won't break the bank?

Thanks again.

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NO Texan is remotely qualified to discuss Maine fish ponds.

So, I’ll just say welcome


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
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Likes: 892
Originally Posted by Mainer
Thanks for the advice. I have some stone set aside that I think will work well based on the input here. I'll take some photos when they are constructed.

I have 16 lbs of FHM coming any day now. It will be exciting to get the forage base going. Papershell crayfish will be next.

I have looked a couple times at dissolved oxygen meters and it seems that the options and price ranges are nearly endless. Does anyone have one that they think works particularly well that won't break the bank?

Thanks again.

Since I could kill fish that are worth over 10x the cost of the O2 meter, I am a poor choice to tell what inexpensive one to get. I use a YSI Pro ODO. The meter cost as much as the cable/probe.


www.hoosierpondpros.com


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3/4 to 1 1/4 ac pond LMB, SMB, PS, BG, RES, CC, YP, Bardello BG, (RBT & Blue Tilapia - seasonal).
Joined: Feb 2018
Posts: 42
Likes: 8
M
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M
Joined: Feb 2018
Posts: 42
Likes: 8
Hey neighbor. Your pond is looking really good and all your efforts will be rewarded. Did you end up digging it yourself?

Joined: Mar 2021
Posts: 12
Likes: 3
M
Mainer Offline OP
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M
Joined: Mar 2021
Posts: 12
Likes: 3
Mainahs70:
Yes, it became a DIY project. It has been fun for the most part, and is quite gratifying in the end. How is your pond coming along? I'd love to see it if you're up for company.

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