Landowners should start pond maintenance in the spring

Special for

The Sentinel-Record

PINE BLUFF – Now is the time to pick up the pace of active pond management, said Scott Jones, a specialist in small pond extension at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, in a recent press release. hurry. While ambitious pond owners monitor and manage their ponds throughout the year, most casual owners pick up play in the spring and fall.

“As with lawn care and landscaping, pond management can be as complicated — and as expensive — as you want it to be,” he said. “But a few simple adjustments in the spring can help the pond and its fish start the year strong.”

Feed the fish

Most species of fish start spawning in the spring, when a pond’s water temperature is around 60 to 70 degrees, Jones said. However, some species such as bluegill spawn multiple times during the summer.

“Spawning is an energy intensive process, so you want your fish well fed before and after for better success and survival,” he said.

Jones recommends pond owners keep the following feeding tips in mind:

• Start feeding the fish when the water is above 65 degrees. Continue feeding all summer until the water cools to around 65 degrees in the fall or when the fish stop responding to food.

• Bluegill sunfish grow exceptionally well when fed floating food. Catfish, minnow, and even grass carp readily eat fish food with bluegill.

• Economy foods with 28-32% protein are acceptable. But remember that fish grow faster on 40-44% protein feed, which is more expensive, and less feed is wasted.

• Feed as much as the fish will eat in 5 to 10 minutes, once or twice a day, up to about 15 pounds total per acre per day.

• If you feed the fish once a day, feed them about an hour before sunset.

“Abundant populations of bluegill are usually enough to adequately feed largemouth bass in ponds,” Jones said. “However, additional stocking of golden minnow or even goldfish up to 50 pounds per acre or more in the spring will give your bass a nutrition boost. This will help it bulk up before spawning and recover more quickly in the process.”

Treat weeds

If a pond has a history of aquatic weeds, the weeds have probably already started growing, although they may not be visible, Jones said. Many aquatic weeds begin to grow when the water temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees.

These weeds are more vulnerable to herbicides when they are small and fast growing, he said. Treatment options become progressively less effective as plants get larger and store more energy.

“The best time to start herbicide applications is when the water is in the mid-60s to 70s,” Jones said. “Be sure to properly identify weeds before spraying, as no aquatic herbicide is 100 percent effective on all plant species. University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service county officers , Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologists, and UAPB aquaculture and fisheries specialists can help you identify your plants and select effective and safe chemicals.

Fertilize the pond

Fertilization programs should begin when the water reaches about 65 degrees and should continue until the water drops below about 60 degrees in the fall. Each pond will react differently to fertilizers, so owners of agricultural ponds will need to adjust their applications based on the behavior of the pond.

“You should only start a fertilizing program if your water alkalinity and hardness are above 20 ppm (mg/L), if your water is not constantly muddy, if you intend to observe , to maintain and manage the resulting plankton bloom throughout the year and if you’re ready to harvest more fish,” Jones said.

Jones recommends pond owners keep the following fertilizing tips in mind:

• Typical fertilization rates range from 0.5 to 1.0 gallons per acre for liquid fertilizers and 4 to 8 pounds per acre for powdered or granular fertilizers.

• The ideal plankton bloom density in the pond should result in visibility of 18 to 36 inches. Once water visibility is within this range, do not fertilize again until the water is clear to more than 36 inches of visibility.

• Over-fertilization is dangerous. This can lead to huge aquatic weed problems, potentially harmful (toxic) blue-green algae blooms, and major fish kills.

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