Farm ponds offer landowners opportunity for recreation with family, a supply of farm raised fish and a water supply for livestock. There are several things landowners can do throughout the year to manage their ponds. Water quality is especially important when it comes to fish production.
In farm ponds, pH and alkalinity are two things that need some attention before stocking begins. A water analysis on the farm pond can be beneficial, as this can indicate the pH level of the water as alkalinity. The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline a soil or water may be. Agriculture limestone may need to be applied to the pond to help change the pH of the soil or water. Just like pastures, farm ponds have an optimum pH level that enhances fish growth and reproduction. The pH of a farm pond should range from 6.5 to 9.0.
Total alkalinity in farm ponds should be greater than 20 ppm (parts per million). Alkalinity is a measure of bases in the water. Bases react to and neutralize acids and so directly influence pH levels. As bases react with the hydrogen ions present, they buffer or suppress pH changes.
Fall is a great time to apply lime to a farm pond. When applying lime, find a supply of agricultural grade limestone that can be distributed in the water or in the water shed. You can lime anytime. According to the Texas Farm Pond Management Calendar by Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist, and Dr. Todd Sink, Extension Fisheries Specialist, November through January are the best months to apply the limestone. We have copies of this Extension publication for those interested. This publication is a handy guide to assist in the management of the farm pond throughout the year.
Weed control in a farm pond is another area of concern for some farm pond managers. Weeds in the pond may not be a problem in some situations, but when they take over the entire surface of the pond, some want to look at control options. The best control for weeds in a farm pond is proper construction. Ponds built too shallow around the edges may lead to more infestations of weeds. Proper identification of the weed species is important to ensure we are using the best control methods. Controls may be cultural, mechanical, biological, and even chemical in some cases. Weed control usually begins April or May with spot treatments as needed throughout the summer.
Fertilization of the farm pond also is important and can increase fish production from 2 to 6 times by increasing the food supply. There are various fertilizer analyses that can be used in a farm pond. When ponds are fertilized, nutrients stimulate the growth of phytoplankton which is food eaten by smaller species of fish that starts the food chain in the pond. Fertilizing the farm pond begins in April and ends in September. If weeds are a problem in the pond, control the weeds before making applications of fertilizer or the weed problem could expand.
Stocking the farm pond is usually done March through early July or October through December, depending on which species of fish you intend to stock.
The manager will need to decide whether they want one species of fish or multiple species of fish in the pond. Pond size also will help dictate what species to stock. Smaller ponds may only allow for one species such as bass or catfish.
Larger ponds may allow more diversity in the stocking to include combining catfish, bass and bluegill. Many will stock sunfish, bluegill, fathead minnow, redear, and even tilapia to name a few ahead of the bass and catfish as forage species. The Texas Farm Pond Management Calendar provides some options on stocking as well.
The Texas Farm Pond Management Calendar is a useful tool for those wanting to manage the farm pond. We can provide paper copies or send them electronically for those interested in their copy.
Contact our office by calling 903-590-2980 for more information on the farm pond management calendar.
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