Richmond Fisheries: Fish Care

Whether you add fish for recreation or fish have just always been in your pond, there are things you can do for bigger and healthier fish. Between adding fish habitat, aeration or feeding game fish with a high quality food, your fish population can thrive.

One big question is about fish stocking. Whether you’re stocking a new pond, replenishing an existing pond after a harsh winter or adding to an already-established population, we have the information to know about when and how to best do it.

Tips for Fish Stocking

Stocking your pond will not only bring you lots of fishing fun, but you will be helping to keep the algae, weeds, insects, leeches and worms under control.

CREATING A BALANCE

To properly balance your pond, you should stock your pond with 3 prey fish, like perch or bluegill, for every predator fish, such as bass. This fish stocking strategy for your pond will ensure that your predator fish will have a bountiful selection of prey, while still giving the prey fish a sporting chance to mature and reproduce. Keep in mind that catfish will have little effect on the prey to predator ratio as they will pretty much stick to themselves at the bottom of the pond.

When your have properly stocked your pond, your fish population tends to keep itself in check. When you first stock your pond it is recommended to add some fathead minnows to feed the predator fish while the prey fish get established. In proper conditions, minnows can be a snack for your fish that will replenish themselves.

FISH TYPES

When stocking your pond, selecting fish of similar size will also help the population grow together. The number of fish you add to your population will ultimately depend on the surface area of your lake or pond. Below is an example for stocking ponds of various sizes.

1/4 Acre 1/2 Acre 1 Acre
2-4″ Hybrid Bluegill/Sunfish 120 240 480
3-4″ Yellow Perch 60 120 240
5-7″ Largemouth Bass 15 30 60
Fathead Minnows 8 lbs 16 lbs 32 lbs

When stocking your pond with fish, make sure you take stock of any “wild fish” you may already have in the pond. You want to confirm larger prey fish are not in the pond that will eat up all the smaller, new fish you are adding.

BEST TIME TO STOCK

Spring or fall is the ideal time for stocking fish in your pond. Temperatures are mild and oxygen levels are high, so the stress factors affecting your fish will be at their lowest. Once acclimated to your pond, they will be primed to flourish. Fish can be added in the summer, but they will need a little more time to adjust.

ACCLIMATING FISH

After stocking your pond, acclimating fish is simple. Place the transportation bag in a shaded area of the pond and let float for 15-20 minutes. This allows your fish to slowly adjust to water temperatures in your pond. Next open the bag and let the fish swim out on their own. If you are adding fish to a pond where fish are already present, release minnows at one end of the pond to attract larger fish and release the smaller fish at the opposite end so they have a chance to find shelter.

HABITAT

Keep in mind when stocking fish in your pond, that adding habitat will increase the area for the smaller prey fish and minnows to hide and safely reproduce. Weeds and other structures already in your pond will provide some cover, but a specially designed environment, like Porcupine® Fish Attractor or Fish Attractor Trees and Logs, can improve on what is already there by providing a habitat that won’t decompose. The attractors, trees and logs are great places for fishing as the fish will congregate around them and they will not snag fishing line. They are also safe places for fish to spawn. Read more about habitat here: How to Create Habitat.

MAINTENANCE

To keep the population of both predator and prey fish healthy, make sure your water is well oxygenated when you are stocking fish in your pond. If you do not already have an aeration system set up in your pond, now is a good time to add one. When you introduce new fish to a pond or lake, they will be adding waste – something that can cause an algae bloom, pH shift, or possible fish kill. An aeration system and use of beneficial bacteria, like those found in the ClearPAC® Plus, will decrease toxic gases, increase the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, and prevent harmful stratification from occurring.

Try to catch some of the fish in your pond each season and record how many of each type you are pulling out of the pond while inspecting them for healthy color, weight, and size. Occasionally checking up on your fish will decrease the frequency and severity of population issues, while making your pond an enjoyable addition to your home with fun activities for the entire family. Enjoy these tips, and try putting them to use the next time you are stocking your pond with fish!

 

What to Feed Your Fish

Your bass, bluegill and other game fish nibble on nature’s all-natural bounty of algae, weeds, insects, leeches and worms. However, they also need supplemental nourishment, particularly if you’re growing them for sport.

WHAT TO FEED

Keeping you pond stocked with a good ratio of prey to predator fish and even adding minnows from time to time will keep a natural balance to the pond. For tips on how the properly stock your fish, please read: Tips for Stocking. Creating habitat in the pond will allow places for the smaller prey fish and minnows to reproduce and naturally keep up the food supply.

If fishing is important and you want quick growth, The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower has high amounts of protein and vitamins. It will encourage fast growth and provide balanced nutrition to increase resistance to common diseases.

Always look for high quality foods as they contain better ingredients. Lower quality foods will be harder to digest and will pass through the fish, adding unnecessary nutrients to the water which can cause water clarity issues. Look for fish food with at least 40‰ protein for fast growth and vitamins to keep them healthy. UsingEcoBoost™ in your pond every 2-4 weeks will not only help with water clarity, it adds over 80 trace minerals to promote fish health and fast growth.

Got small fish or growing fry? Crush a few of the pellets into tiny bite-sized pieces for them to enjoy.

HOW MUCH TO FEED

Size of the pond, number of fish and the presence of an aeration system are all factors that determine how much your fish need to be fed. Aeration in the pond will allow your fish to be more active, requiring you to feed more aggressively. Start out feeding one-half to one pound of pellets per surface acre of water, or however much the fish will eat in 5 to 10 minutes.

WHEN TO FEED

Water temperature will have an effect on how much your fish will eat. As the water temperatures start dropping in the fall, the fish will eat less and will eventually stop feeding until spring when the water warms up. Only feed your game fish when water temperatures is above 50°F (10°C). When temperatures get colder, fish are almost in a state of hibernation and will live off their stored body fat until spring. Once water temperatures are above 50°F, start your feedings again.

TREATS

Along with the commercial food and foodstuffs found in the pond itself, you can also offer your fish human treats like torn-up chunks of stale bread or chopped up fruits and vegetables. They will add much-welcome variety to their diets – and help you clean out your refrigerator!

 

Create Fish Habitat

Fish need to have a safe, relaxing place to go, whether it is to get away from predators or spawn peacefully. A good pond fish habitat in shallower waters will provide bait fish with hiding places as well as areas for algae, plankton, and other food sources to grow. Developing a pond fish habitat in deeper water nearby will provide hiding and hunting locations for your larger fish. Additionally, providing a habitat for your fish will also give you great places to throw your hook out and catch a few. There are a variety of different ways to develop a pond fish habitat for your fishy friends, here are a few artificial and natural underwater structures you can use.

ARTIFICIAL HABITATS

Artificial pond fish habitats are the easiest and cleanest way to provide fish a safe home and are often more productive than natural habitats.Fish attractors will not decay or add to the muck at the bottom of the pond. Artificial habitats are designed to prevent hooks from snagging, giving your fish time to fall hook, line, and sinker for your bait.Although age of the pond and type of fish are factors in how many and what type or fish attractors should be added to the pond, typically a good habitat will have 9 trees and 12 shrubs per acre.

Types of Artificial Habitat

  • Honey Hole Trees are great for depths of 6 feet or more and will cover an area 6′ x 7′. The Honey Hole Tree provides up to 15,000 square inches of surface area for algae and eggs to attach in your pond fish habitat.
  • Honey Hole Logs are available in 2′ and 4′ sizes and can be combined to make longer structures or trees.
  • Honey Hole Shrubs are designed for shallow water. The shrubs are 32″ tall and 6′ wide to cover a large area.
  • Fish Attractor Spheres are easy assembled using ½” PVC and PVC glue.Because you are cutting the PVC you can make the spheres as large as you need.
  • Spawning Discs are a great way to increase hatching rates by providing a stable, solid surface for fish to lay their eggs. The 20″ diameter discs are concave to allow fish to be able to lay eggs on the top or underneath, wherever they feel more comfortable.

 

ROCKS

Boulders or cinder blocks are another good way to introduce a place for fish to hide and for algae to grow. Piles of boulders or concrete blocks placed individually or in clusters can attract a variety of fish, not to mention providing a healthy medium for beneficial bacteria and tasty string algae to flourish. Use large boulders in your pond fish habitat (more than 2 feet in diameter) and place them away from the shoreline. Boulders can be useful if you have small streams or rivers leading to your lake or pond, too, as they can break fast-moving currents and provide a resting place for fish.

PLANTS

Plants are the most natural type of habitat for pond fish. Plants not only provide shelter, block sunlight, and help prevent erosion, but they also act as filters to help reduce the nutrient load in the pond and add oxygen. There are many types of submerged, floating, and emergent plants that can be used for habitat but make sure you stick with plants that are native to your area. Using native plants will help make it harder for invasive species to take over.

There are some disadvantages of using plants as fish habitats in ponds. Make sure to keep the plants under control as they can spread quickly and take over a pond. Use plant bags or baskets to specify boundaries. As the seasons change, plants will die, decompose and add to the muck layer at the bottom of the pond. You will want to make sure to keep up with pruning or manually removing dead plant material to keep up the fish habitat in your pond.

TREES & LOGS

Logs and even whole trees can be used as a fish habitat for ponds. Logs and trees should be weighted so they will sink into the water. Just keep in mind that if you are using organic material for a fish habitat in your pond, it will decompose and eventually turn into muck. Be proactive at removing material that falls off or natural products to help reduce muck. Create a fish habitat in your pond using these tips today!

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