How to Care for Ponds

If you're stocking your pond, always purchase from a licensed, commercial fish hatchery.

Ponds are a wonderful addition to a forest or tree farm, providing a source of water for animal, crops and people, as well as a place to swim, observe wildlife and, of course, fish.

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The quality of a sportfishing pond is affected by the pond’s location, size and water quality, as well as by the availability of spawning areas and food supplies. Remember that ponds don’t exist in isolation. They are part of the surrounding watershed, and reflect that way nearby land is being used. A pond that is situated in a woodland or grassland benefits from their ability to absorb sediment and improve water quality.

Although one pond is never the same as the next, there are some management principles that apply to all of them. So follow these pointers on assessing, stocking and harvesting to get the best fishing out of it.

Caring for ponds

Assessing your pond

Before stocking a fish pond, measure its depth and volume, temperature and water quality. Your state’s department of natural resources can connect you to a consultant who can advise you on managing aquatic plants and ponds, as well as to conservation incentive programs that may help reduce your costs.

  • Depth and volume: In general, sportfishing ponds should be at least one acre in size and have a depth of 8- to 12-feet in at least 25 percent of the pond basin. The ideal depth and volume depends on climate: in the north, more depth and volume may be required to avoid winter fish kills.
  • Temperature: Water temperature will determine what type of fish will survive in a pond. There are three general categories: coldwater fish, such as trout, that thrive when the average surface temperature is below 70 °F; warmwater fish such as largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish (up to 90 °F or warmer); and coolwater fish such as walleye and northern pike that prefer average surface temperatures somewhere in between (70 to 80 °F).
  • Water quality: Runoff and water temperature affect water quality but so do many other factors, including turbidity (the cloudiness or muddiness of water due to phytoplankton, clay particles in suspension, bacteria and more), pH, carbon dioxide levels, alkalinity and hardness
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