Ponds are good places to fish and if managed correctly, there are usually more fish per acre than is many lakes.  They are great places to polish skills and gain an understanding their habits and habitat.

Life in a pond is a complex, interlocking system of plants and animals.  Plants grow and multiply, providing forage for small fish, crayfish and frogs.  Largemouth bass eat the forage.  Bass will feed on their progeny.

In any given pond three reasons why the quality of fishing desired is not forthcoming are it may contain the wrong kind of fish, the wrong size of fish, or the wrong number of fish.

Availability of food determines how well bass grow.  If forage is available growth is rapid.

There are limits in the numbers of fish a pond can produce and sustain.  Many ponds have small bass with abundant panfish.

One problem in pond situations is that prey species may flourish to the point that they even compete for forage with the predator.  An example would be a pond with very large bluegill and bass that remain small and are all about the same size.

In an effort to manage a bass pond many people feel the need to remove large numbers of panfish.  If a pond has large numbers of small panfish they feed upon bass eggs and hurt the bass recruitment.  What is left is a remnant population of large bass.

If the pond has small bass and large panfish the panfish become the predator of the young of the year bass and compete with the remaining bass for the forage base.  If anglers remove smaller bass the size of the panfish will decline.

Twelve to 14 inch bass inhabit a pond without harm to the population.

In addition to the removal of bass additional quality fishing comes from placing structures in the water that concentrate fish and increase population fitness.  Natural structures in ponds generally are lost to decay or covered with silt.  Fish relate only to the shoreline to acquire food or to avoid predators.

Bass will spend most of their time near the bank forcing minnows up against it in shallow water.  Minnows swim back and forth within a small area.  Bass wait for smaller fish upon which they feed.

Most ponds have very flat bottoms.  The fishery of any pond improves with the use of some additional structure to increase the habitat for both predator and prey.

The mere presence of structure is not the sole answer to slow bass growth.  Too much structure in a pond and prey species may be able to avoid the predator species.  The result is bass experience low growth rates even in the presence of adequate forage.

Christmas trees are popular structures for ponds.  They provide areas between their branches to protect smaller species and yet the overall outline of a tree can provide cover and shade for larger species.

If your favorite pond yields only small bass, it could be because of over harvest before the bass reach larger size or from inadequate forage.  If bass are growing at a normal rate, merely reducing the number harvested should allow for good population and size growth of the remaining fish.  If fish are growing slowly, harvesting the small bass should thin their numbers and allow those left to grow faster.

How rapidly fish grow in a pond is also an indication of the health of the pond.  There are good reasons to control fish populations.  It is vital to remember that such control comes from scientific principles not good intentions.

Simply throwing back fish does not mean they will continue to grow larger each year. Before beginning any pond management, contact local IDNR fisheries experts for an analysis of the pond. They can help with a plan to manipulate the conditions to meet your goals.


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