Calendar of Events and Activities of A Fish Pond

Calendar of a Pond is an article written by Steve Fender, Fender’s Fish Hatchery, since 1956, Baltic OH, one of the oldest and largest Fish Hatcheries in the Midwest.

Steve is an expert in fish, fish pond management, and fish pond construction. He is an award winning author of the book now sold in paperback – Farm Pond Management – A Common Sense Guide.
Steve is a refreshing person to deal with in this industry because he is an expert in his field from hands on experience, a man who lives and breathes the business that he writes and consults about.

With over 200 acres of Fish Ponds spread over 3 Counties do OH Steve has the experience to help many fish pond owners keep healthy fish and a clean pond.

January

Do you know where your fish are?

They are sleeping on the bottom of the pond or lake.

Unless you have trout in your pond, your fish are in a dormant stage. Come winter when the pond gets cold your fish will become slow to the point of almost no movement. A pond owner’s biggest concern in winter should be if there is enough oxygen in the water. Some ponds will winter kill very easily, while others never do.

The difference between the two types of ponds lies in the source of oxygen. Is oxygen provided by aeration, pumped fresh water, or natural spring? Any amount of water coming in will be full of oxygen. The best way to tell if there is water coming in is by determining if water is going out of the overflow. Many times I have had customers tell me they have spring fed ponds but no water going out the overflow. If no water is leaving, unless your pond leaks, that means no water is entering the pond.

This is important because if we have a severe winter, the pond will freeze over creating an airtight seal and over time (a month or more) your fish will use up the oxygen reserve in the pond.

The least that can be done is to push off the snow. A heavy blanket of snow will cut out the light stopping all plant growth.

The best way to prevent loosing fish is to install a fountain or aerator, which will provide water movement in your pond.

Aeration year round is highly recommended to keep oxygen levels at the highest possible level, and to improve water purity.
(It is also very important not to ice skate near your fountain because the ice could be uneven making it unsafe to be on a frozen pond.)

During this cold winter month many pond owners will take advantage of the ice and build brush piles on the ice in areas that they know the water is four to six feet deep. When the ice melts, the brush piles sink; thus providing cover for little fish that will be hatching out in a few months.

February

This month is similar to last month. The only difference is that we are closer to spring.

By now, the adult bluegill, bass, black crappie, shell cracker, and perch will be full of eggs waiting for warmer days. Ponds in central and southern Ohio begin to open toward the end of the month. Same goes for ponds in the same weather zone such as WI, MI, PA, NY, MN, SD, ND, MT, WY, NE, ILL, IN, MA, ME, OR, WA, ID, UT, MO, NE, VT, NJ and other states and Canadian Provinces in similar weather patterns.

March

This month most ponds will open. We will start to see some algae and weed growth. This is usually a signal to many pond owners that they is not enough oxygen in the water. We suggest this be a signal to you to invest in an aeration system. Pond water still isn’t warm enough for the Amurs or for Pond Conditioners such as Natures Pond Conditioner (non chemical based) products to be of value. This is a good time to plan on adding more fish to your pond if you want to boost any one species or to add additional species.

Also in March, perch begin to breed by dropping eggs. As the ice melts and the ponds open up, begin watching for sick fish. I will provide more details about this in the next section.

April

Here at the fish hatchery, we start to receive calls from pond owners asking why they don’t see their fish. Until the water gets to about 60° to 65°, the fish will not feed on pellets and won’t be around the sides of your pond.

At this time of year, pond owners need to watch for sick fish. After a long winter, bass and mostly bluegill of six inches or more get sick from Bacterial Gill Disease.

This is noted by bluegill swimming weakly in shallow water and showing signs of fungus patches over their sides. This is both a deadly disease and very curable. One pound of copper sulfate per acre dissolved in water and broadcasted around the perimeter of the pond will generally stop the bacteria. Once a bluegill is in the fungus stage, it will probably die. I would suggest to try to net the fish that is covered with fungus and destroy it. The fish that are not infected too badly will likely heal and be all right. Some ponds will experience this problem every few years. However some may never show signs of it. Again, an excellent preventative method to avoid this from happening is by keeping your pond aerated and healthy so that it does not give a chance for this bacteria to grow in the pond. Adding a pond conditioner in the summer and fall while the water is still warm is also an effective prevention technique. We recommend Natures Pond Conditioner learn more by visiting www.naturespondconditioner.com

April is the time to begin feeding depending on the weather. The water may still be too cold for the fish to start feeding.

May

The growing season begins. This month your pond will go from hardly any action to fully active.

By mid-May depending on the weather, there should be signs of spawning beds. Bass, bluegill, shell cracker, crappie will all be on beds ready to reproduce. The White Amurs should start to clean up on submerged weeds and algae.

June

By now most of the breeding activity is finished. You should see small bass schooled up and bluegill will begin to leave their spawning beds. The bluegill fry (newly hatched fish) will be very tiny at this stage. They are about as big as gnats.

June is usually when the fishing gets great and lasts until the end of the month. Fishing then becomes a real challenge, because of all the newly hatched fish. They are a large food source for respectable sized fish as we enter July.

Again using aeration and pond conditioner opposed to treating a pond with chemicals is suggested. Treating ponds with toxic chemicals at this time of year can kill off many of the small Fry. It will also ensure that you do not get an algae bloom that depletes all the oxygen in the water and results in a Fish Kill.

July

The water is now hot and the fish head for cooler water. Fishing is more difficult now because there is plenty of food. The catfish have now spawned. If your pond is experiencing vegetation problems, add more Amurs. If your Amurs are in their first year they may need a little more time to get big enough to be effective.

This is not a good time to try to use chemicals because

  • Hot water = low oxygen
  • Fast dying weeds and algae = oxygen depletion = dead fish.

I want to explain what I mean.

As water warms up, less oxygen is retained so oxygen levels will naturally be lower in hotter months. Next, not only does vegetation grow fast in warm water, but it also dies much faster making it difficult to control weed kills. After the vegetation dies, it decays. The decay process uses oxygen and can take all the oxygen out of your pond which can kill all the fish.

The only recommendation we have for your pond during this time is Aeration. Electric Aeration or windmill aeration system – for deeper ponds greater than 8 ft in depth we suggest bottom up aeration being the most effective method to aerate the pond eg. Windmill or electric. We have used Koenders Windmills products for over 15 years and would recommend this brand for it is what we have sold and what we and our customers have had success with. It’s a proven brand that has been in business for over 24 years. It has over 50,000 windmill aeration systems installed and over 15,000 Electric Aeration systems running. Not a bad track record! (photo – Steve Fender beside one of his fish ponds and Koenders Windmill (Fenders Fish Hatchery has over 200 acres of fish ponds)

July

August

This is the month to be paying close attention to your pond.

Oxygen depletion can be a problem this time of year. Normally, this is the hottest time of the year, so oxygen levels are at their lowest. Vegetation can come and go very quickly. Plankton blooms grow and die rapidly this time of year. When this happens, the oxygen is depleted. If this is not prevented, it can cause complete fish kill. Year round aeration is very helpful to prevent fish kills from happening. Also, try to divert as much high fertility run off from your pond as possible. That would be the best way to prevent plankton bloom from beginning.

September

Small bluegill have been spawning all summer. This is about to end with the arrival of colder temperatures.

You will notice the fish will begin to feed less. Vegetation growth should slow down by the end of the month. If you catch any fish you will see some change. Much of this depends on weather. September can have an early frost or be very warm all month. If we have a warm month, your fish will feed and grow. Fishing will be good.

October

With the exception of Indian summer, fish growth is over for the year (unless you have trout in your pond).

Put the fish food away until next spring. Now is a good time to introduce any new species of fish or boost the population of what is already in your pond.

With water temperatures dropping, fish feeding activity will slow dramatically. Now it is safe to stock just about anything you would want without worries of the bigger fish.

By now, black crappie will become firm. The flesh will not be mushy. It is a good time to catch some crappie for fillets.

November

This is a good month to stock for the same reasons as last month.
If you have a pond that can winter kill easily, now would be a good time to get your electric aerator or fountain running. If you do not already have an aeration system then we suggest you consider one.

Also, muskrat trapping season comes in around the first week of November. This is a good time to get rid of muskrats and make a little money from their hides. At the same time you stop them from tearing up your pond.

December

An Amish saying I heard a few years ago is, “If you can put a horse on the ice of a pond before the first of the year, you won’t be able to walk a dog on it after the first of the year.” After I heard this, I have been watching to see if it holds true. So far it has. What the saying means is if your pond freezes over hard and thick before the first of the year, chances are the ice will open at least a little after the first of the year.

Like most rules of winter, some years this will not hold true.

It is likely your pond is frozen over by now. All you can do is make sure there is either water coming in to make oxygen or that you have an aerator of some kind to ensure the pond and everything in it stays healthy.

To order Steve’s book on line goto www.koenderswindmills.com and download it. Steve Fender has partnered with Koenders Windmills to offer his book FREE with every windmill or electric aerator purchase from Koenders Windmills.

Steve is a huge advocate for the environment, clean water, healthy fish and ponds. Fish is part of a nutritious diet and a fish pond can provide an economical source of health protein for the whole family. You can learn more about Steve and his family’s Fish Hatchery located in Baltic, OH by visiting www.fendersfishhatchery.com. With over 200 acres of fish ponds under management, Fender’s is one of the oldest and largest Fish Hatcheries in the Midwest.