The pros and cons of owning a pond

Private ponds can be a great way to add function, as well as scenic beauty, to your property. A properly constructed pond can provide a landowner with their own personal fishing hole, swimming destination or place to view wildlife.

The possibility of these positive aspects tends to consume the landowners thought process when deciding to build a pond on their land. There are, however, some possible negative aspects one must also consider before ultimately deciding whether or not a private pond is right for them.

I often advise people who are looking to build a pond that “ponds are a lot like swimming pools.” If you think you can just fill them with water and enjoy them, you are in for a rude awakening. Swimming pools can be costly and labor intensive to maintain. Maintaining a pond can be much of the same.

In this article, I will elaborate on some of the possible problems one might encounter when owning a pond, while also giving advice on how these problems can be resolved.

Nuisance vegetation

Nuisance aquatic vegetation is by far the most common problem landowners experience with a pond. This usually consists of one or more plant species overpopulating and taking over. This excessive plant growth can affect recreational activities, aesthetics and overall health of your pond.

There are many different species of plants that can take over a pond if not properly controlled. The most prominent are algae, duckweed, watermeal, cattails and milfoil.

These vegetation issues tend to be more prominent where excessive nutrients are entering a pond. Excessive nutrients can be the result of lawn fertilizers, manure runoff, septic tank leech fields or an accumulation of organics in the pond.

Once one or more of these plants start to take over, it can be very costly and labor intensive to control them. Aquatic herbicides tend to be species specific and very expensive. Unfortunately an inexpensive, legal, cure-all does not exist.

The only vegetation that is fairly cheap to control is algae. Copper sulfate is fairly inexpensive, but must be applied multiple times to see major improvements. White amurs or grass carp are another option. This triploid variety of carp consume vegetation but does not do well at reducing algae, duckweed, watermeal or cattails.

Poor fishing

I often get calls from pond owners claiming their fish numbers are too low or they do not have the quality of fish they had in the past. When it comes to stocking your pond, you must look at it as a balancing act. There must be the proper ratio of forage fish (minnows, shiners, bluegill) to predator fish (bass, crappie, catfish). If this ratio dips one way or the other, you will notice that your fish will start to lack in size or numbers.

For example, if your pond is overrun with small bluegill, there is a good chance you need to add more predator species. Adding more bass to this equation will ultimately reduce the bluegill population. This will in turn provide the remaining bluegill with more food and as a result, grow bigger.

Same goes for a pond that is overrun with small bass. There aren’t enough forage fish in the pond to feed all the bass. In this instance it is important to either stock more forage fish, or remove a number of the bass to get the ratio back in order.

Another issue pond owners experience is their ponds lack enough cover to maintain the fish they have.

During the spring and summer months, there is usually enough aquatic vegetation to protect young fish from being consumed. However in the fall and winter months when all the vegetation has died off, a pond bottom can look like a desert with no place for the young fish to hide. They in turn get readily consumed by the larger fish

Over time this will ultimately lead to predator/prey ratio imbalance. The solution to this is to implement cover to your pond. This can be done by adding brush piles, pallets, old stumps or rock piles at various depths. This ensures that your young fish will have ample places to hide when natural cover becomes scarce.

Nuisance wildlife

Most pond owners enjoy the additional wildlife that a water source brings to their property. Some of these species can however be quite destructive.

Muskrats always seen to find private ponds no matter how hidden there are. These aquatic rodents will burrow into pond banks making for unsafe walking conditions and possibly damage the structural integrity of the pond resulting in leaks.

Canada geese will also use ponds, usually in large numbers. These large waterfowl add an excessive amount of unwanted nutrients through defecation. This can result in unsanitary swimming conditions and excessive aquatic vegetation growth.

Muskrats can be trapped, but unless you are willing to do it yourself or personally know a trapper, it will most likely cost you to hire a nuisance trapper to remove them. Canada geese can be hunted but only for a short time throughout the year.

Harassment is usually the best way to handle these birds. However you must be consistent or they will keep returning.

As previously mentioned, ponds can be a great feature on your property. They provide opportunities to fish, swim and view wildlife. Just make sure you take everything into account when deciding if a pond is right for you. If you are willing to put in the work and the funds, a pond can bring you and your family enjoyment for many years to come.

About the Author

Matt Brown has been the Wildlife & Forestry Specialist for the Columbiana Soil & Water Conservation District since 2007. He has a Bachelors degree in Environmental Conservation from Kent State University. Matt can be reached at 330-332-8732 or Matt.W.Brown@oh.nacdnet.net. More Stories by Matt Brown

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