By James L. Cummins
Special to the Messenger
Farm ponds are a mainstay across the Mississippi landscape. Nearly all, except those in extremely productive parts of Mississippi need to be limed and fertilized. Most ponds require 2 to 3 tons per acre of lime. This treatment will usually last from 2 to 5 years, depending on the acidity of the soil.
Fertilizer, which stimulates growth of microscopic plants and animals, will cause the water to turn green or “bloom,” in addition to discouraging growth of some problem aquatic weeds. Phosphorus is essential to increasing fish production; triple superphosphate (0‑46‑0), when applied at the correct rate, is the most economical. A simple soil test will determine the amount of fertilizer needed and if liming is needed.
Initial stocking for new ponds should include 500 bluegill per acre, 50 bass per acre and 50 channel catfish per acre. On new ponds, fishing should begin 2 years after stocking. Good fishing can be enjoyed for years to come if the fish population of the pond is managed. This means harvesting the correct number and species of fish. For the first and second year of fishing, bass should be released back into the pond. Most of the bream (bluegill and redear) that are caught should be kept. A good rule of thumb is to keep a minimum of 10 pounds of bream for every pound of bass.
Most ponds are overfished for bass. When this occurs, bass cannot control bream and bream become overpopulated and stunted. This can reduce or even stop bass reproduction.
Often, the status of the pond’s balance can be determined by fishing success. For example, when one catches a few large bass and many small bream, the bream are overpopulated. When one catches small bass and large bream, there is probably an overpopulation of bass. In many instances, increased fishing pressure on the overcrowded species will bring the pond back into balance.
Regarding crappie, these fish should not be placed in ponds that are less than 500 acres in size. It will just be a matter of time before they become overpopulated and stunted.
Many people are concerned that the harvest of the surplus of fish due to an increase in structure will affect reproductive potential of the pond. It will not and should result in increased growth and condition of fish and a positive response to the increased carrying capacity.
Now that you have all ingredients in the formula for fishing success–good location, design, construction, the proper stocking rate and management–it is time to carry those kids or grandkids fishing and introduce them to something they will remember forever.
James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their web site is www.wildlifemiss.org.