With the prevalence of drought the past few years, many landowners have realized the value of their ponds (Texans call ’em tanks). Unfortunately, some have had to pay more for their “value” than others, depending on how much the drought affected them. Many landowners are building and stocking new ponds, as well as re-stocking old ponds that dried up, with fish to increase water reserves and provide fisheries for family enjoyment or income.
It is good to take time to consider all of the values that ponds have to offer before actually beginning the dirt work. After all, the cost of that “dirt work” is usually between $1 and $1.50 per yard, so the biggest bang for the buck needs to be achieved.
The two most common uses of ponds are to provide fisheries and livestock water. However, as you have already guessed, they can serve more purposes than that, such as attracting waterfowl. Many quality hours have been spent on a pond in the winter hunting or photographing ducks and geese. Aesthetics (of which waterfowl can be a part) are another benefit that ponds can provide. Ponds constructed near residential areas can be landscaped and potentially add to property value. Ponds also can increase the diversity of plants and animals on many properties.
Unfortunately, not all ponds can serve all of these functions. Now we are back to the importance of understanding the values of ponds. With a little forethought, ponds can be constructed to meet as many of these functions as possible. For instance, water depth and slope of the pond bottom near the edge have a big impact on the presence or absence of aquatic vegetation (a lot of people erroneously call this moss). Generally, relatively flat slopes and shallow water mean more aquatic vegetation.
Understanding this concept and applying it to your situation can have huge implications on managing waterfowl, fish or both. Ducks are attracted to many species of aquatic vegetation. However, the same aquatic vegetation can interfere with fishing access.
To construct a pond for fisheries (i.e., largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, etc.) and livestock watering capacity purposes, pond depth and surface acres are two very important factors. Pond depth is important in order to avoid drying up in drought. Ten feet of depth minimum is a rule of thumb we use for new ponds in south-central Oklahoma and north-central Texas to reduce the potential of a pond drying up due to drought. Of course, deeper is better for livestock watering capacity and depth and increased surface acres are even better. However, given this minimum depth, increasing surface acreage is more beneficial for fisheries and waterfowl management than increasing depth. Sunlight provides the energy for every living thing. The more sunlight that a pond can intercept, the more productive it will be (that means more fish fries for those of us who are afflicted with that habit). Of course, water quality influences pond productivity as well. But with water quality being equal, surface acres increase pond productivity, not depth. Understanding this concept can explain for instance, why it may be better to make your pond bigger rather than deeper if you are managing for trophy largemouth bass. Pond productivity also influences the amount (pounds) of fish that can be harvested per surface acre each year.
This article was contributed by Russell Stevens of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.