Steps to growing big bass in Texas – Broker Associate Tallon Martin breaks down the steps to growing and managing big bass in your ponds and lakes.
Spring time has snuck up on us this year, many of you have noticing some unwanted vegetation in your ponds and lakes already due to warm weather and clear waters. It is time to take action as waters are warming up fast.
Many ponds across the state are built as cattle or wildlife watering areas and these ponds can be converted into great little fishing holes as well. Not only will it be a place for family & friends to get together to fish, but it will also enhance the overall aesthetics of the pond and improve water quality.
The first step to overhauling your pond or lake is to understand the current condition of the water quality. In order for fish to prosper and beneficial aquatic plants to produce, water quality must be the foundation you build your program on. The easiest way to get an idea of water quality is to purchase a simple “do it yourself” water testing kit. LaMotte Company makes a very easy to use water testing kit.
The three main components to monitor are pH levels, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. The first one to understand is pH levels. Levels should be between 6.5 – 8 when using your home test kit. The scale starts at 0, being very acidic and 14 being very basic and 7 is neutral. This time of year (Nov. -Feb.) lime can be applied to control pH levels.
The next quality that must be monitored throughout the year is dissolved oxygen. Dissolved oxygen is measured in parts per million or PPM. Aquatic life requires no less than 3 to 4 ppm. Around 2 ppm aquatic life begins to suffocate and die off. Dissolved oxygen levels fluctuate throughout the day and at different temperatures. It is always lowest first thing in the morning and highest at end of day so testing should be done in early morning. Cold water holds more dissolved oxygen than warm water does, therefore testing water in the summer months will show a lower parts per million. If your pond is already reading low dissolved oxygen levels before beginning the renovation you should look into a aeration system to improve those levels. Killing off unwanted aquatic plants can also reduce dissolved oxygen level. Killing too much at one time can deplete the water of dissolved oxygen and can result in dead fish. Ways to prevent this will be discussed later in the article.
Finally there is turbidity, which is the clarity of the water. A pond that is too murky can hinder beneficial aquatic plant growth. A pond that is too clear is lacking the appropriate levels of algae and plankton for fish growth. A clear pond can also result in an invasion of unwanted weeds from the pond floor. When testing with a seechi disk, the disk should become hard to read at 18-24 inches. If the clarity depth is deeper than that, fertilizing your pond in late spring can increase algae density. The water color should be a light green hue, this means that there is a good algae bloom in the pond. If the pond is a brown color and only has a visible depth of 12-24 inches, there is too much clay or sediment suspended by the water molecules. It can choke off growth by impeding penetrating sunlight and stress fish by reducing oxygen levels. Liming or aluminum sulfate can help settle suspended muddy sediment. Check with your local extension agent for the appropriate application rates.
After water quality is at the appropriate levels, unwanted plant life can be treated and beneficial aquatic plants can be cultivated. This can be done by applying slow working aquatic herbicide and fertilizing during the spring months. Many non-managed ponds can become overgrown with aquatic weeds that can choke out beneficial aquatic plants and consume large amounts of water in the summer months. The first step is identify the different species of plants in the pond. The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension program has designed a great online database of photographs and descriptions to help identify & manage each plant.
Plants like cattails and willows can be aesthetically appealing but are highly invasive plants that can take over the shoreline of your pond. Both of these plants consume high levels of water during the summer, adding to the water lost by evaporation during the hot Texas months. Willows should also not be allowed to grow on dams, because their root system can penetrate deep into the dam resulting in more water loss by causing leaks. I have found that Renovate 3 is a great direct contact product for cattails and willows. Smaller plants can be treated with a slow acting herbicide like Sonar. It is a liquid that when applied to a pond the plants slowly absorb it resulting in a slower die off than a contact herbicide. Aquatic weed control should be done between April and August, the earlier the better. Avoiding fast die off will prevent depleting dissolved oxygen levels too much. It is the decaying of the plants that depletes oxygen levels, but decaying plants are also a great food source for plankton and small fish. Its a bit of a balancing act, but as long as you keep tabs on dissolved oxygen levels and treat small sections of the pond at separate times your levels should maintain a healthy reading.
The final step in improving the aquatic life is fertilization. Ponds that are fertilized yearly can hold 300 to 400 lbs per surface acre more fish than a pond that is not. Fertilizing enhances the algae bloom in the pond resulting in more food for plankton which in turn feeds small feeder fish like fathead minnow, bluegill, and red eared sunfish. Fertilizing should be done throughout April to June, but make sure the weeds you are trying to kill are dead before doing so. If not, fertilizing can encourage their growth too. Most aquatic plants will become transparent or white color when they have died. Once you begin to see this it is safe to start fertilizing. I like to use Trophy Maker pond fertilizer, it’s a 12-61-0 ratio designed by Plantex solutions for Winfield. See their website for appropriate application rates for your size pond. After the first application wait several weeks then test the turbidity of the water. If the disk is distorted at 12-18 inches your bloom is too high and you can hold off fertilizing more until clarity increases. You want to be in the range between 18 – 24 inches. When the bloom begins to thin apply more fertilizer every two weeks to keep the bloom at a healthy level until late June.
Every pond is different and you may find that some techniques, fertilizers, or herbicides work better than others. Much of it is learned hands on and you will begin to get a better feel for what works best for you. If you have any questions please feel free to give me a call. I always enjoy sharing techniques that work for me.
Tallon Martin – Broker Associate
Updated on February 7th, 2017
postingWater Testing Kit: http://www.worldwatermonitoringday.org/TestKits.aspx
County Extension offices: http://counties.agrilife.org/
Plant Identification: http://aquaplant.tamu.edu/plant-identification/
Renovate 3: https://www.lakelawnandpond.com/Renovate.aspx?ItemGroupID=33
Trophy Maker Fertilizer: http://www.plantprod.com/plantex/HomeUSA.aspx