PRODUCTIVE PONDS REQUIRE TIME AND EFFORT

by: Linda Breazeale
MSU Ag Communications


Okolona -- Mississippi's rivers and Gulf waters are popular fishing destinations, but most of the state's anglers depend on ponds and lakes for their prized catches and quality time in the outdoors.

Unlike the larger bodies of water, ponds and lakes need a human touch to stock them and monitor environmental conditions for the best results.

Chickasaw County Extension director Scott Cagle said his office gets calls almost year-round from residents with farm-pond concerns.

“From April through October, we get at least one call a week from people wanting to know how to improve their ponds. They want more fish, bigger fish and fewer weeds,” he said. “They usually don't think about working on their pond until there is a problem.”

Cagle said he usually makes a site visit to determine the actual cause of the problem.

General statements like, ‘My pond has moss,' are not specific enough and may not be accurate. What they call moss may actually be some type of weed or algae,” he said. “The treatment may be different from one plant to another.”

One 2009 call came from Myra “Skeeter” Collins, director at Camp Tik-A-Witha with the Girl Scouts Heart of the South organization. The camp lake, used for swimming, canoeing and other recreational activities, was almost unusable because of a variety of weeds and algae.

“We had an almost solid green sheet across the water's surface, leaving very little space for swimming,” Collins said. “Grass and weeds were growing up from the bottom, and snakes were becoming a serious issue for the first time, especially near the pier. We needed to do something or close the swimming area.”

Cagle determined Southern naiad to be one of the lake's biggest problems, along with several other plant varieties. He recommended 400 grass carp, which cost about $5 each, as an appropriate biological way to clean up and maintain the 20-acre lake. Several groups agreed to contribute to the project to support the Girl Scout camp, including the Chickasaw County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers and the fish supplier.

“Grass carp are not a cure-all, but in this case, they were ideal,” Cagle said. “More grass carp are needed for severe lake problems, so we recommend stocking at a 20-carp-per-acre ratio. For simple maintenance, 10 carp per acre will do the job. After a few years, new carp need to be brought in because they are not effective when they get large.”

Collins said she could see a vast improvement within a couple of weeks.

“We put the carp in the lake in September and by the time we resumed programming in March, the lake was completely clean,” she said.

Cagle cautioned that the fertility of a lake should not be taken for granted. Extension offices accept water and soil samples to test for fertility.

“Pond managers should watch out for over-the-counter fertilizer products,” he said. “Stocking rates are another issue that can impact the quality of fish.”

Two publications that are available online at http://msucares.com/pubs/ or through county Extension offices are Managing Mississippi Farm Ponds and Small Lakes (Publication 1428) and Aquatic Weed Control Using Grass Carp (Information Sheet 1556).







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