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Pond Renovation - Considering Fish and Wildlife

Pond Renovation—Considering Fish and Wildlife

By Daryl Fisher, Area Biologist
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism
Garden City, Kansas

The extended drought (and in some places continuing) in Kansas, has been hard on wildlife and, in some areas, fish. An aspect of the drought that may be a long-term benefit for fish is the resulting need and opportunity to renovate and deepen farm ponds that are essential sources of livestock water.

Over time, a farm pond can collect a lot of silt, reducing its depth and water holding capacity. The renovation of the pond will provide a longer-lasting livestock water source and can make the pond suitable for fishing. The following recommendations can apply to new construction as well as renovation of older ponds.

If you plan to renovate a farm pond, you need to be certain that the pond is not deepened so much that it exposes a soil layer that allows water to seep out. Exposed layers, such as sand, gravel, or shale can effectively drain a pond. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff may be able to arrange a soil probe prior to renovation work to reveal the water-holding capabilities of the soil layers within and below the pond. To reduce erosion and improve water quality, ask the NRCS staff for recommendations about seeding disturbed areas around the pond.

If you are considering future fishing opportunities within your pond renovation, there are recommendations to consider. To help ensure fish survival during periods of reduced water levels and during winter, a minimum depth should be planned. A pond that relies on surface runoff in western Kansas should be 15 feet deep over a quarter of the impounded area, and an eastern Kansas pond should be 10 feet deep over a quarter of the impounded area. No more than 20 percent of the impounded area should be less than 2 feet deep, to reduce problems associated with too much emergent vegetation. Underwater, shoreline slopes of about 3 to 1 are generally recommended.

When the pond renovation is complete and it is still dry, you can take the opportunity to place anchored or weighted brush in locations that will be submerged when the pond fills. This will provide desired fish habitat and improve fishing opportunities. Specific fish stocking recommendations for a renovated or new pond can be obtained from the local Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) fisheries biologist. This will get the fish populations off to a good start.

If waterfowl hunting might be a desired use of the renovated pond rather than fishing, then a larger amount of shallow water areas may be constructed or left. This allows the potential for additional emergent vegetation that could encourage some more use by migrating waterfowl and potentially further duck hunting opportunities.

Regardless of the intended use of the renovated pond, fencing to reduce or eliminate direct livestock access to the shoreline will improve the water quality in the pond. The result of less hoof action, less erosion, and an increase in vegetation is clean, filtered water coming into the pond. Livestock can be excluded from the shoreline and still use the pond as a water source by installing a pipeline from the clean water above the dam to a stock tank below. If livestock access cannot be eliminated, then fencing to allow access to only a small portion of the pond will still significantly improve water quality over unlimited access to the entire shoreline.

To learn about current programs available to assist with livestock watering and other opportunities to address natural resource concerns, please contact your local NRCS office or conservation district office located at your local county U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at offices.usda.gov). Information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.