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Old 01/23/09, 01:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: SE Michigan
Posts: 192
farm ponds-cleaning and stocking

We are going into our fifth year of living on our little farm. The earlier years were spent in just getting things more or less the way we wanted them. Last summer I started working on clearing vegetation in our farm pond (about half an acre) that we share with our neighbor. One thing I found out very quickly is that the pond is loaded with leeches, some of them pretty darn big! After the first foray I wore knee-high cotton socks, but still got bitten some.

I had also put some fish into the pond earlier in the summer, but couldn't find any when I started cleaning in September. I know there are turtles and muskrats, so I might have just given those critters a nice catered dinner.

Now in the depths of winter, my thoughts are turning to better ways of cleaning out vegetation and also stocking appropriately. We can't afford to drain the pond and dredge. Besides, it's spring-fed so wouldn't drain completely anyway.

I've looked at some pond sites on the internet, but wondered what kind of experiences and advice HT folks could share with me.

BTW, the vegetation I'm working on is mostly lilypads and arrowheads, with some filamentous algae. I actually like all of them, but in mid to late summer they almost completely cover the pond surface.
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Old 01/23/09, 02:03 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Ohio
Posts: 507
You need some way of keeping the water from getting stagnate. Allot people put a water fountain to keep the water moving. Wood ash is another solution. Use to swim at pond that stock fish that control the algae.
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Old 01/23/09, 02:06 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: in the middle
Posts: 311
we used grass carp in our pond to keep the weeds and lilies at bay and rake the sides as far as we can reach with a rake we made with a longer handle although our pond is only an acer and 10' deep there are chemical herbicide for ponds but we wanted to pass on that . we also had snappers turtles and a good 22 got rid of those. We used more than recommended of grass carp because we thought we might loose a few to the grey huron that hangs out in the pond.
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Old 01/23/09, 02:37 PM
ldc ldc is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: S. Louisiana
Posts: 2,387
But the use of grass carp depends on your state and county; they can aggressively eat EVERYTHING, and they are forbidden in parts of the US, as they outcompete native fish. ldc
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Old 01/23/09, 02:46 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: northcentral MN
Posts: 14,962
Muskrats don't eat fish normally and turtles don't eat many because they are too fast. Turtles are more likely to eat the dead fish they find.

I don't believe that MI allows grass carp. Unless you are willing to use herbicides I think you are stuck with manually removing some of the plants but that may be illegal too. The algae can be controlled somewhat by placing slices of straw around the edge of the pond in the spring and then once more in mid-July.

I have used a large aluminum rake that I threw from shore in my ponds. It isn't something you want to do all day but a few throws each day will be enough for a small pond since you don't want to eliminate the plants.

Aerators do little or nothing to control plants. They might have some impact on filamentous algae but it's minimal.
"Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?" Hobbs
"I'm not sure that man needs the help." Calvin
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Old 01/23/09, 03:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 90
You have a couple of biological options available to you, contact a county extension agent for clarification. I am in Texas, so availability may be different in your area.

- Triploid Grass Carp
This is a hybrid sterile offspring of a cross between the normal grass carp and another species. These fish cannot reproduce, and therefor need to be restocked every seven years, but are highly effective at vegetation control without disrupting local habitats.

- Tilipia (numerous sub species)
These are tropical fish that die in water temperatures of 50F or less. They eat EVERYTHING if allowed to reproduce and can quickly ruin an ecosystem, but in your area, they would not make it through the winter. Annually restock as needed. These fish also filter algae.

I use to work at a 200 acre container tree nursery, they used 1/2 acre ponds to recycle irrigation water runoff. Because they used osmocote fertilizer, they had huge problems with algal blooms in the ponds clogging the pumps. Vigorous aeration that caused a lot of water movement (about 3 inch waves at the bank) was effective in reducing filamentatious algae. Aeration plus annual Tilapia stocking eliminated the problem. I doubt that aeration would be necessary in your circumstance however, unless you have a large amount of agricultural runoff feeding your pond.

I am sure there are other options available, your local extension agent will be able to help with species and stocking rate suggestions.

Last edited by JMJones0424; 01/23/09 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 01/23/09, 03:38 PM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 5,964
Don't be so sure that the fish became critter food. I had an old farm pond and one day was at a mall store where they were selling "feeder" goldfish for a few cents each.

I got about $10.00 worth and dumped them in the pond. I never saw them after that. I saw newts and other wild fish, but no gold fish.

When the pond outlet pipe eroded around the pipe and let the water level down, I figured it was a good time to drain it and dredge it out, so the local guy with a backhoe came and let the water out.

A few hours later I went back to the pond to see how far down the water level was and if there were any fish left in it. What few inches of remaining water there was was a sea of gold!! Those gold fish had grown - from about an inch to some almost 5" long - and they had been breeding because there were ALOT more than what I had stocked.

Sadly, the raccoons must have heard about the "all you can eat fish buffet" because within a few nights all the fish were gone. I still never dredged it out or replaced the pipe to let the water build up again. That sounds like a project for this year!

And I will gladly restock it with "feeder" goldfish.
Michael W. Smith in North-West Pennsylvania

"Everything happens for a reason."
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Old 01/23/09, 03:49 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Southern Taxifornia
Posts: 6,287
We have a lot of the same problems with our pond. Our biggest problem is milfoil weeds growing up from the bottom and choking the life out of the pond.

I want to get an aeration windmill to protect against this, and It will help keep the pond from freezing over in the winter.

This site sells them explains them very well.

I just found this site for a digestive enzyme that is supposed to kill off the weeds and clear up the water.
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Last edited by Common Tator; 01/23/09 at 03:56 PM.
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Old 01/23/09, 04:25 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: northcentral MN
Posts: 14,962
You can send me the money you would spend on enzymes or bacteria and I'll guarantee the same results.
"Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?" Hobbs
"I'm not sure that man needs the help." Calvin
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Old 01/23/09, 04:59 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Michigan's thumb
Posts: 15,894
If your pond is stagnate, you can put ducks in it to churn the water with their legs. They love snails, don't know if they will eat leeches, but if the leeches are small enough, I'm sure they will. Filamentous algae is my favorite because you can remove it. Most ponds have an algae bloom in the spring because they get plenty of sunlight. Once the lilys grow and cover the surface, the algae can't get enough sunlight and die off.

You could start a small plant selling business, selling arrowhead and lillies. If your lilly is the wild yellow water lilly, you have to contact DNR about selling it, but I think if it is growing on your own property it is not a problem
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Old 01/23/09, 05:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: SE Michigan
Posts: 192
Thanks, all. I welcome other suggestions.

I think grass carp are not permitted in Michigan even though this pond doesn't connect to any waterways. I think what drainage there is comes from natural seepage through the sandy loam soil, probably to a limestone bench farther down. Although the level went down through the drought of summer, there was always water and when I stuck my hand down about 15" I could feel a cold stream. I wish there was some way to find out exactly where the feeder springs are.

That's an interesting idea about the tilapia. As I remember, however, they were pretty pricey from the stocking truck. They come up from Arkansas a couple of times a summer so we pay for both the fish and a gasoline surcharge.

We definitely don't want to use toxic chemicals. I did try barley straw last summer but couldn't see that it did anything useful. Has anyone else had success with it?

BTW, about muskrats: they build some pretty amazing houses come fall and I see them swimming around while the water is open. But in the summer they disappear. We just never see them. Where do they go? This is an enclosed pond without any connection to other water.

A couple of winters ago one of them ventured up to the barn and discovered the heated stock tank. For awhile he thought it was his own private spa until he finally got the hint or maybe went into hibernation.
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Old 01/23/09, 07:33 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Indiana, USA
Posts: 13,853
The best thing for any farm pond, is a bubbling aerator. It oxygenates the lower layers, which will help digest the muck, which feeds agae and weeds. Wind powered aerators are good but quite expensive. Fountains will aerate the water, but cause a lot of water evaporation, which may not matter for your pond, since it is spring fed. look for an inexpensvie electric air pump with hose and air stone.

Bass will clean out the leeches.

Muskrats are nice to see, but they multiply like crazy and will ruin pond banks and push dirt into the pond. Plus, when their dens cave in (and they will), it will be unsafe to walk around the pond. A hearty soul and some #10 body traps placed near their entrances, will clean them out - for the present anyway. Muskrats are out early and late, during warm weather.
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Old 01/23/09, 07:50 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: East Central Kansas
Posts: 190
This site might be helpful. They have a pretty active forum.
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Old 01/23/09, 09:26 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 6,725
I put Muscovy's on my pond. They keep it clean.

When I bought this place about 16 years ago the pond was dried up and we actually baled hay out of it. We dug it out and when it filled with water it also filled with weeds. I don't know what kind, but there was a lot of frogs down there and tons of green slim around the edges. It was that way for a few years until I put the muscovies on it.

I don't know if they would help your problem, but it might be worth a try, and as a bonus, you get some meat for freezer camp.
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Old 01/23/09, 09:39 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: northcentral MN
Posts: 14,962
I doubt MI allows tilapia either but your state DNR could be a bit more science based than MN. If they do you could overnight a box full of small fish cheaper than having them delivered by truck probably. They grow pretty fast and taste like sunfish. You'd have to fish them out early before the water drops below about 80 degrees or use a seine later.

I use straw in my commercial fish ponds and it does help. Spot treating with copper sulfate can keep filamentous algae under control.

Sonar is safe but is very expensive. It costs me over $300 per 1/2 acre pond 4' deep. It will kill every plant including any grass that touches the water.

Selling the water lilies like Maura suggested might be worth checking into.
"Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?" Hobbs
"I'm not sure that man needs the help." Calvin
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Old 01/24/09, 09:30 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 5,872
Try Auburn University. ALEARN Recreational fishing. Auburn is one of the leading research universities on pond management and water usage. Lots of good info there, much of which could apply in Michigan. Check with MI DNR about use of grass carp and tipalia--I don't think they are legal.... Also check DNR and DEQ for permit requirements for use of any chemicals--even in private ponds. (But I have seen a pond management chem in Meijer)
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Old 01/24/09, 12:28 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Twining, Mi.
Posts: 19,965
Fishhead, You can use copper sulfate in your pond & it doesn't harm the fish?

We also tried the barley straw for algea problem last spring but really couldn't tell a big difference yet either, although someone told us that's what golf courses use in there ponds to keep them so clean.

We have trout & bluegill's in our pond & we also swim in it so I don't like to use anything toxic either but last year late in the summer we used some stuff we bought at Menards. I will have to go out to the garage & pull it out so I can tell you the name of it, but it didn't kill any fish and we could still swim. It seemed to make it look almost like a lake does when it's turning over in the spring. I am going to try it again this spring. It came in a gallon & you use only so much according to the size of your pond.
Plus we use a rake & rake out what we can.
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Old 01/24/09, 11:43 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: northcentral MN
Posts: 14,962
Yes copper sulfate is safe for fish if you only spot treat. If you treat the whole pond at once it becomes less safe but it can still be done if you measure carefully and your pond water is buffered sufficiently.

Straw needs to be put out as soon as the ice goes out to get the most benefit. It should also be placed around the edge of the entire pond. I put 3" slices about every 25' and place them right on the edge so they are in shallow water.

If you have rusty crayfish in your area they will eliminate a lot of plants. If they aren't already found in your area I would NOT introduce them.
"Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?" Hobbs
"I'm not sure that man needs the help." Calvin
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Old 01/25/09, 12:56 AM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 90
Tilapia are allowed in michigan, they will die every winter once water temps get below 50F

Check out this site for allowed species.,1607,7...263---,00.html

The common carp is on that list, i don't know if it is a plant eater like the grass carp. I don't know why triploid grass carp are not allowed, likely just bureaucratic stupidity. They cannot reproduce, therefor shouldn't be a problem. For a $250 fee, plus $100 annual renewal, you could register as a research facility to be permitted to stock them, but at that price you could pay someone to clean your tank.

Hope the site gives you some more direction, sorry I couldn't be of more help.
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Old 01/25/09, 03:01 AM
In Remembrance
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,844
Last summer my pond has a lot of floating scum and bottom weeds. Guy at Farmers' Co-op recommended copper sulfate. Spread a 50-lb bag around. Algae and weeds gone within days. However, it also killed all of the grass carp. Asked manager at Co-op about that. He said I wasn't given full instructions, which were to only treat part of the pond at a time. Otherwise the sulfate can suffucate fish.

I only saw dead carp though. I put in four and found about 40. They aren't suspose to breed, but apparently did. I doubt they were freed minnows which grew.

My pond is also spring fed.
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