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Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service

Pond Problems

Aquatic Vegetation

Pond plants are generally beneficial, providing feeding areas for fish, refuge for small fish from bass, and protecting shorelines from wave erosion. However, when plant growth becomes a nuisance, several approaches can be used to manage the problem.

The problem plant must be identified before correct management steps can be taken. Herbicides or other control measures that work on one plant may have no effect on another plant, or even make the problem worse. Collect a fresh sample of the plant and make a sketch of your pond. Take both to your county Extension office for assistance in identification and advice on management options.

There are two common reasons that plants get out of control in ponds. First, too many nutrients may be getting into the pond from sources such as livestock or overfertilized yards. This often leads to excessive growth of algae. Filamentous algae is stringy, lacks any type of leaf, and often resembles green fiberglass insulation. Planktonic algae is visible only under the microscope, but when overly abundant it gives the water a thick green color, making it difficult to see a shallow submerged object.

Another reason for excessive plant growth is that there may be too many shallow areas in the pond. Areas with less than three to four feet of water are ideal for aquatic plant growth. Many ponds are built with improper shorelines slopes. Livestock around a pond can also trample banks and dams, creating shallow, weed-prone edges.

Herbicides offer quick results, but if the underlying cause of the problem is not corrected, plant growth will reoccur. Grass carp offer an option for controlling most rooted aquatic plants, but if overstocked, these fish can completely clean out a pond and leave no feeding or refuge areas for forage fish. Before choosing between grass carp, herbicides, and other control options, pond owners should read the following fact sheets available through the Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service.

  • SRAC-360, "Aquatic Weed Management - Control Methods."
  • SRA-361, "Aquatic Weed Management - Herbicides."
  • CR_9202, "Grass Carp for Pond Weed Management."

Preventing Pond Problems

A pond that is built wrong or in the wrong place will have constant problems. Do not rely solely on advice from your neighbors or bulldoze operator. You county Soil Conservation Service (SCS) office provides expert advice on pond construction and design without charge. Although cost share money for pond construction is less available than in the past, your SCS office still provides on-site design assistance and specifications that help ensure your pond is built the right way.

Here are some items to keep in mind when planning a new fishing pond:

Look for trouble above and around your proposed pond site.


The following items can cause serious pond problems:
  • Pesticides and fertilizer from yards or farmland.
  • Oil and drilling fluids from oil wells.
  • Large amounts of leaves - beware of too many trees nearby.
  • Wastes from confined animal operations.

Also of concern are "trash" fish from ponds higher in the watershed. Fish can wash out of ponds and travel overland during heavy rains.

Deepen pond edges to prevent weedy areas.

Areas with less than three to four feet of water depth are ideal for rooted aquatic plants that may interfere with fishing or spoil a view. Survey and stake the waterline before beginning construction. Consider deepening the edge if the water will be less than one foot deep when you are at a point three feet out from the waterline. Soil removed in edge deepening can be used in the dam or to construct fishing berms jutting out into pond or pushed up if fill is well compacted.

An exception would be a pond owner wishing to attract waterfowl. In this case, shallow areas might be desirable for promoting the growth of plants used by ducks.

Put a bottom drain in your pond.

Being able to drain water from a pond can save money and improve your ability to manage your pond in many ways:
  • Should you ever need to control trash fish, you can either do so by totally or partially draining the pond to reduce the amount of expensive fish toxicant needed to kill fish.
  • Repair work on the spillway or dam is facilitated.
  • Lowering pond water level is sometimes recommended to help control pond weeds and excess bluegill reproduction.
  • Drains which pull overflow off the bottom of the pond improve conditions for fish by discharging deep, poor quality water.

Avoid building a very deep pond.

Deep ponds build up a large amount of cold, oxygen-poor water on the bottom. This can suddenly mix with top waters as weather cools in the fall, causing a massive fish kill due to lack of oxygen.

A deep pond cannot be stocked with more fish than one of average depth (7 to 15 feet). It is the number of surface acres that determines how much good fishing a pond can provide, not the volume of water (acre feet).

Keep the dam clear of all tress and shrubs.

When a large tree or shrub dies, the roots may decay leaving paths for water to eventually breach the dam. Trees and shrubs should be removed from dams each year while they are still small.

Follow recommended fish stocking practices.

With few exceptions, the following species should be kept out of fishing ponds: crappie, bullheads (mudcats), flathead catfish, green sunfish (goggle eye perch), golden shiners, goldfish, and shad. All have problems that generally make them unsuited for farm ponds. Never empty bait buckets into the pond - dump them on the ground to avoid introducing minnows, a major pest to most ponds.

The standard stocking recommendation for new and renovated fishing ponds in Oklahoma is 300 to 500 bluegill in the fall, followed by 100 largemouth bass and 50 channel catfish in the spring. Fathead minnows and redear sunfish are also used. Crappie are not recommended for most farm ponds. If the pond owner is able to successfully manage for lots of big, hungry largemouth bass, the number of crappie young can be kept down.

Fence cattle out and install a freeze-proof watering tank below the dam.

When too many cattle are given free access to ponds, they badly erode pond banks and dams and muddy the water, making conditions less than desirable for fish production. An investment in some fencing, a freeze-proof tank, and a through-the-dam supply pipe can have numerous benefits.
  • No cattle lost due o falling through the ice.
  • No more hard work chopping ice so cattle can drink.
  • Longer pond life.
  • Better fishing thanks to more sunlight penetration and increased food supply for fish.
  • Increased numbers of deer and other wildlife thanks to growth of food- and shelter-providing plants around the pond.
For more information on pond problems in Oklahoma County call the Oklahoma County OSU Extension Center at (405) 713-1125 or e-mail your name, mailing address and phone number to ray.ridlen@okstate.edu.

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