Managing your lake or pond for recreational fishiing is fun, but it can take a lot of work. With regards to fish management, the first thing every lake owner needs to know is that once fish populations are established fish will need to be removed from the water body on a regular basis. Under-fishing, in addition to an over-abundnace of submergent aquatic vegetation, really is one of the biggest issues that prevents fish populations from remaining healthy, particularly with regards to largemouth bass populations.
In nature, all wildlife populations cycle. This phenomenon is no different within lakes and ponds, but as a lake owner you can impact a variety of factors to ensure the health of your lake as well as the fish populations that live there. Fish management does require work, but the activities necessary are likely within the scope of any lake owners ability, especially if they have the desire to create an outstanding recreational fishery.
Fish need food, water, oxygen, and space. Water quality factors, including oxygen, play a large role in the health of all fish populations, but one of the biggest factors in creating and maintaining healthy fish populations in an adequate food supply. Once everything is in place, lake management and fish management become food supply management. Every lake owner must recognize that the aquatic food chain is the most important factor with regards to fish growth and overall health. This is true whether managing for largemouth bass or channel catfish.
Simply said, fish will not grow if they can not find something to eat. Even in catfish ponds that receive supplemental feed, the basis of the food chain is phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that require nutrients and sunlight to grow. If conditions are right, phytoplankton will flourish and so will zooplankton, which eat phytoplankton. In turn, small fish will eat zooplankton and larger fish will eat them. A lake’s or pond’s food chain is very linear and starts at the bottom. This is exactly why a sound lake fertilization program is necessary.
Although proper management of the aquatic food chain is critical, it’s not the only thing a lake owner needs to do to ensure proper lake and fish management. Fish surveys should be performed annually and the data collected during those surveys should be recorded. Simple surveys can help owners determine the steps necessary actions needed (or not) to keep the lake or pond balanced. And lastly, with a functioning food chain, some good fish population survey data, and proper fish removal (transfer or harvest), the lake should thrive and provide outstanding recreational fishing and wildlife opportunities.
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