In today’s society there really is not much difference the way people use the words “pond” and “lake,” but there is a diffference between the two, although much of it really has to do with semantics. After all, whether a person that has a water body on their property decides to engage in lake management or pond management doesn’t really make a difference because the results should be the same. Philosophically though, a lake and a pond are two entirely different things.
First, ponds are man made whereas lakes are not. In America, we have a bunch of water bodies we call lakes, but most of them are really just ponds and reservoirs. Reservoirs, by their very definition are made-man, most created most by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for trapping and holding surface water. Most of these have been constructed along river channels to supply urban and suburban areas with drinking water, although fishing and other forms of aquatic recreation take place there.
Naturally occurring areas where surface water collects are the real lakes. And honestly, there are very few lakes in the United States. That being said, the technical distinction between a pond and a lake has not been universally standardized. Limnologists (biologists that study ponds and lakes) and freshwater biologists have proposed formal definitions for pond, in part to include “bodies of water where light penetrates to the bottom of the waterbody,” and “bodies of water shallow enough for rooted water plants to grow throughout,” in addition to “bodies of water which lack wave action on the shoreline.”
To me, all these definitions make sense to varying degrees, but each of them have been met with resistance or disapproval, as the defining characteristics are each difficult to measure or verify. Accordingly, some organizations and researchers have settled on technical definitions of pond and lake which rely on size alone. This, I also agree with, but different organizations use different sizes for classifying water bodies.
For all practical purposes, any water body that is less than 5 acres in size I refer to as a pond. On the flip side, any water body greater than 5 acres in size I refer to as a lake, although I will not always hold to this hard-and-fast rule. The physical characteristics of the water body will help me determine whether I am dealing with a large size pond or a small size lake. But even then, it comes down to either pond management or lake management, and the water body really does not care what we call it.
The most important thing is that we do our best to make the system be the best it can be for the organisms using the pond/lake. The aquatic plants will still grow in the water and the fish are already wet, so in the end it’s all the same.