Christmas Trees for Fishponds

Christmas Trees for Fishponds

A family tradition of cutting a fresh tree is something Americans have done for generations.

There is something special about the traditions of a live Christmas tree. For many families the tradition of cutting and decorating the tree is the prefect start to the holidays. But after you are done decking the halls and hanging the tinsel most of the 13 million Americans who have a live Christmas tree all find themselves asking the questions of “what to do with it?”. There is the ever-popular bonfire, while exciting, it burns in seconds and the excitement is over, so why not allow your Christmas tree to continue to give back all year round?

Did you know that Christmas trees make great habitat for fishponds?  By sinking the tree into the depths of your fishpond you can increase the complexity of the aquatic habitat. The woody debris provides a place for aquatic macroinvertebrates to live. In addition, increasing and improving the habitat availability of your fishpond will increase the health and diversity of it. Over time your tree will begin to host new vegetation which will attract small insects, snails, and crawfish. This is a buffet for bait fish and in turn will also attract larger predator species for you to catch. While the needles of the tree will likely be gone in about three months, some trees have been found up to ten years later.

Here are the steps for recycling your tree:

  1. Remove all ornaments, tinsel, and other manmade products from the tree (do not use artificial trees).
  2. Place a weight of some type of the trunk of the tree. This can be done by adding cement in a 5-gallon bucket or with other weighted items such as a cinder block. This should be attached with wire, as most ropes will deteriorate over time.
  3. Ideally the tree is placed upright in an area of the pond that is deep enough to cover the entire tree, when upright. Keep in mind that water levels will change of the year, and you want to place the tree somewhere it will be submerged all year.
  4. When picking your location remember that placing the tree in areas of the pond with limited bottom habitat will increase its effectiveness. If you have a fish finder, use it to determine the areas of your pond that are lacking bottom cover.
  5. Ideally, over the years you will place trees in a clustered area. This tends to be more effective at attracting fish than a single tree.

For every avid fisherman, recycling your Christmas tree is truly a gift that will keep on giving. While the holidays seem to fly by, your sunken tree will continue to provide an improved habitat for the fish and in a short time will become a support structure for your aquatic food chain, and that’s something even ole’ Saint Nick would be excited about!

*IMPORTANT INFORMATION: this should only be done in privately owned ponds. Before adding anything to public waters you should contact your local Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer. For more information on fish attractants visit FWC website at: FWC Fish Attractors

Fish Camp: Managing for Great Fishing

Fish Camp: Managing for Great Fishing

There are few things better than fishing, especially when you are catching fish! Taking time to manage your fish pond can make a tremendous difference in the quality of fishing you will have. In this session of Fish Camp we are joined by Dr. Chuck Cichra to learn about basic strategies to mange your pond for great fishing.

Dr. Cichra walks pond owners through pond development, management and stocking strategies that take your fishing from good to great. To view the webinar in full go to Managing For Great Fishing

Fish Camp: Managing for Great Fishing

Fish Camp: Aquatic Weeds

Weeds in our pond can be a real issue. However, much of the vegetation in our pond is beneficial to its overall health. In this edition of Fish Camp Dr. James Leary walks pond owners through the process of identifying problem plants and developing a management plan.

Once a plan is in place, pond owners should be able to manage the vegetative growth of their ponds to ensure that both native and stocked aquatic life have a healthy food source to thrive on, but also that your fishing experience is not hindered by aggravating weeds.

In this webinar you will learn:

  • How to identify what plants are in your pond
  • How to develop an action plan for your weed management
  • How to manage dissolved oxygen to avoid a fish kill
  • And more

Please use this link to view the webinar in full: Fish Camp: Aquatic Weed Management 

Determining the Volume of Your Pond

Determining the Volume of Your Pond

Father and daughter fishing in farm pond. Photo Credit: Kalyn Waters

Ponds are an important part of our lives. They add valuable water and ascetics to our properties, are home to multiple species of wildlife, not to mentions, for many of us provide our favorite pastime- FISHING! In the Florida Panhandle, many people are lucky enough to own their own fishpond. However, in many cases people do not have any idea of how big their pond is!

Knowing the size of a pond is critical for just about every pond management decision. To determine the volume of water in your pond the first step is to determine the acreage or surface area of your pond. Fortunately, there are some great online tools to help determine the acreage and surface area of a pond. One simple tool can be found at: fishhttps://findpondsize.com/nonmobile.php

This website allows you to locate your pond using your address and then determine the surface area in square feet and acres in just a few clicks. Image 1 shows an example of a pond that was measured using this tool.

Image 1: Aerial image of a fishpond on a farm. Outline of pond is measured and depicted in red.

If you do not have an electronic device to measure the depth of your pond, don’t worry! Measuring the depth can easily be done by boat and using a weighted line. Take measurements in two transects across your pond. For ponds less than two acres, take measurements at 5 points on each transect. You will then use this information to calculate the average depth.

Graphic showing how to measure average pond depth using two transects across pond.

Once you have the total surface area and the average depth you can easily calculate the total gallons and volume of your pond. If math is not your strength, there are several websites online that will do it for you. Here is one of several options: https://www.lakeandpondsolutions.com/helpful-info/acerage-volume-calculations/

Knowing the correct size and surface area of your pond will allow you make informed decisions that will increase your ability to manage everything from weed control to stocking rate. From weed control, pH balance, herbicide application, determining what size aerator to purchase or how many fish to stock, the first step is to determine the volume of water your pond contains.

 

Fish Camp: Managing for Great Fishing

Fish Camp: Pond Health Webinar

There are several considerations to be taken in fishpond management. During the first of a three-part webinar series, Dr. Laura Tiu and Daniel Leonard talk about how to manage your pond to optimize its health.

Considerations on liming your pond, fertilizing your aquatic vegetation and how to manage dissolved oxygen are topics address in this recording.

 

The webinar in its entirety can be viewed at: Fish Camp: Pond Health

One of the recommended methods of tracking the health of your pond is enjoyable! As a pond manager you should be gathering simple information about the fish you catch. By tracking the fish that you catch, you can look at presence, size distribution and relative abundance of adult fish populations, which is directly linked to the health of your body of water.

When logging your catch, the following should be considered:

  • Date – You will want to evaluate the catches from the same time of year over several years
  • Weight- not only is the length of the fish important but also collect the weight
  • Type/Species of each fish caught and approximate maturity of that fish

By logging your catches over the years, you will begin to see trends and have more information to make pond management decisions. More helpful information can be found at:

How to Survey the Fish in Your Pond

How to Assess the Fish in Your Farm Pond

 

 

Wildlife Habitat Management – Springtime Reminders

Wildlife Habitat Management – Springtime Reminders

Spring can be a busy time of year for those of us who are interested in improving wildlife habitat on the property we own/manage. Spring is when we start many efforts that will pay-off in the fall. If you are a weekend warrior land manager like me there is always more to do than there are available Saturdays to get it done. The following comments are simple reminders about some habitat management activities that should be moving to the top of your to-do list this time of year.

Aquatic Weed Management – If you had problematic weeds in you pond last summer, chances are you will have them again this summer. NOW (spring) is the time to start controlling aquatic weeds. The later into the summer you wait the worse the weeds will get and the more difficult they will be to control. The risk of a fish-kill associated with aquatic weed control also increases as water temperatures and the total biomass of the weeds go up. Springtime is “Just Right” for Using Aquatic Herbicides

Cogongrass Control – Spring is actually the second-best time of year to treat cogongrass, fall (late September until first frost) is the BEST time. That said, ideally cogongrass will be treated with herbicide every six months, making spring and fall important. When treating spring regrowth make sure that there are green leaves at least one foot long before spraying. Spring is also an excellent time of year to identify cogongrass patches – the cottony, white blooms are easy to spot. Identify Cogongrass Now – Look for the Seedheads; Cogongrass – Now is the Best Time to Start Control

Cogongrass seedheads are easily spotted this time of year.
Photo credit: Mark Mauldin

 

Warm-Season Food Pots – There is a great deal of variation in when warm season food plots can be planted. Assuming warm-season plots will be panted in the same areas as cool-season plots, the simplest timing strategy is to simply wait for the cool-season plots to play out (a warm, dry May is normally the end of even the best cool-season plot) and then begin preparation for the warm-season plots. This transition period is the best time to deal with soil pH issues (get a soil test) and control weeds. Seed for many varieties of warm-season legumes (which should be the bulk of your plantings) can be somewhat hard to find, so start looking now. If you start early you can find what you want, and not just take whatever the feed store has. Warm Season Food Plots for White-tailed Deer

Deer Feeders – Per FWC regulations deer feeders need to be in continual operation for at least six months prior to hunting over them. Archery season in the Panhandle will start in mid-October, meaning deer feeders need to be up and running by mid-April to be legal to hunt opening morning. If you have plans to move or add feeders to your property, you’d better get to it pretty soon. FWC Feeding Game

 

Dove Fields – The first phase of dove season will begin in late September. When you look at the “days to maturity” for the various crops in the chart below you might feel like you’ve got plenty of time. While that may be true, don’t forget that not only do you need time for the crop to mature, but also for seeds to begin to drop and birds to find them all before the first phase begins. Because doves are particularly fond of feeding on clean ground, controlling weeds is a worthwhile endeavor. If you are planting on “new ground”, applying a non-selective herbicide several weeks before you begin tillage is an important first step to a clean field, but it adds more time to the process. As mentioned above, it’s always pertinent to start sourcing seed well in advance of your desired planting date. Timing is Crucial for Successful Dove Fields

 

There are many other projects that may be more time sensitive than the ones listed above. These were just a few that have snuck up on me over the years. The links in each section will provide more detailed information on the topics. If you have questions about anything addressed in the article feel free to contact me or your county’s UF/IFAS Extension Natural Resource Agent.