Does Your Pond Have The Winter Blues?

As spring draws closer, now is a good time to consider the health of your lake or pond before the system fully awakens. Spring is a crucial time for most ecosystems as this is the time for reproduction and ensuring the passing on of genes to future generations. Fish, frogs and other cold-blooded residents will soon have the temperatures they need to increase feeding, start breeding and return to a more active routine. The stresses of winter can be seen in most systems in the form of dead or dying fish. Stress for fish can come in a variety of forms; overcrowding, lack of food, poor water quality, age and so on. These stressors, in conjunction with the hardships of a long winter, make fish susceptible to a host of diseases and infections. Solitary, lethargic fish that gravitate towards shallow water in late fall/early spring are usually indicators of natural die off. These fish can often be seen with visible sores or spots that can confirm their condition. Losing a handful of fish in the spring is a natural occurrence and shouldn’t be concerning, however, losing large numbers of fish is a sure sign there are stressors that need addressed. Preventative maintenance is the best way to ensure a good fishery and healthy ecosystem as sick and infected fish are very difficult to save in a natural environment. Aeration systems can be a great tool to increase dissolved oxygen levels and help reduce nutrient levels. Adding structure to ponds in the forms of rock, wood (trees and pallets), or artificial structures (store-bought or homemade) can help reduce stress by providing shelter from predators while also increasing the availability of forage. Stocking baitfish such as fathead minnows or golden shiners can help predators recover from a long winter and ease predatory pressure on bluegill and other resident panfish. Tolerating the growth of aquatic plants and algae will help maintain dissolved oxygen levels, absorb nutrients and provide food and habitat for aquatic life. Complications from overcrowding can be solved by implementing a harvesting plan to free up resources for the remaining fish and encourage spawning success.

Who is A.B. Hillyer? Well, Alec Hillyer is a fishing and outdoor enthusiast! He has extensive knowledge in aquatic biology and earned his Bachelor of Arts in zoo and wildlife biology from Malone University in Canton, Ohio. When not fishing or hunting, he spends his time as a manager at Fender’s Fish Hatchery and is a private lake consultant. He worked for AquaDoc as an Aquatics Biologist and is USDA certified in applying pesticides. Have specific questions for Alec? E-mail him at or follow him on Instagram at alec_outdoors.

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