From what I understand, for decent fishing a pond needs a few trees on the banks for shading, the banks should have good grass cover to catch any sediment that might flow into the pond, fertilizing and liming can be useful to improve the fishing, and there should be some structures or habitat in the water for the fish to do all their fish hanging-out activities and such.
In the past, there used to be scattered trees around the banks of all three ponds, but a combination of ravenous, vandalous beavers (nature's engineer my foot!?!) and tornadoes left two of the ponds without any trees big enough to shade the edges of the pond.
The trees (small pecan, honey locust, and willow trees) around one of the ponds are slowly starting to regrow which is encouraging, but the other pond hasn't seen that much regrowth of trees yet (mainly because that's the pasture where I usually winter the cows and cattle seem to be really hard on trees over the winter and into spring). I've been thinking about fencing off part of that pond and possibly planting some trees along the bank to recreate the way it used to look, but I've also been thinking about that for years, so who knows if that will ever get done.
Since switching to no-till and ending all the typical tillage operations we used to do on the cropland, it seems like the ponds have really cleared up and instead of having "moss" growing along the banks like there used to be, there are different kinds of "water plants" growing now (I'm not a marine plant guy, so that's as good of a description as I can give). I'm not sure how the fish feel about the whole moss vs. water plant situation, but my gut tells me "water plants" are preferable to fish, people, and cattle. Besides that gut feeling I don't really know.
Building some sort of fish habitat has always been hard to accomplish. About eight years ago, I was clearing some cedars near one of the ponds and since the water level was lower due to a drought (does it ever rain around here!?) I drug cedar trees down to the edge of the water to build a huge brush pile for the fish. But building that brush pile was such gut-busting work that I thought I was going to collapse at any moment and my bleached bones would also become fish habitat. Unless I could find a barge to float in the pond, using a small boat to haul cedar trees out into a pond and then sinking them to build some sort of fish structure that was big enough to do any good seemed almost impossible.
I also tried building a smaller "artificial cedar tree" out of a bucket and a bunch of flexible 1" tubing and PVC I had laying around. I carefully arranged the tubing in the bucket, poured a little concrete in the bottom to keep my careful arrangement of tubing still carefully arranged, found out the tubing wasn't secure enough so I needed to add a little more concrete. Then, the tubing still wasn't anchored, so I kept pouring even more concrete in the bucket until I had a 80 lb. chunk of concrete in a hard to handle bucket with a bunch of stuff sticking out every which way.
After almost flipping the boat upside down trying to throw it overboard, I scrapped that idea until I could figure out something better. I was also kinda bummed for a few days after that because if I couldn't even throw 80 lb. of concrete-filled bucket overboard without almost sinking the boat, how the heck was I gonna haul an alligator into my boat if I ever decided to take up alligator fishing for a living?
I never would have thought that simply trying to build an artificial cedar tree would also lead to a shorter list of future career options. After I finally figured out that I simply needed to get a bigger boat if I ever decided to switch to catching alligators as a career, all was right with the world once again, but I still didn't have a good way to create more fish habitat in the ponds.
A few weeks ago, I was looking online for fish structure/habitat ideas and came across the Anglers United website which had a few ideas for building some fish habitats out of snow fence.
Since I usually find that I'm allergic to spending money if I don't absolutely, positively need to spend money, and I didn't have any snow fence laying around, I looked around and found some 30 gal. barrels. I had originally planned to build an experimental compost tea brewer out these barrels, but after I came to my senses and started to question some of the outlandish claims made about the magical powers of compost tea, that project got put on the back burner.
Those 30 gal. barrels were about 16" in dia. and about 36" tall, so they looked like they would make good substitutes for some rolled up snow fence if I drilled a few holes in them with a hole saw. So I started out by making my version of the Crappie Condo (hopefully it'll also work as a Crappie/lBluegill/Perch Condo) talked about on the Angler's United website.
|30 gallon barrel with a bunch of randomly placed potential holes drawn all over it|
|Finished fish habitat with a bunch of carefully placed drilled holes|
Now the question is, should I add some pieces of tubing crosswise to simulate the branches of a tree? I have some 2" black tubing that would be almost perfect to build fake cedar tree limbs out of.
Next I need to build a few more of these and some Bass Bungalows, sink them in the pond without sinking the boat, and then start reeling in the fish.