During the cold winter months, most people do not give much thought to their ponds since it is too cold to fish. This time of year though is a great time to do some chores that will make your pond more enjoyable when warmer temperatures arrive.
Most ponds are designed with an overflow pipe that incorporates a gate at the deepest part of the pond. This gate can be used to lower the water level of your pond. Most experts recommend exposing between 35 percent and 50 percent of the pond’s bottom. This reduction in total amount of water is called winter drawdown, and it can benefit the pond in many different ways.
Winter drawdown can give you a head start against those weeds that trouble you during warmer weather. Drawdown allows the weeds to dry and be exposed to freezing temperatures. When the pond is refilled in the spring, you can treat the remaining weeds with an aquatic herbicide or hybrid grass carp. In order to be effective, drawdown should be used at least two successive years.
Winter drawdown also can help to control a mildly overcrowded fish population. Reducing the water level forces small fish, like bream, into deeper water. There they are more readily available to predators, such as largemouth bass. This should be done for two successive years, and only in ponds that have sufficient water source to refill in the prescribe time.
An obvious benefit to winter drawdown is repairing or redesigning your pond. Repairs to docks and piers can more easily be made while water levels are low. Structures can also be put in place to serve as cover for fish. These structures can range from brush piles of recycled Christmas trees, to farm tires, or even that dining room suit that you couldn’t sell.
Weed problems in ponds are usually the result of shallow areas. Winter drawdown is a great time to redesign and deepen shallow areas to a minimum of three feet. Steep banks also will help keep pesky weeds from getting a foothold in your pond.
Finally, you can take soil samples from the exposed pond bottom. These soil samples can help determine if lime needs to be applied. Without proper alkalinity in a pond, a fertilization program is a waste of money. Proper alkalinity allows the fertilizer to work longer and provide more opportunities for increased forage fish production and better weed control.
I hope this information will help give you some ideas of ways you can use these cold winter months to increase your enjoyment of your pond in the spring and summer.
DATES TO REMEMBER
March 5: Recertification training, Perry
March 18-19: Advance Landscape Design, Perry, 6-8 p.m.
March 19-21: Spring Plant Sale, Macon
March 28-29: Spring Home and Garden Show, Perry
Production meetings: Please RSVP
Feb. 27: Peanut, noon, Oglethorpe
March 5: Disease management, noon, Oglethorpe
For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston/ for more news about your local Extension office.