By William Heartsill
AUBURN, Alabama — Spring and summer bass and bluegill fishing is in full swing. While it is a little late this year to start, you can still manage the fertility of your pond to keep the fishing good for the rest of the season.
Dr. Rusty Wright, an Alabama Extension fisheries specialist, has some advice on how to get your pond ready for spring.
Time to Get a Water Sample
While late winter or early spring would be better, there is still time this year to have the pond water tested for alkalinity and hardness. “Now is the time to touch base with your county Extension office and to get a water sample tested,” said Wright. “Keeping the alkalinity and hardness above 20 parts per million with liming is important to allow fertilizer to work or just have a healthy productive pond.”
Pond fertilization is a process that helps shade out weed problems by keeping water green and light from reaching the bottom of the pond. Fertilization done correctly can enhance fishing and fish abundance.
“We’ve had a particularly warm winter, so this year keep your eye out for weed issues,” Wright warned. “Make sure there are no weeds growing in your pond before starting a fertilization program.
“If you fertilize a pond with weeds in it, you’re going to strengthen the weeds already there.”
In addition to the warm winter, the 2016 severe drought contributed to an increased weed presence this fishing season.
According to Wright, “because of the drought, water levels in many ponds dramatically decreased, leaving dry banks with grasses and other plants growing on them.”
“We are likely to see a lot of algae this spring and summer. These are things to get on top of early, don’t wait too long to deal with them, and if you do have weeds, don’t fertilize.”
Right Time To Fertilize
Wright said the best time to start to fertilize is when the water temperature hits about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is usually late February or early March in central Alabama. However, it is not too late to start now if there are no significant weeds in the pond.
There are several types of fertilizer available including liquid fertilizer and powder fertilizer.
“Fertilize every 10 to 14 days until the water clarity is between 18 and 24 inches, using a gallon of liquid fertilizer per acre, or four to six pounds per acre if you are using powder fertilizer.”
Wright also cautioned pond owners to use care in how they apply fertilizer to their ponds.
“It is important to make sure your fertilizer doesn’t go to the bottom of pond. To prevent this, dilute the liquid fertilizer with about 2-3 parts water to 1 part fertilizer and mix slowly in the prop wash of a boat. If spreading from shore, dilute it more and slosh it out. With the powder, make sure there are no lumps in it, go to the up wind side of the pond in a few spots and scatter it across the surface.”
Wright’s final piece of advice for maintaining a healthy fish population is to do a good job harvesting small bass.
“April and May is when fishing should be at its best for largemouth bass, so you can get quite a bit of harvesting done at this time,” Wright said. He recommends taking out 10 pounds of bass an acre each year if you don’t fertilize, and if you do fertilize take out 20 to 25 pounds per acre.
Harvesting small bass, 14 inches in length and under, provides more food for bass to get larger so you can enjoy catching bigger fish.
Featured image by Kozlik/Shutterstock.com