Reef Relief

Constructing And Adding Structure To Small Ponds Can Turn Them Into Mini Fishing Hot Spots

story by TREY ILES, LDWF Public Information

It’s hard to drive anywhere in Louisiana and not pass a small pond along the way. Usually man made, these tiny bodies of water offer the owner a chance to craft a private fishing spot he or she can enjoy any time of the year.

Making it into a vibrant angling locale, however, may seem to be a laborious and expensive process.

Not at all, said Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist Manager Brian Heimann. In fact, fashioning a personal fishing honey-hole just takes a little creativity. The key is constructing natural or artificial habitat, or structure, that fish would love to call home.

“The addition of artificial reef structure offers cover for a variety of fish,’’ Heimann said. “Most ponds are stocked with bream, bass and catfish. Bream and bass are structure oriented fish. Structure can provide food, habitat and protection for the young, depending on the size of the structure.’’

Heimann offers these tips for adding reefs to small ponds.

HOW TO GET STARTED
“If you’re building a new pond, it’s easier to add structure when the pond is dry,’’ Heimann said. “You’re able to build the structure in the best location and design it to best fit your needs.’’

Generally, the recommendation is to locate structure in 2 to 10 feet of water and cover about one-third of the pond’s total acreage.

You want the structures to be clustered. Five to 15 structures in a cluster is a good rule of thumb. This way the structure covers a larger area.

“Many ponds are dug as a source of fill for house pads and they’re dug really deep,’’ Heimann said. “In south Louisiana, during the summer deeper water will stratify and create a thermocline. Unless aeration is added, fish will not be in this area due to low oxygen levels. However, don’t completely eliminate the deeper areas for adding structure because fish will use it during cooler months.

If you are building a pond, construction of the pond is something that should be done with thought as to the use and maintainability of the pond. Good planning and construction can minimize the maintenance issues that can occur with a pond, and can maximize the benefits that the pond provides. That is a whole other story, though.

WHAT MATERIALS TO USE
“Let your imagination run wild,’’ Heimann said. “You want to keep in mind, as a pond owner, you’ll be fishing near the structures. So you want to make it fisherman friendly. PVC pipe and vinyl tubing works great and is snag free. Don’t use things like barbed wire or chain link fence. It will provide structure but hooks will snag easily and fishing will be difficult.’’

It’s best to use material that has varied complexity to it. So instead of just one big concrete culvert dropped into a pond, you will want something such as several milk crates secured together and anchored down and something with different size holes and openings. That way, you will provide areas for small fish to find cover as well as larger fish.

Heimann said structure can be made from artificial or natural materials.

“One of the best things you can use is brush piles,’’ Heimann said. “If you can cut brush, small trees, or large branches they will provide habitat variety. A large branch left intact is good. You can drop the base of the branch near shore and allow it to extend out into deeper water. This will provide complex habitat at different depths.’’

Wooden stakes and old wooden pallets secured together and anchored work well, too. PVC and vinyl tubing are good and relatively cheap. A 100-foot role of quarter inch black vinyl tubing can be purchased for about $25-30 and is sold at hardware stores. Corrugated drain pipe is another item in which structure can be made. A 100-foot roll of that can be purchased for around $50.

“I don’t encourage people to try to plant aquatic vegetation in ponds,’’ Heimann said. “It is beneficial in large water bodies. However, in small private ponds, it generally ends up getting out of control and becomes a nuisance then you’re left having to treat it or stock grass carp.’’

ARE SPAWNING BEDS A GOOD IDEA?
They are indeed and they’re fairly cheap to make as well.

“Pea or road gravel works well,’’ Heimann said. “Generally you want to place the gravel 3-4 inches thick. The area doesn’t have to be large however bigger is better. An area 10 to 20 feet square will work. I’ve seen people use inexpensive kiddie pools, fill them with gravel and sink them. This helps keep the gravel from sinking into the mud.’’

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR THE STRUCTURE TO WORK?
Just a matter of weeks, Heimann said.

“You’ll start getting what’s called periphyton growth a few weeks after the structure is deployed,’’ Heimann said. “If you’ve ever reached down in the water and grabbed something that feels slimy, it’s periphyton. Once structures are colonized by periphyton it provides a food source for macroinvertebrates or microscopic living things. The fish community will figure out pretty quick that the structures provide food and cover and will locate in the area. ’’

Heimann said it’s a good idea to mark each structure so you’ll remember where it is located. This can be as simple as putting out a duck decoy.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For more information, contact Brian Heimann at bheimann@wlf.la.gov or 225-765-2337.

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