Sometimes winter is overlooked as a season for some great pond improvement opportunities. People might think of ice fishing or maybe a little ice skating, but most folks don’t recognize the opportunity to improve the structure and cover for their fishery.
If your ice becomes thick enough, winter ice cover can provide a unique and convenient opportunity to add some habitat and cover structure to your pond. The ice makes it easy to position materials like tree limbs, brush bundles, artificial structures and even stones. Simply pile the materials on the ice, add some weights if necessary (depending on material) and wait for the ice to melt in the Spring. As the pond ice melts, the new structure will simply sink to the bottom of the pond where it will be inhabited by your fish. This is much simpler than trying to carry materials over open water in a boat and will be a great improvement for the quality of your fishery.
I am frequently asked what can be done to improve fishery conditions in a pond. I frequently tell people that their primary issue is one of habitat, or more often than not: the lack of suitable habitat for the game fish that they want.
Fish can live in just about any pond, but to have a thriving fishery, the fish need adequate habitat, structure and cover. What does that mean?
Habitat is a broad term referring to the overall environment that the fish are living in, including biological aspects as well as physical features. Habitat includes areas where food, shelter, and spawning conditions exist.
Structure is also a broad term that can refer to just about anything that makes a “feature” on the bottom of a pond or lake that can enhance the habitat for fish. Structure can be an edge or shelf on the bottom, a rock or pile of rocks, a fallen tree, a man-made brush pile, manufactured “fish habitats”, or a sunken battleship for that matter. Just about anything on the bottom that breaks up the smooth bottom surface creates “structure”.
Cover refers to areas where fish can hide from predators. Many types of structure provide cover, some types better than others. Plants and weed-beds can also provide cover and are therefore also an important part of managing a healthy fishery. There is a balance that needs to be achieved between too much and too little plant growth and other structure for the cover to contribute to a healthy habitat.
If your pond is as smooth and clean as a cereal bowl on the bottom, you probably need to consider some enhancements if you want to have the proper habitat for a thriving fishery. Adding some structure can be an easy improvement by using manufactured Habitat Structures (https://harriettahills.com/product/fish-habitat-structure-tree/) and sinking them in strategic locations. With a little more elbow grease, you can cut and place trees and brush piles under the waves or add some rock piles if you have the materials and the energy handy.
Winter ice cover on your pond can make the placement of new structure for your fish much simpler and relatively easy, so don’t miss out on this great winter opportunity. As always when venturing onto the ice, make sure that the ice is thick enough for safety before you start. If you don’t have one yet, consider adding a life ring and rope pond-side just in case of an emergency. (https://harriettahills.com/product-category/water-safety/)