How To Build a Fishing Pond
When it comes to how to build a fishing pond, it is a lot more detailed than just contracting with an excavating company and digging a hole in the ground.
To find out what the considerations are in the fishing pond construction process we reached out to Norman Latona, founder and president of Southeastern Pond Management to find out what the process flow is in constructing your own pond and some of the things you need to consider.
SEPond services a large part of the Southeast and provides ecosystem analysis, management programs, pond construction, liming, fertilizing, fish inventory assessment, removal processes, stocking of forage and game fish, pond maintenance and more.
Latona recommends that before one square inch of dirt is moved that a site assessment and feasibility study needs to be done to determine what is the best pond location and establish some baseline data. That analysis includes looking at topographical maps, aerial photos and soil maps.
“Actually, we would start out in the office looking at topographical maps and that allow us to get a pretty good precursory analysis of the property to get an idea about the watershed and its ability to fill and maintain the pond, the shape of the land and determine the best location for the pond,” Latona said. “We also look at soil composition and types to determine if that location has suitable soil to hold water and to construct a dam, which is the most important part of the pond in respect to holding water.”
Once that initial analysis is finished it is time to get boots on the ground at the site to either verify or disprove what the team saw on the maps and aerial photographs. If everything checks out and it is a suitable site with good water holding soil and an adequate watershed then it is time for a survey.
“We actually use survey equipment to mark the water line, mark the dam, both front and back sides and ultimately that leads to a design on paper and we spec it all out,” Latona said. “This isn’t a cookie cutter deal and each site is unique and presents different challenges and opportunities”
Latona explained that watershed ponds are often referred to as “hillside” ponds because they are damed up between two hillside and while they may be gradual hills and relatively flat there is still an elevation change which allows a dam to impede that natural flow of water, even if it isn’t from a stream or creek.
“For watershed ponds we place a dam that impedes the natural flow of the water at the end of the drainage. It catches and impounds the water and ultimately it fills up and if the water overflows, that water just returns to the natural flow through spillways,” Latona said.
Latona pointed out that there are ponds built on flatlands but most of them are built with a well because there just isn’t enough water coming out of the sky or the watershed isn’t substantial enough to fill or maintain them.
Because in the heat of the summer water level will begin to drop in watershed ponds due to natural seepage and evaporation and it requires rainfall to fill it back up which is why it is critical to make sure that the watershed is big enough and with the right soil to support the pond
“It is not only about the ratio of acres of pond to acres of watershed but also the type of watershed,” Latona stated. “If it is open land, pasture or forested, depending on soil type or other factors an acre of pond may need 15, 20 or even 25 acres of watershed to maintain it.”
Once you have confirmed the ability of the acreage to maintain a pond and decided on location, then what?
“We use best practices and we design the slopes of the dam on both the front and back sides, the depth of the pond, the bottom contour and features, the slope of the banks, the minimum depth and other things,” Latona said. “In terms of minimum depth, we want to get from ground zero to 36 inches of depth as quickly as possible because that gives us the best opportunity to combat aquatic vegetation after the pond is established.”
“You want to make sure that you have the proper slope on the front of the dam which should be a 3 to 1 ratio. You want the back slope of the dam to be a minimum of 4 to11 ratio so you can get back there with a bush hog, mower or tractor to cut it every year,” Latona added.
Latona said that in terms of depth typically ponds are deepest at or near the dam and as you get to the “upper end”, which is opposite the dam when the typography starts to slope up it will gradually get shallower. Sometimes that shallow water, if it is less than 36 inches, may need to be dredged to combat heavy aquatic weed growth.
He also pointed out that one of the biggest misconceptions about how to build a fishing pond is that “the deeper the better” for fishing. So what’s the minimum pond size for fish?
“Fish are pretty adaptive to all conditions. For example, we have about 80 acres of ponds in western Alabama in which we have the best possible conditions to grow as many fish as possible for sale and the ponds are all about five feet deep with no bottom contour or real structure so we can easily use nets to catch them,” Latona pointed out. “Obviously, a deeper pond has more water in it and a larger storage capacity which makes sense if you are using it as a resource to irrigate a crop field or something like that”
Fish and Fisherman Friendly
Latona emphasized fish habitat. While fish habitat such as structure is important, it is key to design the bottom and side contour of the pond to be “fisherman friendly”.
“By fisherman friendly I mean design the pond around elements that will attract and concentrate fish so it will be easier to target them,” Latona said. “Shape the bottom with contours, dig some deep holes and drop off, creating shelves and benches so the water doesn’t just drop off to the bottom and fish have a place to hold. Create humps, rock piles, spawning areas, put in natural structure like Christmas trees, stumps, logs and artificial structure.”
“If you have a fishbowl with a smooth bottom and it’s the same depth everywhere, the fish are going to be anywhere and everywhere and there isn’t going to be much of a pattern so it makes it less likely that they will be in an area where you can target and catch them,” Latona added.
Latona’s final word of advice for pond builders is to be proactive and make sure there is access to and around the pond for present and future needs.
“Remember to make sure there is access, especially on those ponds where people are going to be fishing from the banks to walk about the pond. Build access to launch a boat,” Latona concluded. “Think about down the road if maybe you want to put in a dock or a boathouse or any other type of structure. During construction is the time to do it”
If you have any other questions about how to build a fishing pond, how deep does a pond need to be for bass, how to build a large pond for fishing, how deep should a bass pond be, how many bass in a 1 acre pond, how to build a small bass pond, the cost to build a fishing pond, bass pond design, or anything else you may want to know about ponds; don’t hesitate to contact Norman and the pros at Southeastern Pond Management using the contact info below.
Southeastern Pond Management