Pond Liming in The Winter
By the time December rolls around, for pond owners managing their water for fishing, it is the time to turn attention to the condition and health of the water. Forage fish stocking is done. Fertilizing pretty much shuts down in November. The water is cooling down, the hours of sunshine are dropping and the fish are getting into their dormant period. That means it’s time to start thinking about pond liming and certain questions need to be answered. What should a pond ph be? Why liming is essential in fish culture? What are the different ways of liming a fish pond? How to reduce ph in a fish pond?
It’s Time to Lime
For good pond management, liming is a critical and foundational step that can have a huge impact on water quality and appearance, especially as it relates to fish production. Having the correct lime water balance allows the fertilizer that is added in the spring to be more efficient and liming in December gives the lime time to do its thing.
Norman Latona is president of Southeastern Pond Management, which offers a plethora of pond and lake related services, including ecosystem analysis, management programs, liming, fertilizing, fishing inventory and removal processes, stocking of forage and game fish and more.
According to Latona all a pond owner has to do to determine whether he has a lime deficiency in his pond is to do a simple and quick water test. He noted that where in the pond you draw the water from, at what depth or or even doing multiple tests from different locations is irrelevant. The lime level will basically be the same throughout the whole pond.
“It is a simple test and we do thousands of them a year and we will even come out and do the test for you,” Latona said. “Based on the results we can give you a good idea as to how much lime you need to put in and it’s based on tons per acre.”
Alkalinity is water’s ability to resist changes in pH and is a measure of the concentration elements like carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides, phosphates and borates. It increases pH, which can help the water to clear suspended particles (as in mud) and can help initiate plankton life and growth by increasing light.
“A lot of times when people talk about acidity and alkalinity, they’re thinking of pH and pH changes. It can change from daylight to dark, seasonally or even temperature can affect it,’ Latona said. “What we’re actually checking is the total alkalinity of the water and specifically the amount of calcium carbonate that’s in the water sample.”
Latona explained that the alkalinity of the water determines how responsive it will be to fertilization. SEPond uses high phosphorus fertilizer and if there is lack of alkalinity there is no buffering in the water and the phosphorus sinks down to the bottom and gets caught up in the acidic bottom mud.
“Because of the water and soil chemistry, the phosphorus isn’t available in the water column to fertilize or stimulate plankton growth and that is the objective,” Latona said. “A lot of time you can overcome the lack of alkalinity by adding additional fertilizer but it’s certainly not as efficient as if everything is in balance.”
Latona points out that unlike fertilizer, which quickly dissolves once introduced to water, lime is a rock and it takes time for it to disperse into the water which is why liming in December is a good idea. In terms of cost, while lime is not overly expensive, the cost of trucking the stone can be high, depending on where it is coming from. Consequently, Latona recommends that pond owners add lime once every three or four years instead of doing it annually.
“Quality agricultural lime runs anywhere from $12 to $14 a ton and the cost of transportation with dump trucks, depending on the distance involved, nowadays can cost as much as the material itself so it makes sense to lime for a longer period of time,’ Latona said. “If you need one ton per acre annually, you should consider doing three to four tons per acre every three to four years.”
Making it Snow on the Pond Bottom
In order for pond liming to work at its full capacity and help your fertilization efforts pay off to the maximum, the crushed lime has to be evenly distributed across the bottom of the pond.
If you have a creek feeding your pond throwing a bunch of lime at the mouth hoping that the running water will wear the rock down and feed your pond isn’t going to work. Some of the super fine material will disperse but 99% of it is just sinking right down to the bottom and that’s where it is going to stay for years.
“In order to get the desired effect, you’ve got to spread it over the entire pond so that it will rain down through the water column and sit down on the bottom mud where the chemical reaction will occur,” Latona said. “We’ve got several large barges that are capable of holding a couple of tons at a time with outboard motors and we transverse the pond and wash the lime off into the water to completely cover the pond floor.”
“If it is limed right, if the pond was drained, the bottom should look like it’s dusted with snow,” Latona added.
Depending on the size of the pond or lake Latona and company may dump 20-30 tons of limestone and use a front-end or tractor loader to load a ton or two at a time on the barge and just distribute over the entire water surface.
“By liming and addressing the alkalinity issue you get 100% production out of your fertilization efforts and that equates to bigger and healthier fish,” Latona concluded.