Louisiana is truly a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy fishing and hunting; however, despite the vast amount of natural water bodies across the state that support excellent fishing opportunities, an ever-increasing number of private landowners are constructing recreational ponds to meet their fishing needs while avoiding congestion associated with public watercourses.
A private pond or lake can be a positive asset to the landscape and provide quality recreation if the landowner ascribes to detailed planning before construction. The recreation potential and longevity of a recreational pond are most often dependent on the effort exerted during pond construction. A friend or acquaintance who may have the necessary equipment for excavation and soil moving doesn’t necessarily qualify that person as a pond builder.
The landowner needs to be aware of several potential management problems characteristic of most ponds over time. These problems include maintaining water quality, desirable fertility and controlling noxious weeds. During the construction phase, the pond owner can reduce the long-term impact of these problems by simply taking soil samples of the pond bottom to determine soil pH and fertility. Low pH soils limit available phosphorus to desirable aquatic plants that provide both food and oxygen for microorganisms and fish populations.
Applying lime and fertilizer at recommended rates determined by soil test will encourage desirable aquatic plant communities. These microscopic plants, phytoplankton, impart a green color to the water and shade out undesirable rooted aquatics. Deepening shallow water areas to minimum of 2 feet around pond edges is also beneficial in controlling undesirable rooted aquatics. Soil removed in excavation can be used to create small islands and/or sub surface mounds to provide habitat diversity for fish populations.
Several state and federal agencies have personnel with expertise to assist landowners. The Natural Resouces Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), is widely recognized as the expert in pond construction. NRCS can provide the landowner with information about selecting the best pond site, determine water-holding capacity of the soils and provide dam construction specifics to accommodate available watershed area.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries can provide information on species for stocking and stocking rates, information on chemical and biological weed control, and vendors for supplying desired species. The LSUAgCenter can provide research-based information in all areas of aquaculture and recreational pond management. This information is available to clientele in all areas of the state.