Managing Your Pond or Lake

Ponds and lakes can provide resources for feeding and nesting to a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic organisms, in addition to contributing to the scenic beauty of your property. If you want to improve the quality of wildlife habitat in your pond or lake, while enhancing the water quality in your system, you can plant a riparian buffer, or allow one to grow, around the edge of your pond or lake.  If you’d like to help wildlife and establish a strong recreational fishery, stocking your pond or lake with desirable fish is a great option.

The following are tips for managing a pond or lake system based on your goals as the landowner.  If your pond or lake has an outflow into a stream, river, or other moving body of water, you’ll want to be very conscious of what you put into it. Our management of aquatic systems on a local level greatly affects water quality and habitat at the regional scale.

Managing for Recreational Fishing

To manage a pond or lake for recreational purposes, namely fishing, create an ecologically balanced warm-water fishery and stock a combination of largemouth bass and bluegills. To manage for trophy-sized bass, sunfish, trout, contact your regional fisheries biologist for recommendations. As per DWR, “Trout require cold water temperatures (less than 70° F) and high oxygen levels. Many warm-water pond owners across the Commonwealth are enjoying seasonal trout fishing by stocking catchables in October and harvesting them out before the onset of hot weather. Unless trout can find a cool refuge in a pond during the summertime, they are likely to die.”

A list of warm-water, undesirable fish species include: crappie, bullhead catfish, yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, green sunfish, and Israeli carp. These fish tend to overpopulate and become stunted in growth or have other adverse effects on the freshwater ecosystem.

Important Tips:

  • To manage the ratio of desirable fish that you stock in your pond or lake, follow these guidelines.
  • To avoid stocking undesirable species or diseased fish, it is recommended by the state to use a reputable hatchery.
  • Anglers must fill out an application to stock your section of stream or river with trout from a reputable hatchery.
    • You must fill out and submit this application form and receive approval from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) before stocking fish on private property, either in a moving body of water or a body of water that is otherwise connected to the watershed (such as a pond with an outflow that reaches a stream). This will prevent creating an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem and will limit the possibility of spreading diseases downstream and throughout the watershed.

Visit the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) website for more information on fishing.

Restoring Riparian Buffers

To manage for healthy terrestrial and aquatic habitat and control erosion, allow a wide riparian buffer to grow around your pond, lake, stream, or river. Riparian buffers provide habitat and food for animals using the water, shade the edges with cover for aquatic organisms (macro-invertebrates, amphibians, fish, turtles, etc.) and wetland nesting birds, and help filter sediment and other pollutants from the aquatic system by using the vegetation to absorb and filter nutrients before they hit the water supply.

Mowing to the edge of the water source is not recommended, as it eliminates the positive ecological function that vegetative cover provides to the aquatic system. Additionally, exposing the banks by mowing leaves nesting wildlife vulnerable to predation and allows erosion and pollution of the water to occur.

Helpful Links:

Controlling Aquatic Vegetation

Submerged aquatic vegetation such as algae may be minimized in warm-water ponds and lake systems by stocking sterile triploid grass carp (please note these are non-native!). Mechanical removal and chemical herbicides are two alternatives to grass carp for managing aquatic vegetation.

Visit our Pond Workshop photo album on Facebook to learn more about managing your pond.