Consider habitat improvements when rebuilding farm ponds
Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say reports of collapsed or damaged pond dams are on the rise currently after bouts of heavy rains this spring.
Oklahoma anglers know fishing the state’s many farm ponds can be one of the most rewarding ways to enjoy the sport of angling, but many ponds are waiting to be repaired or restored and transformed into a dream fishery.
“We recognize pond fishing as an extremely important part of Oklahoma’s fishing heritage,” said Jeff Boxrucker, Assistant Chief of Fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “When a dam collapses on a nice farm pond fishery, whether a result of heavy rains, poor initial construction or even beaver-inflicted damage, it can be a huge loss for landowners and anglers. But the positive side is that a new door is opened to create an even better fishery than before.”
Boxrucker said owners of damaged ponds who wish to rebuild their fisheries have the opportunity to re-evaluate their angling interests and improve their ponds, in terms of both habitat availability and fish and water management.
“Although the Wildlife Department does not build ponds on private property, we recognize the value of pond fishing in Oklahoma, and we encourage pond owners to realize the potential their ponds have as fisheries and to manage them for angling,” Boxrucker said. “Some landowners have pond beds that have been empty for years, but just a little effort could go a long way in creating some lifelong memories, especially if those landowners have kids or grandkids that might enjoy the sport of fishing if only given the chance to be around the sport.”
According to Boxrucker, landowners who have lost a pond due to a collapsed dam, or those who would like to restore a dry bed that was once a flourishing pond, should consider installing a draw down structure consisting of a pipe extending through the dam with a valve on the downstream side that allows water levels in ponds to be manipulated. Other management techniques and pond improvements to consider while a pond is being reconstructed include sinking brush and other fish attracting structure, planning harvest guidelines to manipulate size structure, constructing docks and deepening pond beds.
“Being able to draw the water levels of your pond down at the turn of a valve can literally save a pond when rains are extremely heavy in an area,” Boxrucker said. “That way your pond is not simply at the mercy of mother nature. Winter drawdown structures are effective means of vegetation control and manipulating predator and prey ratios. If you’ve got a pond that is currently dry or being rebuilt, now is the time to get a few things right that will benefit your pond and the quality of fishing it provides in the long run.”
The Wildlife Department also has a available a 44-page booklet titled Managing Pond Fisheries in Oklahoma that includes full-color photos and covers pond construction, placement of structure, controlling vegetation, proper levels of fish harvest and more. The booklet costs $3 and can be purchased by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com/outstorepubs.htm.
Boxrucker recommends contacting the county Natural Resources Conservation Service for technical assistance for restoring damaged or dry farm ponds.
Ponds that are newly constructed or restored that meet certain criteria may be eligible to receive free fish from the Wildlife Department. Interested anglers must go through an application process, and forms can be found at wildlifedepartment.com/farmpond.htm or by contacting a local game warden. More information is available on page 15 of the “2008 Oklahoma Fishing Guide.”