Wed. Nov 23rd, 2022

Fishponds On Farms

Fishponds On Farms: Pond Construction

Fishponds On Farms: Pond Construction The exact mode of construction must depend largely upon local conditions, such as the presence or absence of favorable land contour, the nature of the soil, proximity to storm channels, and the area of the ground to be worked. Even with these specified features lesser local characteristics and the exigencies of individual circumstances will vary the application of any approved general method.

Where practicable ponds should be not less than 1 acre in surface area. Those of smaller extent will produce fish and add an interesting feature to farm life, but they will not yield adult food fishes of the larger species in quantities sufficient for the requirement of the average farmer’s table.

Natural draws or ravines involve the least expenditure in their adaptation to fishponds, as two and frequently three sides are already formed, so that an earthen embankment connecting them will complete the enclosure.

Such locations must be surrounded by ditches to divert surface water where that is likely to roil the pond, and effective waste channels should be provided if the site covers the natural course of flood waters.

If flat land of run elevation only slightly lower than that of the source of water supply is selected, it will be necessary to excavate the ponds in whole or in part-to the required depth to insure a water level lower than the supply.

Thus, the excavations will form solid banks which, if impervious to water and properly sloped, will require no further attention except to bring them to uniform widths and elevation, which can be done with the material excavated in forming the pond proper.

The bottom of the pond should be shaped to drain to a central point.

On swamp lands and depressions which are susceptible to drainage and are at the same time low enough to ensure a gravity flow of water from the source of supply, one or more fishponds can be constructed by the erection of longitudinal and cross-section dikes high enough to provide the required depth of water.


The construction of such ponds involves only sufficient excavating to give the bottom the proper slope. In other words, the pond should be built up rather than excavated, and the water level therein will be higher than the sur rounding land.

The method of constructing pond embankments is governed by the topography of the land, the character of the soil, and the volume and pressure of the water to be confined.

All embankments should be at least 6 feet wide at the top, and the sides sloped not less than 2 feet to each foot in height. For instance, a 6-foot fill should be 30 feet wide at the base and 6 feet at the top. Prepare the foundation by plowing the site of the embankment, after first removing all trees, underbrush, rock and sod, and, as an extra precaution against seepage, dig a trench 12 inches deep along the median line.

This will form a break, or set-off, between the original ground and the made construction, which is a point of natural weakness. The filling should progress by layers over the full width and length of the levee as a continuous operation rather than by sections: otherwise, the completed work will later develop checks by reason of variations in material and compactness. Rocks are of use as protecting riprap on the slopes after completion.

In case the water supply to a pond is taken from a creek, the latter must be dammed, and an intake built above the construction provided with screen and dam boards, from which a water conduit must be laid to the pond. The dam should be provided with an ample spillway, which should best be constructed of concrete.

The shape or outline of the pond is immaterial. Currents of water are undesirable in the propagation of the spiny-rayed fishes. In fact, the best brood and rearing ponds are those which are supplied by backwater from other bodies, and if there is reasonable depth and a fair growth of vegetation no stagnation will result.

Success in pond fish culture is being attained with widely varying forms of construction. To a considerable extent fish will adapt themselves to existing physical conditions. In nature they seek comparatively shoal waters in which to spawn, by reason of the prevailing higher temperatures, and during certain stages of their growth the young choose similar depths, where food is plentiful and beyond the bounds of the customary range of large fish.

Relatively deep waters must be accessible to the stock fish during winter months, and this depth will depend largely upon the latitude of the location; cold climates where great thickness of ice forms require the deepest pools.

Experience teaches that breeding ponds should be excavated to hold not less than 12 inches of water at or near the margins; that one-fourth of the pond area should range from 12 to 30 inches in depth; and that one-half its total area should be not over 3 feet deep, the bottom of the remainder to slope from this depth to 6 feet or more at the outlet. Avoid abrupt slopes.

Provide complete drainage to the deepest point, where a waste pipe controlled by gates or slash boards should lead to outside natural channels. It will be found a great convenience when draining ponds to have shallow channels 6 inches deep and 15 inches wide, at the head of the drainpipe, radiating to all parts of the pond bottom from a kettle or pit, which may be of wood or concrete.

A substantial percentage of the fish will follow such channels as the water recedes and may be removed from the kettle with less danger of injury than if picked up promiscuously about the pond.

Remove all projections from the pond bottom which might inter- fere with the operations of seines, plow the entire bed and level it with harrows before turning in the water or treating further for watertightness.

As stated above, ponds located on swamp bottoms or in clay soils are practically impervious to seepage, and there should be no difficulty in maintaining their surface levels. Sandy loams are more uncertain; they require time to become thoroughly saturated but will improve in this respect from year to year, through the accumulating deposits of decaying vegetation.

It is excellent practice when first filling newly constructed ponds with water, whatever the nature of the soil, to follow the advancing water line with a drag or harrow, driving the team knee-deep into the water. The constant roiling and puddling of the ground in this manner is remarkably effective in cementing open cracks and crevices.

Very porous soils may require the addition of a layer of clay before they hold water. From 2 to 6 inches of stiff brick clay over the entire bottom and up the sides, well above the water line, the bottom harrowed down as explained above, will hold water over the most open ground likely to be used.

The only objection to the presence of clay is its general sterility, but this may be corrected by another layer of rich loam, after the clay has been worked down and proved efficacious. Where this process is to be employed, allowance must be made at the time of excavation for the refill of 12 or more inches.

Coarse stable manure, and even clean straw, well trampled into the pond bottom, has been reported as a successful remedy for seepage.

A good set of native sod or sedge grass around the entire pond at the water line is the best preventive of wave washing and encroachments upon new fills. If the location is such that strong currents or eddies are present, piling, rock riprap, or other reinforcement, will be necessary at the points of greatest exposure.

Landowners desiring to undertake fish propagation may feel that the expenditure necessary to secure completed ponds, as described above, is prohibitive; or they may have waters available for fish culture which it would not be expedient to remodel along the lines indicated.

The plans outlined are in accordance with the present-day standards. Fish may and are being successfully propagated in far fewer ideal environments, but more native ingenuity in such cases is required.

This, however, is a common attribute of the American farmer, and anyone who can mix balanced feeds, practice scientific grain breeding, or expert the intricacies of modern farm machinery, need not hesitate for fear of failure to add fish culture to his daily routine.

Summarizing the construction, these features should be provided for:

1. Watertightness, so that a small inflow will be sufficient. This will result in elevated temperatures during the summer months.

2. A shallow area, from 18 to 30 inches deep, where the fish may nest.

3. A deeper area, of 6 feet or more, for winter quarters. This will also be occupied b}’^ the adults in the summer, after nesting is completed.

4. A fertile bottom for the growth of aquatic plants, upon which fish food depends.

If these requisites, together with a suitable water supply, are provided the fish will thrive. The accompanying drawings explain the types of intakes and drainage devices which have. proved effective. These may be varied to meet the conditions encountered and be constructed of either wood or concrete.

The latter material is shown in the illustrations, and is the most durable, but wood will be equally as satisfactory while it lasts.

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