Don C. Keller
Lake owners should have a standard protocol that they follow each year to maintain the health of their lakes.
The first thing you should do is go to the lake in early spring and check the water temperature. Fertilization should begin when the water temperature approaches 60 degrees F. Please note: fertilization is usually not necessary in most northern lakes and ponds.
Next, pull a water sample and check the water chemistry: total alkalinity, total hardness, and ph.The total alkalinity is important because it will tell you if you need to add agricultural lime in order to make your fertilizer react. Total alkalinity should be 20 ppm or higher. If it is less, add 5-6 tons of agricultural limestone per acre.
When you pull the water sample, look at water clarity. If it is muddy, it may be cleared by adding 200-300 pounds of cottonseed meal per acre along with some high phosphate fertilizer.
You need to look for submersed aquatic vegetation, especially filamentous algae or "pond moss." If this is present, take a sample and have it identified and get a recommended treatment. Most herbicides will not work until the water temperature reaches 60 degrees F. Do NOT fertilize until vegetation is gone. I would also suggest that you go one step further if the water is clear and no vegetation is seen around the edges. Get your tackle and tie on a jig, spinner bait or sinking lure and pull it slowly across the bottom. Often there will be vegetation off the shoreline that you can't see and this will need to be treated.
Check your automatic feeders. Take the panel off the feeder and make sure the battery is charged, check inside for dirt, wasp nests, old clumps of feed or any other obstructions. Put in some fresh feed and run a test cycle. Once the water gets to be 55-60 F, start feeding once a day in the afternoon when the temperature will be the warmest. As it gets warmer, you can feed 2 to 4 times a day.
Bass will start becoming aggressive when the water temperature begins to warm in the 50-55 F range. Take your tackle and catch several and examine the bass carefully. If you are catching a lot in the 10 to 16-inch range, then these should be removed. The bass you catch this time of year should be fat, if they are not you have too many. Approximately 20-30 lbs. of small bass per acre should be your harvest goal. If your bass are not crowded but are nice and fat, you can examine them to determine sex. The males will flow milt if a little pressure is applied to the abdomen. I suggest you remove all the males you catch. Females get larger.
Once you have addressed any issues that you have found when following the steps above, you are ready to start fertilizing. Use a quality pond fertilizer like BioLogic's Perfect Pond Plus and you can triple your fish production.
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