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Drawing down the pond

Winter is a good time to manage fish populations, kill vegetation, and make repairs in the pond
Photo courtesy of Clemson University

If you’ve talked about installing a dock in your pond but haven't quite got around to it yet, now might be a good time because you can lower the water level.

Marty Brunson is a former Mississippi State Fisheries Professor. He says late fall or early winter is the prime time to lower the water level. He suggests reducing it enough so a third of the pond bottom is exposed. These drier conditions, combined with freezing temperatures, will kill off aquatic vegetation. This method also concentrates predator fish into a smaller area where they can help eliminate prey fish.

Brunson says pond owners can take advantage of less water to work on things that aren't as easy to do when it's full.

"Do some repairs on boat docks, if you don't have a boat ramp and want to install one, this is the time because it's going to allow you to dry those areas where you might put the boat ramp and do some dirt work," he says. "It allows that landowner to put some additional structure in the pond that serve as fish attractors. It's a good time to establish gravel which are simply another fish attractor which provides spawning area for the sunfish species and bass during the spring."

For people building a new pond, Brunson recommends installing a built-in valve or stand pipe for managing water levels. If your pond is already established and you don't have this, the extension office can help you design a drawdown method.

"You can actually come in and install a PVC siphon system. It can either be permanently installed or temporarily installed, and it would allow the landowner to do the same thing, just with a PVC structure," says Brunson. "With a siphon valve on top  you can simply fill that thing. Close the valve, fill it up, and open the valve at the back of the levee down in a low spot."

Once spring rolls around and the rains come, your pond will fill up again. Brunson says a draw-down should always be done in the winter – never in the summer. Reduced oxygen levels in warm water can kill fish.

Learn more about winter drawdown of farm ponds

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