If you want happy fish, build their home thoughtfully and complete. Under your water, fish thrive in a community environment. If you place habitat, structure, and cover where fish can live in harmony, you’ll have happy fish.
Here’s what all this fluffy talk means. Different sizes of various fish species prefer different habitat. As seasons change throughout the year, habitat requirements shift. When baby fish are first hatched, they are tiny little fry, maybe smaller than a pencil lead. Their immediate needs are to eat and survive. With mouths smaller than the head of a pin, they eat tiny food, like phytoplankton and stuff that grows on the surface of plants, rocks, and wood. MossBack attractors provide areas where tiny food can thrive.
At the same time, these little-bitty fish try to keep from being eaten, a formidable task in every pond. If you were a tiny little morsel, swimming for your life, and searching for food for a lean, little body, where would you go? Someplace where the bigger fish can’t eat you, that’s where. Provide dense cover and structure for small fish. They love rock piles, shoreline vegetation, dense treetops, and thick brush.
“But,” you might ask, “Aren’t we raising small fish so they CAN be eaten by game fish?”
Yes, you are, but give the little guys some time to grow. Newly hatched bluegill sunfish might weigh 12,000 per pound. But, give those little scooters 45-days of good food and places to hide, and they will grow to 30 per pound. That’s much more significant, especially since it takes ten pounds of forage fish for a game fish to gain one pound. So, provide habitat for your little fish.
What about larger fish? Ah, consider them, too. Build your habitat for small fish in fairly shallow water; say less than eight feet deep. Adjacent to that, add habitat that intermediate fish prefer. Take largemouth bass, for example. Yearling largemouth bass are like proverbial gang members. They are on the prowl, looking to pillage and defend a turf. They run in schools, along the seedy edges of cover and structure, waiting for a little fish to dart out and tease it. When that happens, like a flash, the bass strikes and eats its prey.
Intermediate-sized game fish and large sunfish are attracted to the edge of rock piles and aquatic vegetation. They like channels, cuts, humps, and habitat of the sort where they can condition and orient. If that hump over there, in five feet of water, gives them a place to hide and ambush their favorite food, they’ll go there regularly. Intermediate-sized bass love to be on the move, so corridors, underwater funnels, and well-designed travel routes are important. They also love to linger in underwater tree canopies.
What about the big dogs of your pond? Those giant fish everyone loves to see and do battle with? They want premium places to hide. Big bass, for example, love to linger in fairly shallow water off a point (next to deeper water), and perch next to a big log, ready to ambush its next meal.
Combine all these elements and you’ll have a thriving underwater community for all your fish. So, how do you do that? Here’s your homework: First, set your goals and learn which species of fish are best suited to your mission. Second, learn all you can about the lifestyles of each species of fish. Once you understand how each fish lives and what they need, your job will be to provide those key components.
Third, learn how each species of fish spawns and provide that type of habitat. And fourth, learn how each fish eats and provide them with restaurants, boutiques, and health food joints. They’ll show their appreciation by growing fast and giving you a tussle on the end of light line.
Some fish will be your game fish; others will be the food chain. Too often, pondmeisters unknowingly focus too strongly on building underwater habitat for their biggest fish. Do provide for your game fish, but don’t neglect those little guys. They will be the buffet table for your bigger fish. Heck, every big fish WAS a little fish at some point.
Position these different elements in proximity where each different segment benefits the other. You don’t see a kid’s park in the middle of the desert. A wise builder puts the playground next to the apartment complex, just up the street from the convenience store, and not far from the mall. If you do the same in your pond, your fish stand a much better chance to grow and thrive.
The last piece of today’s advice revolves around your kids or grandkids…or you. Even though you may design the best habitat, complete with spawning beds, ambush points, hiding places, travel paths, and funnels…and you’ve mixed it up at different depths…don’t forget about the anglers. Design all this important habitat where you can actually catch the fish which are attracted to it. Put some around the dock, place some near the most convenient shore, and add some fish safe-havens near your feeder. If you love to fly fish, set up something attractive to your favorite targets within casting distance. One other key point today…90% of your fish will tend to live in 10% of your pond. That 10% changes as the seasons change. Think about that as you design that perfect home for your willing fish.
As water inundates these new digs and you stock those slick little wet fingerlings, you’ll giggle to yourself as you watch your fish swarm and thrive in their new home. Over time, with your favorite sidekick helping dangle a worm at the end of a cane pole or pitch a spinnerbait next to that big log you placed, those mysterious creatures of the deep will return the favor by adding even more joy to your satisfying life.
Remember that semi-famous axiom, “Happy fish, happy life”… ‘er something like that.