Ponds & Streams


Water quality and conservation of our natural resources is our top priority and should be on the minds of all individuals. Did you know that of all the water here on Earth, only 1% is available for human use? About 97% of the water on Earth are in the oceans. The 3% of fresh water that remains, isn't all available for human use; as it's in the glaciers, icecaps and in the groundwater. We must take care of the little bit of fresh and surface water that we have!

The Wayne SWCD does NOT assist in the design of recreational ponds. However, if the intent of a pond is for agricultural purposes, such as irrigation water, livestock watering, or for use as a dry hydrant, please contact us for further assistance. Please check the Contractor's page for additional contacts, and click on the helpful links or pdf's below.

Water Resources - Where on Earth is Water Located

Muddy Water

ODNR Division of Wildlife - Ohio Pond Management Handbook

Chapter 6: Page 33

Most pond owners would probably agree that having clear water adds to the aesthetics of their pond. The clarity of pond water is primarily influenced by the abundance of microscopic plants (phytoplankton), animals (zooplankton), and suspended soil particles. Phytoplankton and zooplankton abundance will influence the water clarity to varying degrees depending primarily upon the time of year, time of day, and fertility of the pond. Generally, these tiny plants and animals do not influence water clarity as significantly as suspended soil particles.

Muddy water is the result of tiny soil or clay particles suspended in the water. Muddy water can have negative effects other than detracting from the aesthetics of the pond. Muddy water can hinder the feeding ability of largemouth bass, bluegills, and redear sunfish and even reduce their growth. Additionally, phytoplankton growth and abundance is reduced in muddy water. This may compound the problem of poor fish growth in muddy ponds by reducing the amount of food available through the entire food chain.

The first step in correcting a persistent problem with muddy water is to determine the cause. To do this, collect a jar full of pond water, cover it with a lid, and allow it to sit undisturbed for one week. If the water appears clear after one week and sediment is noticed at the bottom of the jar, chances are that something in the pond is stirring up the sediments. However, if the water is still cloudy, then there is a good chance that suspended particles of clay soil are the cause of the muddy water.

The problem may also be a combination of disturbed sediments and the presence of clay soils in the watershed. If disturbed sediments are determined to be the problem, one or more of the following suggestions may help remedy the situation:

  1. Remove undesirable rough fish from your pond. Bullheads and common carp have a habit of rooting around in pond sediment while feeding. Channel catfish may also cause the same problem.

  2. Fence livestock away from the pond and avoid pasturing them on the pond’s watershed. Livestock trample and compact pond banks, causing them to erode.

  3. Establish moderate vegetative growth of rushes, sedges, and cattails to protect pond banks and shoreline areas from wave erosion.

  4. Keep domestic ducks and geese away from the pond. Their feeding activity may destroy shoreline vegetation and resuspend soil particles from the pond bottom.

  5. Maintain good vegetative cover throughout the watershed. If you do not have ownership of the entire watershed, then establish buffer strips of vegetation around the pond.

  6. Plant windbreaks to prevent wind from causing excessive wave action and disturbing sediment in shallow water.

These suggestions offer the best long-term protection against muddy pond water. It is much easier and cost effective to prevent soil particles from eroding into a pond than it is to remove them once they become a problem. If the previous methods prove unsuccessful, it is likely that the muddy water problems are caused by colloidal clay particles that stay in suspension for a long time. Since colloidal clay particles do not settle out easily, other techniques are necessary to improve water clarity. Several techniques are effective at removing colloidal clays from pond water. Each technique requires the addition of various materials to the pond that cause clay particles to settle out. These additives include organic matter (hay), aluminum sulfate (alum), calcium sulfate (agricultural gypsum), and hydrated lime. Each of them work through a chemical reaction that causes suspended clay particles to clump together. These clumps of particles are heavier than individual articles and therefore sink rather than stay suspended. Most of these additives can be purchased from local agricultural supply stores.

ODNR Division of Wildlife - Ohio Pond Management Handbook

Chapter 6: Page 33


Article found on ODNR's website

Ohio farm ponds provide important recreational, domestic, and agricultural uses that range from fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing to water sources for humans and livestock, irrigation and erosion control. Ponds benefit wildlife by providing feeding and nesting habitat, resting areas and water sources. Ponds that are constructed, maintained and managed with these uses in mind are a valuable part of Ohio’s natural resources.

The Ohio Pond Management Handbook is intended for owners of new ponds, owners of old ponds, or landowners who plan to build a pond. Managers of small private lakes will find useful information in this manual as will anglers who wish to be informed on pond management matters.

To stock pond fish, we recommend that you buy fish from a licensed fish propagator. This is the easiest, most economical method and you are guaranteed the correct size, numbers and species of fish(es) you request. The following is a list of propagators by county. The available fishes are included. Using these fish should ensure years of quality fishing with proper management.


The most common cause of winter kill is a lack of oxygen in the water. During the winter, an unfrozen pond has more than enough oxygen for fish to survive. However, when a pond freezes oxygen levels can fall to almost nothing which definitely causes stress and can potentially kill fish.

Oxygen in water can be acquired from two sources: the air and through photosynthesis (from aquatic plants). Ice cover on a pond effectively stops the pond from picking up oxygen from the air. Oxygen depletion is then made worse when a thick layer of snow covers the ice. Thick snow blocks sunlight from entering the water which prevents algae and other aquatic plants from photosynthesizing. Photosynthesis is the process in which plants make their own energy from sunlight and release oxygen into the water as a byproduct. When plants do not have enough sunlight they die and settle to the bottom of the pond. Once this happens bacteria begin to decompose the plant material which uses up more of the available oxygen in the pond. The longer and more severe the winter the more likely this will occur, which eventually leads to a fish kill.

There are several steps you can take to try and prevent a winter fish kill. First, when constructing a new pond the banks should be graded to a 3:1 ratio, or for every three feet of distance out into the pond the bank should drop one foot. Also, at least 25 percent of the pond should be dug to 10-12 feet if possible. This will deter the growth of rooted plants by limiting the total surface area in which these plants can grow. Second, a vegetation control program throughout the summer growing season is recommended. By managing and controlling plants during the summer you will limit the amount of dying and decomposing vegetation present in the winter. This can be done by using herbicides and adding pond dies to shade the water which will help limit plant growth. Good watershed management practices will also help limit plant growth. Watershed management includes preventing as many nutrients as possible from entering the pond. This could be as simple as making sure that grass clippings are not washed into the pond after mowing or, if you fertilize your lawn, by leaving an unfertilized buffer of at least 50 feet around the pond.

Finally, the single best step to promote the health of a pond is to add an aeration system. These systems add oxygen to the water, which speeds up plant decomposition while also keeping oxygen levels high enough to sustain fish. There are many types of aeration systems available on the market today but not all can be used through the winter. A diffused aeration system (also known as bubblers) will keep ice from forming in the areas of the pond where the diffusing heads are circulating the water. There are also systems marketed specifically to keep ice from forming. These use moving water to prevent freezing and usually work with a simple pump or propeller. However, they do not offer the additional benefits of a true aeration system that can be used in the summer as well.

Finally, if an aeration system is not an option you can simply shovel the snow off to help sunlight reach the water in the pond. By removing 25-50 percent of the snow you should allow enough sunlight in to permit sufficient photosynthesis to occur, which should sustain oxygen levels under the ice.


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