Prepared By: Foster Lake and Pond Management, Inc.
- Moderate recreational fishing
- General aesthetics
- Storm water retention
- Wildlife habitat
These recommendations are intended to provide general guidance for renovation and management to achieve the stated objectives. The recommendations focus on creating attractiveness, shoreline stability and easy maintenance. Equally important will be monitoring developing conditions to prevent expensive future problems. Improving the shoreline shape and slope, water color and quality, establishing a balanced and sustainable fish population, controlling nuisance aquatic vegetation while establishing desirable ornamental plantings and deterring nuisance animals will enhance the long-term value and enjoyment of the lake.
An attractive lake increases property value significantly. Reshaping the shoreline, eliminating the undercut banks and wind wave erosion while reducing the slope along the shoreline will improve the appearance. It will also increase access to the lake edge, make access safer and make encourage desirable shoreline plantings. Removing sediment deposits to increase the minimum depth will discourage aquatic weed growth and increase fish habitat. Controlling undesirable plants and algae, maintaining the color, keeping the trash removed and eliminating pest damage will help keep the lake enjoyable. A peninsula will increase shoreline access, provide a dredged sediment disposal area and improve aesthetics.
- Excavation along the shoreline provides the opportunity to remove excess sediment deposits and reshape the shoreline.
- Excavate sediment from lake bottom so that the minimum water depth throughout the lake area is 3 feet. Nuisance vegetation will be deterred and lake management will be easier and less expensive.
- Excavate a submerged basin at each inlet to provide storage of sediment entering in the future. The basin should be 5 – 20 feet long and 5 – 8 feet deep initially depending upon the size of the inlet stream of water. The basins should be accessible to a relatively small rubber-tire backhoe that can be used to remove the stored sediment as necessary.
- Excavated sediment can be added to the shoreline to improve surface drainage in low wet areas. It can also be used to reduce the shoreline slope to roughly 3 feet of run for each foot of rise and build a peninsula extending into the lake for fishing access and perhaps a picnic table. Soft excavated sediment can be mixed with firm underlying dirt to create a consistency that can be laid on solid ground or used to build up the shoreline. The material should be rough-graded smooth. After a few weeks the material will be dry and stable enough to finish grade and seed with grass.
- A peninsula will provide recreational opportunities, convenient sediment disposal and is preferred over an island because of easier access. It should be wide enough for people to fish from the bank on both sides at the same time. It should be accessible by tractors for mowing. It should be roughly perpendicular to the adjoining shoreline so it doesn’t create a stagnant cove.
- After seeding the shoreline should be covered with non-biodegradable erosion control matting. The actual type of matting will be determined by the exposure characteristics of the shoreline in a particular area. Grass will grow through the matting, concealing the matting and stabilizing the grass so it won’t erode. Some temporary irrigation, probably using a portable pump and lake water, may be necessary to get the grass established.
- I suggest filling in the small stagnant cove at the corner of the dam closest to Ralph Street and rounding off the shoreline.
- Several small beds of native, non-aggressive, ornamental shoreline plantings would provide attractiveness, fish habitat, shoreline stability and utilize excess nutrients that may otherwise contribute to nuisance aquatic weeds. These small beds could provide plants to expand the plantings in the future if desired. Consider adding shredded or chipped hardwood mulch as a ground cover on high traffic areas where grass won’t grow.
Water Color Maintenance
The colorants are popular because they give the water an attractive deep blue color. They are particularly useful for masking muddy water conditions and in clear, soft water lakes prone to aquatic weed problems. The colorants are non-toxic and very safe. Very small amounts of colorant are required. Manufacturers recommend adding 1 gallon per acre for lakes averaging 4 feet deep. After the initial application, smaller amounts can be added periodically to maintain the desired color. The amount necessary will depend upon the amount of water flowing out of your lake.
Fertilizing is an alternative method of maintaining an attractive color that also increases productivity. However, the lime requirement of the lake must be satisfied for fertilizing to be effective. When the lake does not need lime, liquid or crystal lake fertilizer may be applied at relatively low levels whenever you can see deeper than 18 inches between late February and mid-September. The fertilizer encourages a bloom of microscopic algae (plankton), which gives the water an attractive deep green color and shades out nuisance vegetation. The fertilizer also encourages better fish health and growth, by stimulating the food chain.
Fertilizing is more complex than simply adding colorants. The lime requirement of the water must be met. Fertilizing must begin early in the spring and continue as needed until the fall. Furthermore, fertilizing may increase growth of existing vegetation to nuisance levels. However, with proper application, fertilizing may be the most effective, least expensive way to increase fish growth.
You most likely have soft, low hardness water. That generally leads to clear, but not very productive water. Alkalinity and hardness relate to the amount of minerals in the water and affect the overall water chemistry. Low levels associated with “soft” water allow pH (the measure of acidity) to fluctuate drastically from morning to evening on a bright sunny day. Be aware of the fact that lakes in this region tend to become more acidic over time. We have acid rain, acidic soils and acid runoff from watersheds containing pine needles, mulch or dead leaves.
Adding lime is the remedy for soft water lakes and is the most overlooked lake management activity in this region. I recommend you add 3 tons of lime per acre after the excavation is complete but before the lake starts refilling. If the lake bottom is solid enough, a lime spreading truck will be able to spread the lime very inexpensively. Adding lime will make future fertilizer applications more effective for shading out weed and algae growth. The lime will also help to buffer the water leading to greater fish productivity. Adding lime should also reduce any muddy water appearance by encouraging the sediment to settle more quickly. The only way to accurately determine the amount of lime required is to collect a mud sample, dry it and send it to a lab for analysis. I suggest that be done about 3 years after the initial liming to accurately determine the amount to be added. Nevertheless, through experience I estimate your lake will require about 3 tons per acre initially. Afterwards, I expect 1 to 2 tons per acre will be required each 3 to 5 years.
Nuisance Vegetation Control
We recommend an Integrated Pest Management approach to controlling nuisance aquatic vegetation and animals. Simply, we recommend the best mix of mechanical, biological and cultural techniques combined with discreet use of chemical products. Various control methods can be used, often concurrently, to increase effectiveness, lower costs and achieve specific objectives. We put enormous effort into researching, learning and using environmentally friendly, safe and cost-effective techniques.
Some aquatic vegetation may be desirable. It provides food and cover for fish and protects the shoreline. It removes excess nutrients that may cause nuisance growth of algae. For the best recreational fishing many biologists recommend that 10% of the lake be covered with aquatic vegetation. However, maintaining that balance is tricky.
Small clumps of filamentous algae can be removed with a rake or dip net. Emergent weeds can be cut repeatedly, before flowering, to starve the roots. A small patch of submerged weeds can be pulled up before it becomes established over a large area. Sometimes lowering the lake water level and exposing nuisance plants to freezing or drying can be effective.
Lake colorants physically shade the water. They are actually designed to filter the wavelength of light necessary for aquatic plant growth. Reducing light penetration helps to inhibit the growth of bottom growing vegetation, as well as the blue-green algae that often creates an unattractive surface film. Proper colorant levels should be maintained between mid-February and late September.
When necessary, immediate control of nuisance vegetation can be provided by spot spraying aquatic herbicides. Various herbicides are available for various types of plants. It is very important to correctly identify the type of aquatic plant being controlled. Often, the vegetation cannot be killed at once or it may cause oxygen depletion when it decays. When aeration is not available, we usually recommend split treatments and only spray one-third of the vegetation at about 2-week intervals. Specific recommendations will depend upon what develops.
We prefer biological control methods when practical. Actually planting emergent shoreline aquatic plants may be a way to filter incoming sediment, nutrients and pollutants. The plants also reduce shoreline erosion by absorbing wind wave energy. A margin of attractive edge plants may be one effective way to control access to lawn and turf areas by exploding populations of Canada geese. Shoreline plantings are relatively new, but more nurseries have plants available. If you are willing to pioneer some of these techniques, we can help.
Barley straw has become a popular method for increasing lake water clarity. We have found that filamentous algae can often be controlled for up to 6 months with the addition of 2 – 3 bales of barley straw per surface acre of lake. We stake or anchor the barley straw in water that is about 3 feet deep. Full bales can be used and need to be replaced twice per year. Loose barley straw packed into plastic mesh “logs” decompose (and are therefore more effective) quicker than whole bales. The logs can be staked or anchored along shorelines to reduce wind wave damage. Logs often need to be replaced about 4 times per year.
AquaMats provide revolutionary biological filtration and water quality enhancement while providing increased cover and habitat for game fish and forage. AquaMats use buoyant ribbons of 2 separate densities of woven fabric attached to weighted tubes. Resembling aquatic grass the ribbons allow nutrients in the water to encourage growth of organic matter on the fabric. The organic matter is eaten by microbes, which are eaten by larger aquatic organisms, which are eaten by fish. Nuisance vegetation can be controlled, while the water clears and fish production increases. They are completely safe, long lasting and easy to install.
Beneficial bacteria/enzyme concentrates
We have had promising results controlling algae in lakes with a new bacteria/enzyme concentrate called Revive. The powder contains billions of beneficial bacteria per ounce. Each water soluble package contains ½ pound of powder. We recommend applying 3 pounds per acre-foot of water in early spring. Then, add 1 pound per acre-foot each 2 – 4 weeks through the summer. When applied to shallow water around the lake edge, the bacteria and enzymes compete with nuisance algae for the available nutrients. We expect it to be effective for reducing accumulations of dead leaves, straw and organic matter in shallow water, as well.
Sterile grass carp are generally the least expensive, long-term solution for controlling nuisance vegetation. However, control is not rapid. We have found that if you stock 20 of the grass carp per vegetated acre, you can expect vegetation control by the end of the second year. They will help to provide long-term control. About the only criticism of grass carp is that they may be too effective and control all vegetation temporarily.
Grass carp cannot filter cyanobacteria (used to be called blue-green algae although the color can vary from yellow to white to red) from the water. Tilapia, which are tropical fish, are effective for controlling single-cell algae and will often control nuisance algae and cyanobacteria within 2 – 3 months. The fish are stocked in the spring, reproduce abundantly, and die during the winter. They become sluggish before dying and are excellent food for bass, crappie, catfish and other predators. Dead fish on the surface are very unusual.
I understand the lake will be drained completely for the dam repairs and renovation. I suggest you plan to have a backhoe or other piece of heavy equipment available when the pond finishes draining. The backhoe can be used to bury the fish that remain on the lake bottom after draining. I don’t recommend trying to save any of the fish except perhaps large largemouth bass if you know someone willing to remove the fish to transfer to another lake.
Initial stocking after the lake has begun refilling requires adding a balanced and sustainable population of fish. The most cost – effective approach is to stock small fish in relatively small numbers and depends upon growth and reproduction to complete the fish stocking. It is still very important to stock balanced numbers of the small fish and the size of the fish need to similar. My stocking recommendations are related to surface acres. For each surface acre I suggest stocking 30 largemouth bass (2 – 4 inches long); 200 bluegill and 100 shellcracker, sometimes called redear, (2 – 4 inches long); 5 pounds of fathead minnows; and 75 channel catfish (4 – 6 inches long). These fish can all be stocked during the spring. Expect the fish stocking to cost approximately $220 per surface acre.
I suggest you practice catch and release fishing for at least the first 3 years. Monitoring of the fish population will determine which additional fish need to be added to create or maintain the population balance and productivity desired. A record of the type, size and number of fish caught would be very useful. Future stocking recommendations can be based on this monitoring. Do not let anyone add wild fish to the lake. They may contain parasites or diseases. Fish such as crappie, bullheads or mixed species bream may be added by mistake. (They can make establishment of a balanced population more difficult.) You can obtain more information in our “Guide to Lake Management” (on our web site at: http://www.fosterlake.com), which describes various stocking strategies.
Feeding the fish pellet fish food can enhance fish growth. We have the feed available or you can get it from most feed and seed stores. Floating pellets are more convenient. For fastest growth, simply feed the fish the amount they will eat in 10 minutes each day. If uneaten feed remains after 10 minutes, reduce the amount you are feeding each day. The fish will eat more as they grow larger and when the water is warm. Automatic fish feeders are available if desired. We have a catalog with the various feeders if you are interested.
Bug feeders are becoming very popular. A light attracts flying insects at night. The spinning line knocks the bugs onto the surface of the water, where the waiting fish eat them. The feeders are available with a photocell so they will come on automatically every night. We have 3 different units available priced from about $40.00 to $120.00.
Fish thrive when sufficient cover and suitable habitat is provided. Submerged rock piles, ridges, mounds, wood shipping pallets and vegetative cover provide hiding places, ambush sites and encourage reproduction and survival of forage fish. During excavation and shoreline grading, submerged mounds of dirt and underwater ridges having gaps cut into them can be constructed inexpensively. Scrap concrete chunks, blocks, bricks, discarded riprap stone and pieces of broken concrete pipe provide excellent cover. Discarded oak shipping pallets can be stacked and submerged in shallow water and weighted down with concrete blocks. The pallets are inexpensive, last a long time and provide excellent cover and substrate for fathead minnows to lay their adhesive eggs.
Consider planting a few 100 square foot areas with native ornamental shoreline plants. Use a combination of rushes, sedges, rooted emergent plants and shrubs for diversity. These small areas will improve the appearance of the shoreline and serve as a source of additional plants that can be planted in other areas around the shoreline. These plants will also protect the shoreline, provide cover for fish and utilize excess nutrients that can contribute to nuisance vegetation.
Avoid planting aggressive species such as cattails and reeds or non-native species such as Chinese Privet and Asiatic Dayflower. Also, lotus, spatterdock, parrotfeather, eleodea, water hyacinth, water lettuce and lilies can spread rapidly and must be controlled. Charlotte Glen with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service recommends: Arrowhead (Duck Potato), Arrow Arum, Pickeralweed, Lizard’s Tail, Blue Flag, Rushes, Bulrushes, Sedges, Buttonbush, Swamp Rose, Cardinal Flower, Rose Mallow, Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Inkberry, Sweet Pepperbush, Virginia Sweetspire, Sweet Bay, River Birch, Green Ash, Beautyberry, Waxmyrtle and Red Maple. Some information sources include: http://www.mellowmarshfarm.com, http://www.nhq.nrcs.usda.gov/BCS/PMC/pubs/wetlandvendors.html and http://www.wetland.org,
Dense shoreline vegetation (such as willows, tall grass, brush, and small trees) makes shoreline access very difficult. It is difficult to monitor muskrat activity, pick up trash and fish from the shore. Opening up the shoreline reduces habitat for many pests and makes them vulnerable to natural predators. Usually mowing at least once or twice per year is sufficient.
Ideally, we like to see the shoreline of a lake mowed. But, plants should often be allowed to grow along the edge of the water out to about a foot from shore. This fringe is not unattractive and it provides many shoreline stabilization benefits. The fringe can be mowed at least 6 inches high at least once per year to prevent trees and woody brush from becoming established.
An aerator or fountain improves circulation, reduces surface films and reduces organic matter buildup on the bottom. Many lakes suffered fish kills resulting from oxygen depletions last year. Virtually any lake or pond will benefit from increased oxygen availability. The ability of a surface aerator or fountain to muffle extraneous noises from nearby streets or homes is often an unexpected benefit. Some people prefer a fountain with lights that will provide a dramatic view. But fountains can be very effective for improving water quality without being expensive.
Compressed air diffuser aeration systems are inexpensive and very effective for circulating water. They will destratify the water layers, increasing temperature consistency and dissolved oxygen throughout the water column. They will also help to prevent the formation of a surface film. If you are interested, we can provide information and our year-round service can provide routine maintenance.
The lake should be monitored for pests (nuisance animals). Timely control can prevent serious problems. Muskrat damage can seriously affect the shoreline or dam. Their holes should be filled with compacted clay soil. Muskrats should be trapped and removed if they become nuisances. Muskrats can have 5 litters per year with up to 15 young per litter. Beavers can cause serious problems and should not be allowed to destroy desirable trees or clog necessary drainage. Turtles do not usually cause problems. However, if turtles become a nuisance, they can be trapped and removed.
We have found that simply collapsing and filling muskrat holes and dens can be an effective method of control. We use a 2 – 3 inch diameter post for collapsing and tamping holes. Wrap duct tape around the post or wear gloves to avoid splinters. Walk around the shoreline at least monthly and find soft “spongy” areas that indicate an underground muskrat den. Completely collapse all soft areas and fill with packed dirt.
Excessive numbers of ducks, geese and other waterfowl are messy and can cause fish health problems. Their droppings and feathers can decrease the pleasure of walking along the shoreline. Some will cause significant damage to grass and ornamental plants. Some are aggressive towards people, particularly during breeding season. The only time I have seen fish parasite problems in recreational lakes are when there are too many ducks or geese around. We usually recommend that waterfowl numbers not exceed 8 per acre of lake surface.
We have been experimenting with ways to control geese. Feeding the geese should absolutely not be allowed. Feeding the geese disrupts their natural behavior, alters their life cycle and makes them virtually impossible to control. I can provide a very convincing pamphlet from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discouraging feeding geese if necessary.
We are using a variety of tools to control geese. We have stocked swans (costing roughly $600 per pair) into lakes hoping they will not allow the geese to stay. We have also sprayed repellents made with artificial grape flavoring. The solution is sprayed on the grass. Geese cannot stand the taste of the grass and leave. Various scare devices and barriers help provide control in specific areas. Goose D’Fence includes a rewindable reel of line attached to discrete stakes along the shoreline. We are also attempting to limit overcrowding by spraying goose eggs with mineral oil while in the nest. The oil causes the embryos to suffocate, but the adults do not realize the eggs will not hatch until they are no longer able to mate. This method of addling the eggs requires a federal permit.