Love The Pond


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First post. We bought a home in northern central Michigan when we retired 3 years ago. The 1/2
acre pond is part of the homes geo-thermal heating and cooling. I have some monster hybrid bluegills, perch,
and bass, and supplemental feed the hybrid gills for about 7 months out of the year.

The wildlife the pond attracts is amazing.

Summer view


Winter view




 
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addy1

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Welcome to our forum! That is one beautiful pond and big!
 

JBtheExplorer

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We bought a home in northern central Michigan when we retired 3 years ago. The 1/2
acre pond is part of the homes geo-thermal heating and cooling. I have some monster hybrid bluegills, perch,
and bass, and supplemental feed the hybrid gills for about 7 months out of the year.

What a fantastic pond! I'd definitely love to see more photos! Please consider planting some species like Swamp Milkweed, Great Blue Lobelia, and other wetland nectar plants around the outside edge to help Monarch butterflies and other native pollinators. :)

IMG_2614 copy.jpg IMG_4290 copy1.jpg
 
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The pond is what made this place so enticing when I found it 2 1/2 years ago. I had just retired, and my wife was a few months away from doing the same. One morning looking at Zillow listings, I found this listing and it had only been on the site for a few hours when I stumbled onto it. It read like everything we've ever wanted in a country home. It has some acreage, a half acre pond, a huge garden area, geo-thermal heating and cooling, a large pole barn, and the home was built in '98 as a dream home for a couple. They even had a separate mother in law apartment built into the home. 2 kitchens, two dining rooms, 2 baths, 3 bedroom and a 1/2 acre pond 30 feet from the home. I fell in love with the pics. We had been life long city folk living in the capital city our entire lives and now we've moved to a very rural area with our nearest neighbor about a half mile away. The gent that built the home was selling because his wife had passed suddenly earlier in the year.

A few days before we were closing on the home, the gent I was buying it from was going to make a quick sandwich for lunch, and asked if I wanted to join him. He had noticed my fishing rod and asked if I had bait, as he had a compost pile that had a ton of leaf worms. I told him I had brought a small cooler with some. While he went in and had a sandwich, I tried my luck off the small dock. First fish was an eight inch hybrid gill I quickly released. The second one was about the same. The third fish hit like a ton of bricks and would not come to the surface. I was fishing with 2 lb test leader so I could not horse the fish. I thought it might be one of the large bass in the pond. He had boy scouts that would have jamborees on the property and camp out. They would catch and release fish in the pond. One bass caught was just shy of 7 pounds he told me, which is huge for Michigan.

I finally got a glimpse of what was on the end of my line and my jaw dropped. An extremely large hybrid bluegill. I walked off the dock and beached it and then using a dollar bill which is 6 inches long, did a quick measurement and found it to be almost 13 inches. It probably weighed 2 lbs +. Awesome fish. I quickly released it and then caught two more before he came out from having finished his lunch. One of the last two fish was a bass about 12 inches long that looked very healthy. He asked if I had caught any and I told when I told him, he smiled. A very knowing smile. All were released.

Since we bought the place in late summer of '16, and the last time he had planted the hybrid bluegills was in '08, I thought it might be time to re-stock. Some here probably know about hybrid bluegills, but for those that do not, I will explain what I have learned.

A hybrid bluegill is a cross between a female green sunfish and a male bluegill. The resulting brood are called hybrids. They grow faster and larger than the normal bluegills and are preferred in farm ponds because they tend not to overpopulate a pond. A body of water can only support a given weight per acre, and that could be a larger number of smaller fish, or a smaller number of larger fish. The weight per acre remains roughly the same.
That is why a normally very prolific bluegill can over populate a pond. A correct predator/prey relationship is required which is where the bass and perch come into the picture. A properly balanced pond with a correct predator pray relationship is crucial for a healthy pond.

With the hybrids, if a male and female hybrid get together to spawn, the resulting brood will also be hybrids but approx 90 to 95 percent will be males. This is why over time, the pond will be left with only males. They have a lifespan of 6 to 8 years and in that the last time the pond was stocked was 10 years prior to when we bought the home, I thought a talk with the biologist at the hatchery would be wise.

In spring of '17, I fished it rather hard very early spring and caught very few gills. I was trying to assess the numbers. Mid spring I found a couple of large beds that the males had made hoping to entice a female, but none joined them. That is when I decided to restock. I put in 320 hybrid bluegills that were 4 to 6 inches long. I also put in 200 yellow bellied perch which were 5 to 7 inches long from the same hatchery. And then to compliment the perch, I put in 2 gallons of fathead minnows.

The blue heron made short work out of many of the hybrids that year. I have a constant view of the pond right out of my window and would run out daily to try and scare him off. I tried heron stop fence kits, and what I improvised from those kits. I tried decoys, I tried a human decoy fishing on the dock. What worked best was a constant vigil on the pond. Tiresome. My best estimate on the damage caused by that blue heron is about 2/3 of the hybrids and a few of the perch were taken. When I average out all costs associated with the pond including the original cost of the fish, I come up with a staggering $1600 dollars worth of hybrids gone in one year.* (total cost on everything pond related divided by total number of fish). I had to restock again. Arrrgh. I had to rethink my strategy.

This last year, I bought 2 large bolts of bird netting and a ton of 3,4, and 5 foot galvanized green fence stakes. I then put them in around the entire 640 feet of shoreline. I then put on my waders and put in a bunch more of them in the pond at about the top of my thighs depth. Then cutting netting off a bolt that was 15 feet wide and 350 feet long, my wife would cut the size pieces of it that I needed and I would ty wrap them to the fence stakes in the pond while she did the same on the shore. Over a three week time period we got the entire pond covered out to depth where it was too deep to try and land in the pond and bypass the shoreline netting. I even ran some of the same netting along the shoreline fence post to fence post, similar to actual fencing. This gave me the vertical wall of protection as well. I would watch that blue heron try to find chinks in the armor, and when I found a spot where they were standing/stalking on a spot of shoreline, I would then improve the netting in that area. Finally by mid summer, I had heron proofed the pond. I have about $500 invested in the netting and stakes and it took the two of us approx 40 hours combined to put it in, and mid November, we took it all out for winter, so I get to do it all over again next year.

This does not stop the occasional eagle or owl from grabbing a bass from the pond, which is very cool to see, and does not bother me. The bass are self sustaining as there are many different year classes from small to very large. I did not pay for any of them. I do not like to eat them. They are the apex predator in the pond and are there for one reason, which is to keep the bluegills and perch from overpopulating the pond. Therefore, birds of prey can have all of the bass they want, just keep the hybrids off the menu please.

I love to eat fish but have not even fished the pond since stocking it . *(twice). I just walk around the pond from April until November and throw handfuls of small floating fish pellets that the bluegills love and even some of the bass will go for them. I usually throw about a folgers coffee can full as I walk around the pond feeding them. It is addicting to watch these fish boil the surface like piranha at times. When I do start to fish the pond, I will be just selectively harvesting some of the perch and probably let the hybrids go. I have so many lakes in the area to catch bluegills that harvesting them from the pond seems wrong.

The pond is 14 feet deep,( using the formula for figuring out how many gallons was tricky but I averaged it for 10 feet deep and came up with 1.5 million gallons for our little aquarium). For the most part, it drops off quickly I found out as I waded the pond putting in fence stakes for the netting. It has aeration year round, and and excellent hatch for insects including a Mayfly hatch that happens nightly for over a week in late May/ early June. I do not need to feed them, but do anyway as I want to see them get large, and it is also addicting to feed them and watch. I often take 20 minutes to walk around the pond and throw a coffee can worth of small floating pellets and then sit down and count the number of "rises" I see from them feeding. In the summer months that number can be over 2000 if I sit there counting for a while.

I had to make a couple of areas where the baby wood ducks and mom could walk under the netting to get to the pond from their nesting area. The entire netting protection is hideous to look at. It has detracted from many of the wonderful wildlife shots taken but at least I can sleep at night knowing that even when they go nocturnal, I've foiled their plans. If you look closely at the above pic with the turkeys, you can see the fence posts and netting. As a sidebar, the hatcheries business and livelihood is threatened by these birds and the biologist at the hatchery has a federal permit to kill them. These birds can really damage a ponds fish numbers. I wish us private pond owners could have that option.

As I was writing this, the Fed Ex guy just dropped off two Wood Duck nesting boxes I ordered. I'm going to try and give them every opportunity to have more successful broods as they are the prettiest duck swimming imo, and a joy to watch.
J

More pics

Turkey - Squirrel


Turkey - Deer


Female Wood Duck with her ducklings and my arch enemy.


Wood ducks and squirrel. I like the little duckling looking up at the squirrel.


Kingfisher


Wood Ducks


Hybrid Bluegill Bed


Thwarted


Squirkey Sandwich


Hybrid Bluegills


Human Decoy fooled the blue heron for about 20 minutes


One of our 3 Corgis, Forrest, wanting to go for another paddle boat ride


Very large snapper live trapped and relocated. We did not want to see the baby
wood ducks start dissappearing. 20 lbs +


Here is the matriarch doe in our area who has had twins for three years in a row prior to this
years. This year she had triplets. This first shot was on the back side of the pond last May
where she is looking very pregnant, and then in the second shot we seen her for the first time with
her triplets in early June. I have a progression of pics showing her and the fawns throughout the summer into the fall. I believe she is 6 years old and responsible for at least 10 deer added to the local herd from her. I have some amazing pics from '17 where we watched the same doe giving birth in our backyard one morning while her twin bucks from the prior year watched from 50 feet away. My wife and I were taking pics and watching from the house and the deer were aware of us watching but we were apparently not enough of a threat for them to leave. So awesome to have witnessed this doe giving birth.




Barred owl with mouths to feed in a hollowed out tree 50 yards into the woods. With
mouths to feed at the nest, she was abandoning her normal nocturnal habits and showing
up a couple hours before dark on a perch overlooking the pond. She would eye rabbits, squirrels,
other birds, and finally made her choice. She flew down and landed on top of a muskrat at the waters edge and just held it submerged for a few seconds. I was amazed at how quickly she dispatched it, and then flew back to the nest with it to the waiting owlets. So cool to have seen this.
It happened so quick that auto-focus did not have time to do it's job. Stupid auto-focus.





Hawk also likes perching over the pond. I've yet to get pics of the eagle we have hanging out by the pond, but I've seen him splash down grabbing bass in the 15 inch size and fly off with them.




Love the pond.


J
 
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Absolutely fantastic front row seat to Mother Nature at her best ! My folks have a cottage on Grand Traverse Bay in Antrim County.
 
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Wonderful nature shots! How did you trap the turtle? A large pond in my neighborhood has lots of ducks. Occasionally a duck gets a broken leg and is limping for a few weeks until it heals. I feel sure a snapper does this while the duck is swimming. What do you think?
 
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Wonderful nature shots! How did you trap the turtle? A large pond in my neighborhood has lots of ducks. Occasionally a duck gets a broken leg and is limping for a few weeks until it heals. I feel sure a snapper does this while the duck is swimming. What do you think?
I bought two live traps. 12" x18" x 36" . When I set them around the pond I tried to leave about a third of the trap above water. That ensures the snapper won't drown before I can get to it. I checked the traps every morning. In one of the above shots with the blue heron and the wood ducks, you can see a wooden stake. I use these to make sure the trap doesn't get moved if I catch one. I don't want it moving the trap to deeper water as it would drown. I tried many different baits to lure them in. Chicken skin, or smaller panfish, dead of course, tied up in netting and hung inside the cage so that the netting and bait inside was submerged to allow the scent to bring them in. The above pic of the snapper shows him in the cage and you can even see a bit of the netting left. I caught the one in the pic on chicken skin. There is a trap door at one end that is set in the open position, and a tread plate inside the cage that triggers the door shut when weight is put on it.You can also see the tread plate in the pic. This is why I stake them, so that once caught in a live trap cage, they cannot move the cage. I released this guy about 5 miles away at a wetland river system. As far as any duck we have in our pond, a 20 pound plus snapper could make short work of any of them and have been known to eat ducks, especially ducklings. I would not think a snapper would have a problem pulling the duck under and drowning it, which is why another culprit may be responsible for the broken foot, even local cats or dogs. Then again, it may be a smaller snapper developing future hunting skills and is not quite big enough to get the job done. These live traps cost about $100 .

As a side note, I've used these same live traps in our garden (60' x 120', it's huge), to get some raccoons. In a 10 day period in August last year, we had 6 rows , 120' long each and around 500 sweet corn plants ruined by these guys. I caught 8 of them in a two week period late August, early September. They love craft mini marmellows. I would leave in a small tin on the trip plate with some marshmellows, and almost every morning, I had one or two. 8' fencing around the garden did not even slow them down.
j

A few more pics











Scrubby Bubbles
 
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cas

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What an interesting story @corgi . Thanks for sharing it and your pictures. You have a beautiful pond.
 
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Wow, Such amazing pictures and stories about your pond and critters who visit.

So awesome you got to watch the deer giving birth. Do you put feed out for them?
 

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