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Private Pond Management

It is estimated that up to 80,000 ponds exist in Virginia. Although they were built for a variety of reasons including recreation, livestock watering, irrigation, flood control, aquaculture, and aesthetics, they represent a tremendous potential fishery resource. If managed properly, they can provide angling opportunities as good as, or in many cases better than, public waters. The purpose of this site is to assist the pond owner in pursuit of healthy sportfish populations.

Pond management is similar to farming in many ways. The pond’s owner is attempting to grow a crop (sportfish) in a limited amount of space (the pond) while battling weeds (undesirable fish species) under the influence of unpredictable weather. A farmer’s crop production is limited by the acreage and quality of his land. In the same way, fish production is limited by the size, shape and fertility of a pond. Because ponds often serve multiple purposes and some management alternatives (such as plant control) are often expensive, a pond owner can’t always do what’s best for the fish. However, there are many management strategies that can help make the most of what you have.

This guide is designed to answer most common questions about pond construction and maintenance, water quality, fish stocking, fish health, fish population management, plant control, and other common pond management issues. If you need additional assistance, there are several potential sources within the state. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has fisheries biologists on staff that can answer questions regarding fish population balance, fish health, plant control, and other pond management issues.

Generally, private consultants (PDF) should be contacted if you wish to have your pond’s fish population sampled or if you need water or fish samples tested for contamination (DWR can provide a list of these for your reference). Some universities and county extension agents will assist pond owners with plant identification and other pond management questions. There are no sources of free fish in Virginia for stocking ponds; refer to this list of commercial fish hatcheries (PDF).