My property has a 1/2 acre (that is 100 feet x 50 feet) water body on it. It is fed by a slow moving creek. I have always wanted to know the difference between a pond and lake. Strangely there is no definitive distinction between the two. According to many limnologists (that’s a person who studies inland waters), “a water-body that has rooted plants growing in it should be classified as a pond because it is shallow—and small—enough to allow sunlight to shine to the bottom, allowing photosynthesis. In this case, a lake would be too wide and deep for sunlight to reach its bottom, and instead is unofficially categorized by a small shoreline surrounded by vegetation.” Our body of water does not have rooted plants throughout it. We also have a small rowboat, and I have paddled to the middle of our body of water, and as far as I can estimate, it is 12-15 feet deep at its deepest, which makes it too deep for sunlight to shine to the bottom. So although I have been referring to it as a pond to friends and family, I think it is officially a lake. I shall now call it AlIris Lake (a play on my first name and my wifey’s first name).
My father-in-law is an avid fisherman. Whenever he is going to a body of water, he’ll bring along his fishing pole. I remember a time we went on a kayaking trip down the Delaware Water Gap, and he neglected to bring his pole. He did, however bring fishing line and spare hooks (who does that?) He fashioned a makeshift pole and while kayaking, fished the Delaware River. I did not expect him to catch anything, but a few minutes later, he jerked his line and out came a small minnow. Too small to eat, but large enough to use as bait to catch something bigger. Anyway, on my father-in-law’s first visit to our farm, he brought his fishing pole and tackle box. After two or three hours of casting away, he came back and declared our lake fishless. I was dissappointed, because the previous owners indicated that there were some bass and trout in the lake. I do not think my father-in-law is the authority on whether a body of water contains fish. Our neighbors who sit on their stoop and can see our lake, have mentioned that they see fish exiting the surface occasionally. Furthermore, I have a friend who went into the lake with our rowboat and in the shallows, said that they clearly saw fish.
Nevertheless, I decided to supplement the existing fish in the lake with more fish. Ideally, I wanted edible fish. I needed to find a source of fingerlings that I could stock our lake with. I did some minor internet research on the best types of fish that live in the local waters and came up with three: Large mouth Bass, Catfish and Brown Trout. Being familiar with catching trout and their preference for fast moving rivers, I decided to focus on the first two.
THREE STEPS TO GET YOUR FISH
My internet research has turned up an application process wherein in the state of Connecticut, you must have a permit to stock your body of water with any fish. The process is pretty simple:
- Fill out the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) fish liberation application (there is a way to file this application online which is the best approach because the process is faster);
- You will need to determine the amount of fish as well as your fish supplier. A good thing to do would be to contact the two or three closest fish suppliers (cuts down on shipping costs) and tell them the parameters of your water body and ask their advice on the ideal number of fish you should buy. After calling each one, select the one that you like the most and put int in the application. As a side note, although the number of fish is required on the application, you can deviate from the actual number. I put 25 large mouth bass and 25 catfish on the application but at the hatchery decided that 50 large mouth bass would give them a better chance at a high survival rate, and it was no problem getting 50.
- After your permit is approved (took less than 48 hours) the hatchery that you put on your application will be notified of your approval and will likely reach out to you to discuss shipping or pickup.
Some notes about fish liberation. On the application, you put a fish liberation date. That is the earliest date that you expect to release the fish into your water body. You may obtain and release your fish up to 60 days after that date, but after that date, you must submit a new fish liberation application. Also, while the numbers can be massaged based on fish availability and reassessment, fish breeds are NOT. For example, I also put in an order for 1,000 fat head minnows (for the large mouth bass to eat). The hatchery did not have fathead minnows, but did have shiners, which he could not sell to me because it was not on my permit
There are a bunch of online videos discussing proper fish release into a foreign body of water. The guy at my hatchery told me that the bass were 6″-8″ long and were very hearty. He said no special acclimatization was required. “Open the bags and dump them into your pond or lake.” Which I did. He also gave me a pound of floating fish food which he told me to use once per day to feed the fish, since this is what they were raised on. As they grow, they will be able to eat the minnows, but he did not expect them to be able to eat them for a few more months.
GRASS CARP PERMITTING PROCESS
The above fish liberation permitting process applies to all fish, with the exception of grass carp. Grass carp are voracious eaters of vegetation. I was interested in grass carp because my lake gets a growth of what I determined (through much trial and error and internet research) to be water meal.
Water meal is a hardy and difficult to remove single leaf vegetation. A single leaf can reproduce into billions of leaves in a week, leaving our lake with a green slick. Furthermore, these hardy plants go dormant in the winter and can sprout instantly when the conditions are ideal.
I did the research on removal of it. There are three main ways of water meal removal as well as their pros and cons.
- Herbicides. Pros: relatively cheap and effective. Cons: require regular dosages, may require permit, placing dangerous chemicals where we plan to fish;
- Mechanical skimmers. Pros: immediate. Cons: impossible to remove every leaf of watermeal, expensive to purchase and to operate;
- Grass Carp: Pros: long term effective and inexpensive solution; Cons: not immediate and requires a permit.
Needless to say, I decided on grass carp. Unfortunately since grass carp are a foreign species and are voracious eaters, the State has a more difficult permitting procedure. After submission of your permit, a state inspector (and there is only one in the entire state) must do a site visit. The grass carp that you can buy must be sterile. Even though they cannot reproduce, the inspector will make sure that they carp cannot escape into another waterway, potentially eating all of the vegetation and food sources for local animals. After the state inspector visits and approves your water body for grass carp, will you get your application approved.
In speaking with the hatchery that sells grass carp, I learned a few interesting things:
- Grass carp live on average 5-7 years;
- They can grow up to be between 36″ – 48″ long (that’s 3 to 4 feet!);
- The hatchery feeds the fingerlings watermeal;
- I can expect the watermeal to be eradicated by next season.
I have filled out the grass carp application last month and am still waiting for a state inspector to schedule a visit.