There's a modest stock pond (about 1/4 acre) on our land. It was constructed 20-30 years ago by the then-lessee of the grazing rights, for the benefit of his cattle. It's well-made with a sound dam, and in the nine or ten years I've been looking at it (including a multi-year drought) it has never gone dry, nor has it ever filled deep enough to drain out the spillway. It is fed by surface runoff from road culverts and ditches along the property boundary and also drains runoff from an area of adjacent pasture on the other side of the road that's still in grazing use; if there ever was a running stream in this drainage it has been impounded by the rancher's up-gradient stock ponds.
The pond is in decent ecological shape, supporting numerous turtles and frogs. There's some underwater aquatic vegetation and algae, but it is minimal. There are some cattails in the drainage area above the pond, but not many. Perhaps 30% of the pond perimeter is dam with grass and weeds, and a similar amount is forest; the rest is grass or the edge of a clean weedy gravel pad that supports oil extraction operations. There is one small willow tree growing near the putative spillway area that never actually overflows; the rest of the trees are at the top of the pond and are mostly various kinds of oaks and a few Osage Orange, juniper (red cedar), and ash trees.
What there is NOT is any evidence of fish in the pond. It was created on a slope that drains into ravines that have seasonal streams in them, but it wasn't created in an existing natural stream and there's no continuous flowing-water pathway for fish either above or below the pond. Observing the pond there are never any visible minnows, nor any jumping or feeding fish. Clarity of the water is good enough that fish in the shallows would be visible when the light is good. Nor have I ever seen waterfowl of any kind feeding or living in the pond. At some point a beaver visited and cut a few trees, but those stumps are many years old.
We are not big fish eaters and have no interest in stocking this pond with a fish population that would support fishing by people, nor is aquaculture on our list of desired hobbies. Also, the pond is marginal in size and depth for getting support from the state's sport-fishing-oriented agricultural pond-stocking program even if we wanted that, which we do not.
My question is this: What, if any, stocking with fish or other aquatic animals should we consider if the goal is to attract and support more wildlife use of the pond? I'm fairly clear on the sorts of on-land improvements one makes to provide habitat for wildlife that might wish to use the pond. It's the food ecosystem I'm unclear about and to a lesser extent the aquatic vegetation. We've got frogs and turtles, but apparently not enough to attract herons and cranes and that sort of bird. Deer drink from this pond, and small rodents live along the shore, but I've never seen any other mammals there. Nor have I ever seen any waterfowl on the pond, though this may have nothing to do with food availability and everything to do with the limited sight lines from water level that may make nervous squawkers uncomfortable.
I've tried to Google this but all the keywords I've tried have turned up mostly resources for people trying to manage their ponds for maximum fish (sport fishing or aquaculture) which means limiting aquatic vegetation and discouraging birds. I'm more interested in managing the pond to promote maximum food resources for birds and mammals; since I don't need this pond for watering cows, I'd like to use it as if it were a natural pond, for wildlife habitat and diversity. It's clear to me that I want more aquatic vegetation, not less, to provide additional habitat for insects and amphibians and reptiles. I'm limited there because the pond was carefully designed for water storage with the steep shores that minimize vegetation. But what about fishy/finny stuff? I've seen some sources that say birds want fish to eat, while others say that birds are perfectly happy with lots of amphibians, which would decline under fish predation. Since this is a pond that apparently isn't going to develop fish populations by natural means, I'm left in a quandary. Do I just manage for making the existing critters happier, or do I introduce local species of fish and other swimmy/leapy/crawlies from other nearby sources?
I realize this is a very open-ended post. I'm obviously not looking for definitive answers, just ideas and feedback. What would you do (if anything) to manage a pond like this for wildlife diversity?
I am no fish expert in any case, but one thing I would be concerned about is the pond's compatibility with fish.
I mean, for instance, what is the depth of the pond in general? Does it vary a lot ?
One thing that occurred to me is that some fish like deeper water, some need certain temperatures.
Where I live, the trout love cold water in the mountain streams and they suffer if lots of trees are cut out and the water heats up.
I think a good place to start with is the pond's conditions, then find out what fish are suitable for those conditions.
I would say there is definite possibility, however, like all things, the devil is in the details.
I highly recommend the following forum for all things pond and fish related-
If you post your same post with pic over there, you will certainly get a bunch of seriously expert opinions, from pond guys that live in your region. Ponds are tricky, and the details have to be done right for them to succeed. Local variations in climate, soils, water, and fish can make huge differences. I could tell you what has worked for me with my pond in Colorado, but it really would be irrelevant to your situation.
What I can say for sure is that developing a healthy pond ecology has been one of the most satisfying and rewarding projects on my diverse small farm. Going fishing out back on a summer afternoon, then grilling up the catch with friends and family, is just a great experience, every time.
Chris, I don't want to dive straight to the "what fish are suitable" questions until I determine whether I want fish at all. If I do want fish, I'm confident that some sort of fish can be found that will thrive in my pond; since I don't care if they are attractive game fish, I should have plenty of options. It's really more of a "would fish enrich my biodiversity, or are they more likely to eat all the vegetation and frogs and crash the pond ecology?" kind of question. Opinions seem to differ on that, and of course "depends on the fish" keeps coming up in the window of the Magic 8-Ball too, which brings us back around to your unanswered questions about pond depth and bottom profile.
Practically speaking, I don't actually know how deep the pond is or what its bottom profile is. It is sufficiently deep that my big dogs are swimming within just a few feet of the shore, and the shore slopes down fairly fast. I guess I need to float around in an inner tube taking soundings ("Mark Twain!") and waving my tushie at the water moccasins, if any.
Adam, I am diving into that URL. Lots of lurking and reading to keep me busy for a few days!
I am going to bump this thread of mine from a year ago. I haven't done anything to or with the pond since then, but I did see waterfowl (ducks) in it one time. I'm still curious whether there's anything easy I can do to make it more attractive to wildlife, especially waterfowl.
I'n not terribly knowledgble on this front, but I do know my nieghbors built and installed woodduck houses in their trees, and there are quite a few ducks in their pond. The ducks don't seem to come to our pond, though. We had one build a nest, but the nest got eaten, and since then no more native ducks have arrived. Perhaps if you installed wood duck nests and/or made safe habitats for mallard ducks, you would have more waterfowl? It appears woodducks live in Oklahoma (http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/wildlifemgmt/species/woodduck.htm). SOrry I don't have more time to reasearch (my toddler is ready for bed). But here's some links to wood duck and floating duck houses:
A few things. Fish need cover and some shade from direct sunlight. Perhaps a cutting from the willow along the western edge of the pond for the harsh afternoon sun would provide some habitat if you get fish.
Catfish can and will live anywhere. They are the sanitation crew of your pond. They keep the dead plant life cycling and prevent anaerobic conditions. If you talk to the local kids a buck a piece for ones too small to keep, you could take care of things quickly. They will improve the health of the pond.
Also a very cheap and low commitment strategy would be to buy a few pounds of live minnows at a bait shop. Obviously enough to ensure at least one breeding pair to make it sustainable. If nothing else they will help the existing aquatic species you have as a food source. They are also necessary food for anything you transplant. Minnows are a couple bucks. Sun perch and crappie are fairly small hardy breeds that do well in ponds. Again, they might be available from a bait shop.
A carnivorous fish like bass would likely eat itself out of food supply and perish in a small pond. I would wait to see how the overall health develops before investing in any type of larger game fish.