Most farmers would like to have a farm pond on their acreage, and in north central Ohio, literally thousands do.  Some are wonderful places, filled with good sized fish, perfect for swimming, places that draw waterfowl and wildlife in plenty.  Lots of others are too shallow, too weedy, filled with stunted bluegills, good for little more than drawing water in case of fire.

Grant Milliron, who owns Milliron Recycling on Route 39 between Shelby and Mansfield, didn’t want a worthless pond.  Instead, he planned like a general to build a Perfect Farm Pond, one that would complement his dryland conservation efforts.  And he succeeded.  Grants first step was to contact the Soil Conservation Service in Richland County and ask what it would take to produce a perfect pond.  Their advice was as follows.

Ponds of any size frequently have problems with maintaining healthy fish populations, and one reason is that they seldom have much, if any, decent spawning territory for bass.  Bluegills can usually make out and bass can to a limited extent, but in a pure mud and clay bottom lake, which so many are, their success rate is less than ideal.

Grant solved that problem by putting in a shallow water spawning bed that took up one whole side of the pond.  He used pea gravel several inches deep for the bed and designed it so that it was nearly flat with a slight slant toward deeper water.  Smaller bass tend to spawn in shallower water while larger fish prefer slightly deeper nest sites.  His bed offered both.

 Then Milliron went one step further.  To protect small fish, both bass and bluegill, that roam over the beds looking for feed he added small triangles of four inch tile,  two below and one above, to provide an element of cover.  Bass would still be able to find plenty of bluegill fry and vice versa, but the tile would ensure that they didn’t overdo it.

Weeds are always a problem in ponds and there are few bodies of water that don’t have some, a lot, or too many.  Grants pond has few or none, except a few very small patches to provide cover and ambush sites.  First, he built the edges of his lake with a fairly steep slant, then covered that edge with sturdy black plastic, and over the plastic he placed a thick covering of limestone rocks.  There’s no place for weeds to gain a foothold, and that means no thick beds of cover to hide hordes of small bluegills.  The bass eat well, remaining panfish grow large in a hurry, and muskrats have no place to build their shoreline tunnels.

A recurring complaint of many fishermen is that farm ponds have bottoms smooth as a billard table.  There’s no cover, no place for bass to lie up and wait for food, no concentration points for fishermen.  So, this pond has several brushpiles weighted and tied down, and several trees tied together with stumps in shallow water and the tops in ten foot or better.  Added to a collection or two of Christmas trees weighted down with cinderblocks, and wherever bass decide to loaf, shallow, medium or deep, there’s prime hiding country for them.

The pond also has five holes cut into its bottom that deepen the pond two further feet, and these holes hold anything from large rocks for bass and bluegill lurking sites to tires tied together and weighted.  Almost unlimited cover.

To solve the problem of winter kill, which can happen sometimes when snow cover blocks sunlight for too long, this far thinking man purchased a small, inexpensive air compresser which sits in his basement.  A hose leads from the basement to the lake (underground), and whenever he decides the lake needs oxygenating, he simply turns on the compressor.  For an hour or 12, and as often as it needs it.

Finally, Grant was very careful to ensure that drainage would come from non-crop land since crop areas too often add unwanted nutrients to a lake causing algae blooms and bad smells.  And he’s given very careful thought and listened to good advice from the Division of Wildlife and county ag people before stocking his lake.  It now has bluegills and redear sunfish, largemouth bass, and some whopper channel cats all stocked originally in proper proportion.  Perfect lakes take some research and work, but they’re worth the trouble.  Especially, when you’re looking at a plate of crisp fried bluegills in palm-sized pieces.

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