Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stocking up!

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Once our pond had been excavated, rebuilt and and filled up, we allowed it to sit for a year and settle before we thought about what type of fish to stock it with.

During the pond's "rest year", water plants and other vegetation began to grow. Because the winters are cold and the pond is spring fed, allowing a continual flow of fresh water, the water stayed clear and clean, but some weeds and stringy algae still formed around the edge of it.

 Jeff had spent several years as a golf course mechanic and had learned about the use of Grass Carp to eat water vegetation and keep it under control. However, much like the dreaded snakehead carp, the Grass Carp can easily overpopulate waterways and wipe out native species. New York State allows the stocking of these useful creatures, but property owners must first submit an application for a permit to stock, so the state may determine how many fish are needed for the particular body of water, as well as ensure that the pond or lake is land-locked and does not overflow into any other waterway, so the carp will never threaten the native waterlife.

Snakehead Carp (Channa argus) (artist: Susan Trammell 07/02)
In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation is the agency that oversees the safety and proper use of the state's fish, wildlife and waterways, among other things.

Every state has some kind of conservation agency that can help guide landowners in developing their land properly. In some states, it is necessary to get obtain approval from these agencies before you begin any excavation or construction on your land.

Grass Carp
 We completed our DEC applications and it was determined that our pond could accommodate 2 Triploid (sterile) Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) The local branch of the DEC received our order and scheduled us for delivery. The DEC retains possession of the fish all the way to the landowner's pond, so they can document that the invasive species is installed properly. 

Black Bass (M. dolomieu)
When we applied for our permit to stock Grass Carp, we requested that a DEC Biologist tell us what other type of fish our pond could support. We wanted to be able to walk out of our house, down to the pond, and pull dinner out of it! The Biologist recommended Black Bass and Channel Catfish.

During our annual summer trip to Winterrest Farm, we piled into the truck, drove 40 miles south to Hickling's Fish Farm, and bought 60 Black Bass and 24 Channel Cats. They were loaded up and driven back to the farm. We were elated; our first "livestock" was ready to begin their lives on our farm!
Everyone heads to the pond with the bags of baby fish!

Letting the wee fishies free

Baby Black Bass as they adjust to their new home.

So we now had a well-stocked pond. One of the key parts to our sustainable plan had been done. I felt a real sense of peace and accomplishment; knowing that in 12 short months, we'd have fresh fish to eat whenever we could catch them. The clogged and broken pond we had first found was beginning to breathe again; to be able to sustain life again.
I looked forward to fishing on my farm, but most of all, I looked forward to watching our little pond grow and thrive, as we watched the rest of the farm do the same!