With winter fast approaching, many of our managed lake see a dramatic change in weed density and water clarity. Just like your Bermuda lawn, most aquatic weeds will turn brown and go dormant for the winter. Most weeds will seem to be completely gone, but we know from experience that the roots and seeds are quietly biding their time until the sunlight increases and the water temperatures rise. And just like your lawn, treating the young shoots of the aquatic weeds is the easiest way to control them as opposed to letting the weeds become deeply rooted again.
Lake owners will also see the clarity of their lakes increase, sometimes dramatically, during the winter. Why is that? As the water cools, the natural cycle of phytoplankton is halted, thus clearing the water or its summertime green or brownish color. With this cooling comes slower growth for all animals in the lake, as their bodies try to conserve energy through the winter. As fishes metabolism slows, you should slow down the rate at which you provide supplemental feeding with your fish feeders to bluegill and/or catfish.
Fish feeders this time of year need to be set for a mid-afternoon feeding and shut down by the time the water temps are consistently in the low 50’s. Now if you feeding cool water fish such as trout, then keep them running. Just keep in mind you want the fish to consume all of the food in around five minutes. Once turned off. Break down the components of the feeder and clean them well. Apply lubrication to moving parts. Thoroughly clean the solar panel. Put your batteries on a load tester to make sure they are ready for next spring. Never leave a feeder shutdown for the winter with food in it. Fish food sitting in a feeder that is shut down will lead to corrosion problems.
Winter is also the best time of the year to place fish habitat. In our work, it is common to find lakes with a lack of protective cover. This is critical to promote bluegill recruitment which will improve the growth rates of your largemouth bass. You can cut trees and sink them near spawning beds. Next month, collect all the Christmas trees from your neighbors and sink them in less than 4 feet of water where small fish spend their time. Also, increase fishing hot spots with placement of trees out in deeper water.
Old ponds that may have sediment buildup can use some dredging. A silted in pond is not good habitat for spawning and may lead to a muddy lake. It facilitates aquatic weed and algae growth. Dredging it out means draining the lake and there is no better time to drain the lake for the fish than when cool.
What else could I do this winter for my lake? If you experienced aquatic weeds in the warmer months, stocking grass carp this winter will give your lake a jump-start on the spring growth.
- The best long-term control of the submersed weeds is stocking grass carp.
- Grass carp are very effective in controlling submersed grasses and can eat up to 5 times their body weight in one day.
Installing a bottom diffused aeration system can prevent winter turnover fish kills and add beneficial oxygen to the water body. Aeration systems have also been proven to reduce nutrient levels in the water, stunting weed growth. Although not a aesthetically pleasing as a fountain, bottom diffused aeration adds more oxygen and actually takes less electricity to operate.
Just because winter is here and normal fishing slows down, you can add rainbow trout to your lake for added action in the winter months. Trout are cold water fish and are very aggressive in the colder months, and are good tasting and easy to catch. Supplemental feeding with a fish feeder is recommended for trout.
So don’t give your lake the cold shoulder this winter, pick a project that will increase your enjoyment of the lake!