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Outdoors: Snow-covered ponds in danger of fish kill

Updated: March 3, 2014 5:14PM



Lee Sczepanski took time from pushing snow around last week (it’s been a busy winter for plow drivers) to post a reminder/warning.

“Give your posse a reminder to give their ponds and small lakes some TLC, because they have had snow cover and very cold temperatures for over 40 days so they need to clear some ice, drill some holes or aerate the water to allow photosynthesis, so there is no major harm to the fishery from these rough conditions,’’ he posted.

So I checked in with District 1 fisheries biologist Tom Bacula, who emailed back, “Most of our lakes have sufficient depth and light penetration for photosynthesis to not winter kill. Some of the shallow lakes and ponds that have the foot plus of ice and a few inches of snow are probably not going to fare as well.’’

There’s been scattered reports of fish kills.

“Most people won’t notice the fish kills until ice starts coming off and they start fishing their ponds in the spring,’’ he emailed. “With the severity of this winter, I suspect most of the fish will decompose by the time the ice comes off since we are in the critical time of the year for the kill to occur.’’

Once a fish kill is underway, stopping it is tough.

In terms of prevention, Bacula recommended, “But some things can be tried such as clearing snow off the ice and installing aeration systems. When clearing the snow, the pond owner doesn’t have to get all the snow but making strips can be helpful to get some light penetration. Aeration systems can be expensive and tough to maintain but do help keep some of the issues with winter and summer kill from occurring.

“Many people think drilling some holes with will sufficiently aerate the pond, while that works in a very small spot, it is not a good solution compared to shoveling some snow. Most of the oxygen in water is created by microscopic plants and not the surface water interface so more light for plants will be more oxygen.’’

Sczepanski, with whom I wander around occasionally, suggested clearing the snow over a weed bed and not the deepest part of the pond.

The lake at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, because of its shallowness, is at risk in winters like this. But there appears to be no problems. In part, I suspect, because Morocco has received a fraction of the snow that has blanketed Hammond, East Chicago and Griffith.

In fact, Capt. Rich Sleziak at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station said, “Guys who know what they are doing are going down to ‘The Slough.’ ” He said his tungsten jigs tipped with spikes, mousies or wax worms are the ticket.

Site staff said ice fishermen were out, even in the worst of the weather earlier this week.

Hunting: While there is some understanding that the weather has been awful since the Jan. 10 date for removing deer stands, it is time. Staff at Kingsbury FWA noted officers are talking with those toting out their stands recently. Get them out. ... Raccoon and opossum season ends today.

Politics: The Indiana Wildlife Federation sent an update on canned hunting in Indiana. SB404 would legalize high fence shooting/canned hunting operations. That drives respectable hunters nuts, both from the biological and ethical sides.

Contact legislators, Gov. Mike Pence, Sen. David Long and Speaker of the House Brian Bosma. An online petition opposing canned hunting is at change.org/petitions/ban-canned-hunting-in-indiana

Clubbing: The speaker is to be announced for the Lake County Fish and Game (lakecountyfishandgame.org) meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the clubhouse in Griffith.

Fishing note: More than 100 entered the derby on Saturday to raise funds for a launch on Loomis, fishing was fair.



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