Monday, April 25, 2011

Sportfish and Pond Management- Wildlife Management-April 2011

Sportfish and Pond Management

Each year Alabama anglers spend an estimated $835 million on fishing and fishing-related activities, much of this money going to rural areas. The recreational fishing industry has a dramatic impact on Alabama’s economy. Ponds can provide recreational pleasure for landowners. A farm pond is not a creation of nature with its own set of checks and balances. The pond owner must provide the management to carefully monitor the fish populations for continued successful harvesting.

It is important to understand how ponds work in order to have a productive pond. Good pond management requires enhancing food availability for fish, controlling harvest to maintain a balance of predator-prey populations, weed control, preventing situations that cause fish kills, and maintaining good water quality.

The cornerstones of healthy fish populations are proper location and construction, fish selection and stocking, removal of undesirable or overpopulated fish, liming and fertilization, harvesting and record-keeping, pond balance, and aquatic weed control.

Stocking ponds correctly is important. Experts at The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries say that the best choices for stocking Alabama farm ponds are bluegill, largemouth bass, and redear sunfish. The protocol for stocking a pond that will be fertilized is 1,000 bream (bluegill and redear) and 100 largemouth bass per surface acre. Ponds that will not be fertilized will receive half of this amount. The beauty of the largemouth bass-bluegill system is its simplicity. In a well fertilized pond, zooplankton and insect larvae will be plentiful enough to supply food for young bass and all sizes of bluegill. Bluegill grows rapidly and reproduces repeatedly throughout the spring and summer. The bluegill provides bass with an abundant food supply. With proper harvest techniques, the bass will grow rapidly and prevent bluegill from overcrowding the pond. Channel catfish can be added to the largemouth bass-bluegill pond. However, catfish compete with bass and bluegill for natural foods and lower the number of bass and bluegill caught. If catfish are added, the recommendation is 50 per acre in a fertilized pond or 25 per acre in a non-fertilized pond. Species that should not be stocked into farm ponds include black and white crappie, gizzard shad, flathead catfish and bullhead catfish, common carp, and shiners. These species may rapidly overcrowd ponds and/or may reduce the populations of desirable fish species. Pond owners need to consult a qualified fisheries biologist if they stock these species.

Ponds should not be fished for at least one year following stocking. As a general rule, fertile ponds can sustain an annual harvest of 25 to 35 pounds of bass per acre. If the pond is infertile, no more than 10 pounds of bass should be removed per year. Bluegill should also be harvested. A general rule is to remove 10-15 bluegill for each bass taken, or 4 pounds of bluegill for each pound of bass. If the bass in the pond look stunted or have a weakened physical condition, the pond may be “bass-crowded” and the solution is heavy harvest of bass. Catfish should be restocked to replace those that have been removed. Catfish fry do not typically survive in ponds with bass and bream. In addition to managing ponds correctly, several other techniques can improve farm pond fishing. Stocking fathead minnows for forage, adding fish shelters, supplemental feeding, checking and adjusting water levels, aeration and mixing of pond temperature layers, and providing preferred spawning substrate are enhancement techniques. For more information, contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at or The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. (Managing Wildlife, Yarrow and Yarrow, 1999) (Sportfish Management in Alabama Ponds, Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, 2003)

Timberland Update- April 2011- Housing Market Recovery and Timber Prices

The timberland investment community is watching the economy and the recovery closely.  The close ties between new housing starts and the demand for pine sawtimber are obvious.  The experts in the field of timberland investment and forecasting had some interesting information regarding the current state of the economic recovery as well as forecasting future growth rates.  The recovery has been slow and there is no denying that fact.  Experts agree that the future looks promising, which is encouraging.  The forecast from Forisk show that the US South will see higher stumpage prices.  Both the Forisk data and the data from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies show healthy growth for the housing market which has a direct impact on the timber market.  “Increasing demand for wood raw materials indicates higher pine stumpage prices for forest owners and investors.  Forisk Consulting forecasts sawtimber prices for the US South strengthening 4.6% into 2012 and 5.5% into 2013 as lumber production increases with housing starts. Alternately, pine pulpwood – the lower valued raw material used for pulp, OSB and bioenergy –gains 1.4% and 2.7% into 2012 and 2013 South-wide, with high variance across the 11 states covered in Forisk’s models.” (Mendell,, March 10, 2011) 

Dr. Kermit Baker of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies described the long term outlook as favorable.  Dr. Baker states that the recovery has been very disappointing.  He describes the “triple whammy: inventory overhang, weak demand, and low mobility” for homeowners and home buyers.  Housing market fundamentals will slowly return to the long term growth trends.  The housing market is currently overwhelmed by the “shadow inventory” of unsold homes.  This shadow inventory is a result of years of overbuilding which has generated significant oversupply of vacant homes.  Dr. Baker does support data that shows after a disappointing 2010, housing is projected to recover very gradually over the next few years.  Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies says that new home demand should top 16 million in 2010-2020, even under low immigration assumptions.  The market for residential remodeling has been more stable.  The remodeling downturn began well after homebuilding and has seen healthy growth recently.    The leading indicator of remodeling activity points to early stages of recovery and the growth rates look healthy for the next five years.