Editor's letter- March/April 2019

 Looking Ahead, Backwards


Happy Spring! No more Polar Vortex—for a while, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow—this year, and bud break is imminent—unless we have an unexpected late freeze.

Can’t wait to see what spring has in store.

Speaking about looking ahead, I was invited to give two keynote addresses in January, one at the Society of Lake Management Professionals and the other at the Southern Region of the American Fisheries Society. My topic? “The History of the Pond Management Industry.”

As I thought about that topic, it made me dig way back in the memory bank, way before there was a pond management industry. I remembered primitive fish-hauling tanks and equipment. Thought about my first electrofishing boat, homemade. I remember the electrician who helped figure it out. Everything about it was contrary to electrical logic. But, somehow it worked. There was one commercial fish hatchery that sold sport fish wholesale—and it was in Kansas. Hartley Fish Farm sold bass and bluegills. We bought channel catfish fingerlings wholesale from Leon Hill’s Fish Farm in Lonoke, Arkansas. We bought fathead minnows around the corner from Hill’s at Anderson’s Minnow Farm.

The state of Texas stopped giving away free fish in 1980, creating an opportunity for a private biologist to find a niche. As far as managing ponds in the early 80s, there weren’t many people doing it as a profession. Our tools were basic. We could stock fish, electrofish for basic information, fertilize ponds as we were taught in college, and treat aquatic plants with a basic lineup of four approved herbicides. Those were our tools.

In the mid-1980s commercial fish hatcheries started raising sport fish. Feed-trained bass were developed by Inslee Fish Farm. Fish foods were designed for commercial aquaculture production. Aeration was non-existent. Other things were happening to create another piece of what’s now our jigsaw puzzle becoming and industry.

As that speech preparation came together, it made me realize many people don’t know just how young this industry really is. It also made me realize how the pond management business is beginning to mature. Today, we have many more tools, lots more products, and a burgeoning umbrella of knowledge and experience bolstered by industry research—both from private and empirical university input.

Several of the movers and shakers of the SLMP suggested I write a book about the History of Pond Management, but instead of producing a book that two people might buy, it makes more sense to write a series of articles and publish them in Pond Boss, especially since this 27-year-old rag has helped do its part to bring people together and help grow the industry.

If you’ll oblige me, I’ll start a series of articles next issue. My plan is to create a timeline, call and interview as many of the key players along the way as I can, and then we’ll all see how pond management has developed into what it is today.

It’s pretty fun, and funny to me. I used to tell people that pond management is 10% science and 90% art. I still believe that, but I think that ratio is more like 15% science nowadays.

In the meantime, let’s dig into this issue of your favorite pond magazine.

This issue has some pretty good stuff, and you’re bound to get some valuable nuggets along the way. Otto and I double teamed an article about erosion, Birdman Mel revisits ideas about purple martins, Wes Neal shares some thoughts about pond tools. Several features have different twists. One describes the art of pond management, focusing on the fundamentals of science. Another tells about how food chains work in harmony, in theory. Biologist Dave Beasley writes about fertile water and its role in a trophy Largemouth bass fishery. Michael Gray bought a farm and shares his thoughts about renovating a small pond, after the tenuous move. Do you have a pond checklist? You should. Do you understand the consequences of your proposed pond management actions? There’s an article that tells some tales of unintended consequences, most of which were painful. Do you know how to shop for fish? You will have a better understanding after reading Field Notes. Dr. Boyd digs into carbon and its footprint from our pond endeavors. Nothing better than science. Know Your Pond Life shares some facts about how fish spawn. There’s an article about fertilizing your pond. Should you? Northern pondmeisters get some tips about yellow perch spawning, which will be happening really soon. Eric West brings some thoughts about Trophic Cascades, which happens in every living body of water. Good to know. The Fish Professor column shares some thoughts about balancing a fishery, based on stocking rates. And Dan V shares his experiences about feeding wildlife throughout summer.

Personally, I’m excited about the future of this industry, and I can’t help but reflect on how it’s gotten here. There is some truly cutting-edge stuff going on out there, especially about fine-tuning water quality management. What’s most exciting about that, to me, is the private industry has finally seen the need to do some research and development.

Please enjoy your early spring, take some time around your pond and smile big as you soak in what you can do as stewards of your land and water.

And, thanks for being a big part of this Pond Boss family. You are appreciated.


Fish on!

A series dedicated to Bob Lusk's general musings about land, water and life.

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