Winter Saftey Tips for Ponds

By Jake Hahn

This article was originally published on

1. Ice Safety
Every year we hear of people drowning in frozen ponds after falling through the ice. The safest action when
dealing with ice is to stay off. According to Penn State University Extension, “just because ice may be several
inches to a foot or more thick does not guarantee its strength”. Ice safety is dependent upon weather
conditions and how the ice forms. Never adventure out onto ice alone or without knowing the depth of the
ice. Fences may need to be constructed to prevent children or others from wandering onto your pond (signs
are not reliable and many children cannot read). When in doubt stay off.
2. Snow removal to prevent winterkill
Winterkill is when there is a significant decrease in the amount of dissolved oxygen in a pond. Oxygen
depletions occur when ice covers a pond and is unable to react with the atmosphere. The addition of snow
on this ice accelerates oxygen depletion by depriving light from the oxygen producing plants. Long periods in
this environment will cause fish to suffocate and a winterkill to occur. It is recommended to run an aerator
long enough to keep part of the pond from freezing. If you are absolutely sure ice conditions are safe,
keeping 10% of your pond free of snow will help keep the biological processes working.
3. Pond Maintenance
There is a positive of having a cold winter. Heavy ice conditions are favorable for adding additional habitat to
ponds to improve fish propagation and overall health. Fish need structure in a pond for feeding, protection,
and congregation. This will improve growth rate, increased survival rate, and improved fishing. There is an
excellent source of Christmas trees this time of year that could be used to add habitat. You can also use
stacked pallets, cinder blocks, and brush piles (all must be weighted to sink). Place the structures on the ice
where you want them and wait for the ice to melt, thus they sink to the bottom. You can also spread 2-4
inches of pea gravel on the ice where water is approximately 2-4 feet deep to improve spawning habitat for
bass and other fish that prefer gravel bottoms. This method allows for better placement of structures and
reduces hazards of getting wet or flipping a boat.