The Battle With Ice

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It was a long, cold winter for most of us last year. It seems like so long ago, but now that the deep chill is drifting in again from the north, my thoughts have gone back to the spring when we found countless fish and other wildlife floating around as casualties of the ice.

Many pond owners experienced the same thing, but a few others weathered the cold in pretty good shape. Those folks happened to have the right defenses in place.

And the breakdown was pretty simple.

If someone kept just a little bit of ice open, they didn’t lose too many fish. For those that did not, the losses could be significant.

One community in Western Illinois lost around 9,000 pounds of fish.

So what’s in store for us this winter?

Well, in truth, no one really knows for sure, but as we head into mid-November things are already getting cold here in the upper Midwest, so now would be a good time to do a quick rundown on how you can win this seasonal battle with the ice.

The most important thing to remember is you don’t have to keep an entire pond or like completely ice-free. All that’s really necessary is small opening for smaller ponds, or in larger waters, several small open areas, that remain ice-free throughout the winter.

These open holes allow for oxygen to come in from the air above, and gasses, which normally might get trapped under ice, can escape or be vented.

There a few good tools that can help with this effort.

The Pond DeIcer

For a smaller backyard pond, a decent deicer will often to a lot of good. These will normally only heat up when the ice starts to form, and will turn off if you have warmer weather come along. You’ll find various wattages available but in general anything around 300 watts should be sufficient for most ponds.

Aeration – Subsurface

Pond aerators can be used in small and large ponds of all sizes and do a good job of keeping ice open under most conditions. The aerators we use actually release air bubbles from the bottom of the pond and these rise up rapidly to create a bit of agitation on the surface. The bubbling and ripples will keep ice from forming in all but the absolute coldest conditions.

Ideally these aerators would be electrically powered for constant operation. Windmills can be very intermittent based on wind speeds and may not provide around the clock coverage.

Pond Circulator

Another useful device for large ponds is a pond circulator. These use a motor driven propeller to circulate the water near the surface. They work great around boat docks, ramps, and other areas where keeping ice away is important.

Normally a circulator will create a larger opening than aeration might. They can also be controlled by a timer or temperature sensor so they will only need to run when the conditions are cold enough for ice to develop.

Preparation Is The Key

As with most things related to pond care, being prepared is the key to success, and this fits in well with winter protection too. Where the weather is concerned it’s always a bit of a roll of the dice in terms of just how bad things might get, and this goes for the high heat of summer, or the cold days of winter.

As you can see though, you (or your fish) don’t have to get beat up by the after affects of a long, frigid winter. And be sure to keep the faith…spring will be here again before you know it.

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3 thoughts on “The Battle With Ice”

  1. Last winter I had no fish loss while many of the surrounding ponds had large losses. What I have used for the last two years on both of my ponds, (10’@15″ and 25’@30″ ) are pool solar covers (looks like bubble wrap). I went online to a pool supply store and got the thickest mill available in clear. I feel the clear lets the sun in better. I put 2@4’s across the ponds to help support the cover every 8 – 10 feet. I put the boards on edge so this actually provides an area for the gases to come out also. In addition to the cover I have a small pump circulating the water at the surface to provide aeration. Last year on both ponds the entire surface did not freeze even when we had the 10 days with 16 – 20 below real temps. I usually put the covers on before the air temps have the rapid swings. What I found is that the cover lets the water temp drop slower which has been great for the fish.
    Thanks for your articles.

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