Drought Drawdown: Challenge or Opportunity?

Lake shore at sunset
Drought conditions can cause challenges but also present opportunities for pond owners

The Challenges

In the past 3-3.5 months, the scorching and dry weather has caused big problems for pond owners. The water levels in many ponds have dropped significantly. Some smaller and shallower ponds have even dried up completely. These issues can be a real headache for pond owners, especially those with a mix of predator and forage/bait fish. We’ve found the two primary challenges and their possible solutions.

Challenge #1: Managing Fish Population Dynamics and Balances

During drawdowns, both predator and forage fish can get crowded into smaller spaces, making it easier for predators to access forage species and potentially reducing their numbers. Depending on the sizes, ranges, and relative abundance of the predators, certain types and sizes of forage can be greatly reduced or even eliminated. To maintain a healthy and productive pond, I recommend considering a couple of different options:

  • Fish Population Assessment – Evaluate the sizes, ranges, and relative abundance of your predator and forage fish. If needed, consult a fisheries professional to determine if any adjustments, such as fish removal or stocking, are necessary to restore the balance once the pond refills.
  • Monitoring and Observation – Keep a close eye on your pond’s fish population dynamics as the water levels return to normal. This will help you identify any potential imbalances and take appropriate action in a timely manner.

Challenge #2: Addressing Vegetation Problems Without Harming Fish

As ponds draw down and become shallower, using aquatic herbicides for vegetation control becomes challenging due to the risk of oxygen depletion and potential harm to the fish. To address this issue, we recommend the following alternative approaches:

  • Mechanical Removal – Consider using manual or mechanical methods, such as raking or cutting, to manage excessive vegetation growth in your pond during and after the post-drought period, until safe water levels are obtained.
  • Natural Biological Control – Introduce or encourage the growth of natural vegetation-eating fish, such as grass carp or tilapia, to help control vegetation growth in a more sustainable manner.

The Opportunities

While drawdowns can create problems for pond owners, they can also present some opportunities to implement various pond improvement strategies that can provide both short and long-term benefits. Here are a few of the opportunities you can take advantage during periods of drought recovery:

  • Performing Internal Construction/Alterations/Repairs – Depending on how far the pond has dropped, there are many things you can do to easily enhance the productivity of your pond, such as improving the perimeter or making internal changes to the pond.
  • Erosion Control and Pond Beautification – Take this opportunity to address any erosion issues around your pond, which can help maintain its long-term stability and health. Seeding, sodding or planting various grasses or desirable aquatic vegetation can greatly enhance your pond’s aesthetics while decreasing maintenance costs.
  • Installing Additional Habitat/Structure – Enhance key areas in your pond, such as beneath and around your docks and piers, by adding more habitat and structure to support fish populations and overall ecosystem health.
  • Creating More Spawning Areas – Increase the availability of suitable spawning areas for your fish, which can contribute to a more robust and sustainable population.
  • Dock or Pier Installation or Repairs – Use this time to address any maintenance or repair needs for your docks or piers, ensuring they remain safe and functional for your enjoyment of the pond.
  • Unwanted Species Removal – If one of your goals is to eliminate unwanted species (ie; Bullheads, gar, carp, etc.), the perfect time to do this is when water levels are much lower than normal. The process is far more effective and easier with low water levels.


At Danbury Fish Farms, we understand the difficulties that come with managing a pond during a drought, and we’re here to help.

Whether you need assistance with fish population assessment, vegetation control, erosion control, habitat installation, or any other pond-related issue, we have the expertise and resources to help you succeed. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any of your pond stocking or management needs!

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