Catfish Site Selection
The soil should hold water, so clay soils are desirable. Before starting construction, be sure to have borings made to insure that sand, gravel, or undesirable soils will not be exposed by the construction.
Lay-of-the-land will determine the amount of dirt that has to be moved. Less dirt must be moved on flat land than in hilly or rolling land, so dirt-moving costs will be less. For flat land, about 1,100 to 1,200 cubic yards of dirt must be moved per acre. This is just an estimate, and the actual amount can vary greatly from this figure.
· Wetlands. Before clearing or building ponds on “wetlands,” a permit is required from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Wetlands” are defined as: “Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.”
· Draining. Select sites to permit draining ponds by gravity flow and to insure that drainage from a neighbor’s land isn’t blocked.
Make sure the area will not be subject to flooding.
Check the soil for pesticide residues if row crops were ever grown on or adjacent to the site. There are three areas within a field that must be checked because of the potential for high residue levels:
· Low areas where run-off collects. An area such as this could have very high levels of pesticides even though a higher area just a short distance away could have low pesticide concentrations that would not be harmful to fish.
· Any area where spray equipment, either aerial or ground, was filled with pesticides. Because of spillage, a fill-area can have high concentrations of pesticides that could kill fish if a pond were constructed there.
· Any area in the field where pesticides were stored or were disposed of are potential danger sites for pond construction.
Collect the soil samples from several locations around the proposed pond site, and pay particular attention to any area that may be similar to those mentioned above. The sample does not have to be large.
One that is several square inches deep is adequate. Put samples in a soil sample container which can be obtained from your County Agent. Label each sample so you can later identify the location from which it was taken.
Send the samples to the State Chemical Laboratory, P. O. Box CR, Mississippi State, MS 39762, for analysis. Request that the sample be checked for chlorinated hydrocarbons with particular emphasis on toxaphene and endrin. The cost of the analysis is approximately $53 per sample (as of May 1985), and each resident of Mississippi annually receives $100 worth of analyses at no charge. This means you can get two samples checked at a cost of only $6.
Intensive production of catfish requires a dependable supply of large volumes of water. Usually one well with capacity of 2,000 -3,000 gpm is adequate for four 17.5 acre ponds (See Table 2 for pumping time). Before drilling a well larger than 6 inches, get a permit from the Department of Natural Resources, Jackson, Mississippi. The cost of this permit is $10. The end of the inflow pipe should be provided with an alfalfa valve to increase oxygenation of the inflowing water.
Pipelines and Power Lines
Before building ponds over pipelines or underpower lines, check with the utility company to avoid possible legal problems later.
Average ponds are 17.5 water acres on 20 acres of land. Larger ponds are more difficult to manage, and smaller ponds are more expensive to construct.
Select site and construct ponds so they can be drained by gravity flow. The lowest part of the pond must be higher than the canal or ditch into which the pond is being drained. Pond bottom should be flat and slope from the shallow to the deep end. Slope of bottom should be about 0.1 – 0.2 feet per 100 feet from shallow to deep end. A flat sloping bottom is necessary for harvesting and draining.
Do not build a harvest basin inside or outside the pond.
· Inside drain. Most common is the turn-down pipe or modified Canfield outlet which is located at the lowest point in the pond. The level of water is determined by pivoting the pipe up or down. It must be securely held in position to prevent unplanned drainage. This can be done with a chain from the end of the drain to a post on the bank.
Heavily grease swivel joints to allow easy movement.
Maintenance of swivel joints can be a problem since work has to be done under water or when the pond is drained.
· Outside drain. The drain pipe is laid through the levee at the lowest point in the pond. The inside end of pipe is screened and extends out from toe of slope at least 5-10 feet to prevent clogging caused by sloughing of dirt from levee.
The outside end of the pipe should extend at least 5 feet past the toe of the slope to prevent excessive erosion of the levee when water is being drained. The end of the pipe is fitted with a “T” and a stand pipe of a height that will maintain the desired normal water level in the pond. The end of the “T” is fitted with an alfalfa valve for water level manipulation and complete draining if needed. The drain should be at least 2 feet above the surface of the water in the drainage ditch to prevent wild fish from entering the pond through the drain.
Another method is to have the outside standpipe 24 inches high, rather than height of normal water level in the pond, and fitted with an alfalfa valve. The end of the “T” is capped.
Normal water level is maintained by opening alfalfa valve to remove any excess water due to rain. This system permits rapid draining of up to three feet of water from the pond with slight danger of wild fish entering the pond through the drain pipe. The pond can be completely drained by removing cap at end of “T.”
Levee should be a minimum of 16 feet wide, and main levees where wells are located should be 20 feet wide to allow an easier flow of vehicle traffic. Gravel should be on top of levee on at least two sides of each pond to permit all-weather access for harvesting, disease and weed treatments, oxygen monitoring, feeding, and moving aeration equipment.
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