Just like people, your fish need to eat to live and grow, while they can’t just drive on over to a fast food restaurant or raid the refrigerator to snack they can utilize their highly developed senses to easily catch a quick meal.
The game fish in your pond are not very picky about what they eat. With a diet ranging from tiny insects and plant matter to birds and small mammals there is plenty of meal choices to go around. While their food sources are usually abundant many pond owners like to implement Fish Food so they can watch their fish or speed up growth and increase their overall size.
Fish rely on their abilities to see, hear, smell, taste and feel to both catch prey and avoid becoming a meal for bigger predators. The height of each individual sense depends directly on the type of fish. Bass for example have sharp eyesight that allows them to easily ambush prey while concealed in submerged plant matter. Due to their bottom dwelling nature, catfish are very sensitive to light so they can see clearly in deeper darker water and tend to be active more at night or darker periods of the day. Some fish develop a keen sense of smell to survive. Bluegill, for example, rely on smell to verify valid food options. Salmon can detect the smell of their home stream 5,000 miles out at sea and will follow the scent back to spawn. Fish also utilize internal sets of ears to hear. While the mechanics of how sound travels underwater is a bit different than how we hear sounds on land, fish can sense particle movements and feel vibrations in the water that can reveal both potential food or possible danger. Your fish can even differentiate or isolate specific sounds to help make sense of what they are hearing when dealing with ambient sounds created by moving water. Their ears, much like our own also provide them with a sense of balance helping them control their pitch and direction.
Keeping their senses in mind, it is easier to see how and why some food is easier to detect than others. Food or lure that is alive and moving will be easier for your fish to detect than a pellet of fish food as it has not only a scent but is also giving off sound and vibration which will attract predators. The same principles can be implemented when fishing your pond. If the water is turbid or it is an overcast day using bright colored lures or lures that rattle can attract fish that might otherwise dismiss your hook. Bait manufactures that have also taken into account the fact that your game fish can smell and taste are producing artificial baits that are scented to attract fish and taste appealing so the fish hangs on to the lure longer instead of spitting it out.
There are always exceptions to the rule but in a natural environment your fish typically have no trouble finding their own food. Things like overpopulation or an unbalanced fish population can have an adverse effect on fish size and health. If you are finding that your game fish are growing slower than normal or are dwindling in numbers you may want to trap or catch a sample of your fish population and track what type of predator to prey ratio you are coming up with and inspect your catch for signs of illness or malnourishment. Click over to our Pond Stocking Blog and Fish I.D. Blog for additional information on your game fish and how to maintain their population.
POND TALK: Which foods, baits, and lures do you find most effective on your game fish?