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Proper planning and construction are essential to building a pond that meets owner needs. Ponds are built for a variety of reasons, including watering livestock, fishing, recreation, wildlife or to enhance the beauty of a homestead. Each of these reasons require slightly different plans.
Many problems can be avoided if the pond is properly designed and constructed. Seek advice from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) for site selection, design and construction. Their agents can help with soil surveys, site selection, pond design, and construction. Check also with your county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and local office of the Iowa State University Extension Service. Iowa DNR fisheries biologists can also provide valuable input on site selection and watershed consideration for fishing and multiuse ponds.
Many ponds are well protected with good sod growth. When sod establishment is not sufficient, place football sized stones or pieces of broken concrete along the dam or the affected area several feet above and below the water level. This will effectively protect the area. You can also stack and anchor logs along the eroded area several feet out in the water to absorb the energy of waves and prevent erosion. Pond edge plants like cattails and bulrushes can be planted behind the breakwater to create a stable shoreline. See the Aquatic Plants in Ponds webpage for more information.
These water-loving animals will find a way into your pond. Turtles and muskrats will eat pond plants. Their burrows only cause damage if there are too many along the dam. To prevent this, don’t let a thick stand of cattails or other tall plant become established on the dam and attract these burrowing animals. Allowing trapping in your pond can help to control the number of muskrats. A common misconception is that snapping turtles will eat so many fish that their numbers will drop. They eat both dead and live fish, but the fish they catch are small and abundant.
Use proper dam construction
techniques and don’t build a pond in an area with exposed limestone or
permeable soils. Pond dams with a well compacted clay core tied into existing
clay substrate rarely leak if burrowing animals are not allowed to penetrate
the core. Repair of a leaky dam or pond bottom is often difficult,
expensive and requires draining the pond. A blanket of clay taken nearby or the
addition of bentonite to the bottom can seal leaks.
This is anything that causes the soil of the dam to erode and let the water in the pond escape. Anti-seep collars placed along the length of the mechanical spillway will stop water from following the tube, creating a cavity through the dam and causing it to washout. An emergency spillway that is too small for the flood water going over it will also quickly cause the dam to washout. The emergency spillway should be built on undisturbed soil. Do not extend the mechanical spillway with any type of riser pipe to increase the area of the pond. This will raise the high water line on the dam which could lead to water going over the dam during a long downpour.
Muddy water is often caused
by a watershed that has unprotected soil; row crop is one use of land that can
lead to a pond with muddy water. Letting
cattle drink from the pond can also make the water muddy. A larger buffer strip
of grass planted around the pond can reduce soil erosion and help stop chemicals
from entering the pond. It will not clear up the water from a pond with a lot
of bare soil in its watershed. If the
self-sustaining bass-bluegill fishery has died or been reduced because of
chemical poisoning or an extended time without oxygen in the water, the multiplying
of common carp, bullhead, green sunfish, crayfish, or even burrowing mayflies
can make the water muddy.
Deepening shoreline areas when building the pond can remove many future aquatic vegetation problems. This can often be done at little or no extra cost if borrow areas for dam material are taken from along the shoreline. Deepen these areas so there is a slope of 3:1 down to a depth of 6 feet. Limit these steep shorelines to two thirds of the pond. Keep the remaining third shallow for fish spawning, nursery areas and for other wildlife uses.
Early spring or fall, when the lake is not stratified, are the best times of year to renovate a pond. Start fish renovations only in ponds with adequate depth (8-12 feet), sufficient size (1/2 acre or larger), controlled watersheds, and undesirable fish populations. Fish population improvements in poor ponds would be short-lived and costly. Contact your local fisheries management biologist for renovation options and a list of licensed pesticide applicators who can help renovate your pond.