Small Impoundment Management in North America

Chapter 1: Small Impoundments and the History of Their Management

David W. Willis and J. Wesley Neal


Pond management, like fisheries management in general, is a relatively young profession (Nielsen 1999). Although the foundations of pond management extend back millennia (there are Chinese and Egyptian accounts of fish culture and management in small waters that date back several thousand years), the scientific discipline of pond fisheries management is much younger. In fact, much of what we know today as the science of pond management coalesced within the mid-20th century under the guidance of Dr. Homer S. Swingle and others.

Ponds have played a unique role within the fisheries profession because they serve a dual role, both in applied and basic ecology. The applied segment is commonly understood, given the use of ponds for sport fishing and production of food fish for human consumption. However, the importance of ponds in our understanding of basic ecology for fisheries is at times overlooked. Because they are easily replicated, ponds have frequently served as experimental units in ecological studies. Their small size allows for the control of many more variables during these experiments when compared with research on large lakes and reservoirs. Although small pond experiments may not be directly applicable to larger water bodies, the studies help the progression of science and our understanding of fish ecology and fisheries management.

In this chapter, we will define ponds and small impoundments, overview pond resources in the world and in the USA, and then delve into the history of pond management. We then summarize the current status of pond management practices and conclude with goals and objectives for pond management.