The Most Effective Way To Protect Fish From Herons

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Written By Mark Washburn

Mark has 20 years of experience as a professional pond management consultant.

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For small pond owners with fish, there’s one thing you simply do not want to see hanging around your pond.  And that’s a heron.

In actuality, any type of wading, fishing bird could spell trouble, but Great Blue Herons seem to top the list of trouble makers when it comes to goldfish or koi ponds.  And they are effective hunters.

Stories abound from pond owners who have watched as their fish numbers dwindled with the arrival of one of these winged hunters.  They are opportunistic, patient, and persistent, and they can cause a lot of trouble for valuable fish.

It should be noted up front that all of these birds are protected by law, so physical harm or eradication is really not advised.  So a pond owner will normally turn to some type of defense.  And we’ve seen a lot of them over the years.

So how do most of these tools stack up in the real world?

Well, the report on many of them really isn’t all that good.  Despite what many marketing folk might suggest, decoys, sprayers, shiny lights and flashing things, are simply no guarantee that a bird will be deterred.  I’ve come to think of Herons as a relatively smart bird, and when an easy meal is at stake, they’ll put up with a lot.

What makes the task of defense so difficult is that you can’t watch the pond from dawn till dusk.  And one never quite knows when a bird will show up.  In most parts of the country, spring and fall tend to be more common periods, but in reality, anywhere that Herons nest or winter could be viable territory for them.

So in the end, here’s the one tool that seems to work better than anything else…and it’s simple and probably won’t come as a big surprise.

Pond Netting.

Without question, the one thing that the vast majority of pond owners reported as effective was some type of pond netting.  Ideally, the net should be elevated above the water, with some type of under-structure to support it.  Any netting is really better than nothing, but for full protection, I prefer the elevated type.  Make sure the mesh is relatively small and tight.  It doesn’t have to be super small but a 1/4″ to 1/2″ mesh is ideal, and anything up to about 1″ is acceptable.

We often think of netting as a useful tool during the fall to keep leaves and debris out of the pond, but in truth, it’s a valuable thing to have around at any time of year.  You want something that’s easy and quick to deploy as well.  This isn’t something you would necessarily need to leave over the pond all the time (although you could).  But in times of trouble, people simply got the best results from covering the pond until the intruder left the area…and usually that happens pretty quickly if they arent’ getting a few easy meals.

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