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Tank preference #7378054 12/16/18 01:31 AM
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jnd59 Offline OP
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For years I've driven by or detoured to visit several tanks that get no hunting pressure and little human pressure in a daily basis. Some tanks have ducks all season almost every day. Some tanks have no ducks or very few and appear to be transitory.

Over the last five or so years I've seen tanks that brush was allowed to grow up around the edges suddenly become duck magnets. This year, two of those tanks were cleared during the summer. There still shallow but so far, I haven't seen any feeding ducks on them. At the same time, tanks that continued to have some brush/grass continue to have ducks and tanks that brush was not cut are seeing ducks when none were there before. I'll have a better handle on the results after the late December migration arrives, but it appears they prefer water with some cover around the edges. I'm not sure if this is because they perceive those tanks have more food or they feel more hidden and secure. It is opposite what I thought I would discover however.

This is probably well known and I am just now discovering it myself but I did think it interesting.

Last edited by jnd59; 12/16/18 01:38 AM.

No matter how high a duck flies a hammer still breaks a window.
Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7378270 12/16/18 03:29 PM
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I took a ride yesterday on backroads around the house. Wishing I would have mapped the route, so I could go look again.

Pass over a 100 stock tanks, and about 5 had birds on it. I really didn't pay attention to weather or not the tank had cover growing around it. The one exception was the one with 10 ring necks on it. From the road the brush grew up and around the fence. And the otherside of the tank had growth.

But I do feel like the other tanks that had the small groups were wide open.

Curious what others have seen.


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Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7378293 12/16/18 04:17 PM
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There are three small tanks on my deer lease in Young county. One had a lot of small fish, minnows, snails and such. One had a few small fish and minnows. One has never had fish or minnows. The amount of ducks seen on each one of them over the last 18 years correlates with the amount of fish and small wildlife in each one of them. The pond never stocked has never had a duck on it. Ducks seen and shot have been Mallards, Gadwall, Teal, and Ringnecks. The prominent duck on our place are wooducks, but they are on the creek and we have never seen one on the ponds, ever. The last drought dried up all three ponds and killed all the wildlife and fish that lived in them. They filled back up before season started. In fact about as full as I have ever seen them with flooded vegetation around the edges. But all three ponds are barren of fish and wildlife now. We have not seen a duck on any of the ponds this season which is very unusual for two of them. The ducks that show on our stock tanks are clearly there for the fish, snails, etc. They are subject to use by cattle and feral hogs, plus too small for managing the vegetation, so we are restocking minnows.

Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7378335 12/16/18 05:28 PM
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We have 3 tanks on the ranch. The largest is shallow an lots of moss mostly Redheads, the next was a fracking tank and it has mainly Gaddies , Mallards and Wideons last is a small tank that has tons of teal coming to it. They hold ducks most of the season and the get hunted 3 times a week. All have some sort of brush or weeds around shoreline.

Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7378394 12/16/18 07:14 PM
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My pond was covered up last year all season This year nothing 2 mallards come and go. Nothing has changed maybe the water level is up a little

Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7378554 12/16/18 10:33 PM
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2 Tanks, both have fish in them. One by the highway has a lot of cover around it, but the traffic keeps the ducks out of that one, but across the highway are 2 large tanks about 150 yards away from the road, always ducks on that one. Our other tank has plenty of cover, it usually has ducks on it unless someone is hunting that area. I can tell when the neighbor's kids are hunting the fence line, the ducks will leave headed to the place south of us.


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Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7378630 12/17/18 12:16 AM
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Interesting. One of the cleared tanks was lowered but did not run dry. The other is spring fed and stays a constant level. I don't know if either has fish or invertebrates but I will try to find out. I always assumed they were feeding on shoots and seeds. They've mostly been greys with some Mallards and, periodically, divers. Last week I saw canvasbacks on one of the tanks for the first time. I ate the last canvasback I shot 35 years ago. The next ones going on the wall.

It could be tanks with cover are more conducive to invertebrate production than tanks without. I know that tanks with millet around the edges draw ducks, hence my partial hypothesis that cover draws birds. It may be both. Tanks with cover provide more invertebrates and seeds.


No matter how high a duck flies a hammer still breaks a window.
Re: Tank preference [Re: Sniper John] #7379156 12/17/18 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Sniper John
There are three small tanks on my deer lease in Young county. One had a lot of small fish, minnows, snails and such. One had a few small fish and minnows. One has never had fish or minnows. The amount of ducks seen on each one of them over the last 18 years correlates with the amount of fish and small wildlife in each one of them. The pond never stocked has never had a duck on it. Ducks seen and shot have been Mallards, Gadwall, Teal, and Ringnecks. The prominent duck on our place are wooducks, but they are on the creek and we have never seen one on the ponds, ever. The last drought dried up all three ponds and killed all the wildlife and fish that lived in them. They filled back up before season started. In fact about as full as I have ever seen them with flooded vegetation around the edges. But all three ponds are barren of fish and wildlife now. We have not seen a duck on any of the ponds this season which is very unusual for two of them. The ducks that show on our stock tanks are clearly there for the fish, snails, etc. They are subject to use by cattle and feral hogs, plus too small for managing the vegetation, so we are restocking minnows.


How many minnows do you think ya'll will go with?

And are you doing it yourself, or having someone with a truck come in and do it?


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Re: Tank preference [Re: Hopedale] #7379320 12/17/18 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Hopedale
Originally Posted by Sniper John
There are three small tanks on my deer lease in Young county. One had a lot of small fish, minnows, snails and such. One had a few small fish and minnows. One has never had fish or minnows. The amount of ducks seen on each one of them over the last 18 years correlates with the amount of fish and small wildlife in each one of them. The pond never stocked has never had a duck on it. Ducks seen and shot have been Mallards, Gadwall, Teal, and Ringnecks. The prominent duck on our place are wooducks, but they are on the creek and we have never seen one on the ponds, ever. The last drought dried up all three ponds and killed all the wildlife and fish that lived in them. They filled back up before season started. In fact about as full as I have ever seen them with flooded vegetation around the edges. But all three ponds are barren of fish and wildlife now. We have not seen a duck on any of the ponds this season which is very unusual for two of them. The ducks that show on our stock tanks are clearly there for the fish, snails, etc. They are subject to use by cattle and feral hogs, plus too small for managing the vegetation, so we are restocking minnows.


How many minnows do you think ya'll will go with?

And are you doing it yourself, or having someone with a truck come in and do it?



Myself. Minnow traps from the creek on the same property and some store bought large shiners. We did this once before after the only other drought that dried the ponds, but only restocked two of the ponds that time. With the fish gone it took one spring for a few minnows and a handfull of snails to turn into thousands. Only then did we start putting a few select fish in to do same. They are just small stock tanks and all we have to work with. This was done for casual off season catch and release fishing, not duck hunting. If I think about it, I'll start checking the stomach contents of the ducks I take off those ponds, but that would usually be after deer season.

Re: Tank preference [Re: Sniper John] #7379362 12/17/18 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Sniper John
Originally Posted by Hopedale
Originally Posted by Sniper John
There are three small tanks on my deer lease in Young county. One had a lot of small fish, minnows, snails and such. One had a few small fish and minnows. One has never had fish or minnows. The amount of ducks seen on each one of them over the last 18 years correlates with the amount of fish and small wildlife in each one of them. The pond never stocked has never had a duck on it. Ducks seen and shot have been Mallards, Gadwall, Teal, and Ringnecks. The prominent duck on our place are wooducks, but they are on the creek and we have never seen one on the ponds, ever. The last drought dried up all three ponds and killed all the wildlife and fish that lived in them. They filled back up before season started. In fact about as full as I have ever seen them with flooded vegetation around the edges. But all three ponds are barren of fish and wildlife now. We have not seen a duck on any of the ponds this season which is very unusual for two of them. The ducks that show on our stock tanks are clearly there for the fish, snails, etc. They are subject to use by cattle and feral hogs, plus too small for managing the vegetation, so we are restocking minnows.


How many minnows do you think ya'll will go with?

And are you doing it yourself, or having someone with a truck come in and do it?



Myself. Minnow traps from the creek on the same property and some store bought large shiners. We did this once before after the only other drought that dried the ponds, but only restocked two of the ponds that time. With the fish gone it took one spring for a few minnows and a handfull of snails to turn into thousands. Only then did we start putting a few select fish in to do same. They are just small stock tanks and all we have to work with. This was done for casual off season catch and release fishing, not duck hunting. If I think about it, I'll start checking the stomach contents of the ducks I take off those ponds, but that would usually be after deer season.


I'd buy from a feed store truck or something. The price you'll pay on those shiners for a couple dozen will easily buy pounds of them


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Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7379374 12/17/18 08:45 PM
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Puddle ducks tend to not eat minnows, all the duck stomach's pumped or opened, we found very little fish parts. If there was fish parts they were 1/8 -1/4 inch fish. Not may fish that size except in the spring. They eat a variety of hard seeds, earthworms, snails, slugs, mollusks, small fish , fish eggs, small crustaceans, grass, herbaceous plants, leaves, aquatic plants (green parts and the roots), algae, amphibians (tadpoles, frogs, salamanders, etc.), insects, seeds, grains, berries and nuts. If the pond is in good health, fish cover for fish ( plants) ponds water level moves up and down during the year. This "drawn down" is good for pond health, plants both live and dead and near by brush. I will use cockle burrs as an example cockle burrs are not a seed source for ducks, but the rotten plants is good for food, aquatic insects, and good for fish. Ducks are becoming more fickle in movements and there are studies showing that (Farm ponds) are heavily used and move on. Thee was not as many ponds in Texas 10-20 years ago, so ducks can feed on pond, move over feed, roast on a pond. Then do it a gain on different ponds. flight surveys are showing coastal bird feed on the coast one week , then hit ponds later, till pressure then move over to other pond. the large increase in ponds in the west are shifting pressure to ponds on lands that did not have water 10-20 years ago.

My 2 cent opinion would be not to stock minnows as duck food, but manage the water, if possible. Not always an easy thing in Texas.


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Re: Tank preference [Re: Schat] #7379536 12/17/18 10:36 PM
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I agree with everything Schat said. But again, this was just an observation in a specific situation. The area is like a rocky desert. There is no vegetation in any of the ponds, only algae, and the banks are pounded by cattle and hog wallows. The ponds are not managed for waterfowl and really too small to be worth doing so at any cost. Nor were they managed for fish really. We just wanted to be able to walk up after a morning hunt or trip to fill feeders, cast a line and catch a fish or two in what had been barren stock tanks. One of the minnow species stocked from the creek was mosquitofish. There were schools of them so large in two of the ponds that it looked like the wind blowing across the bank when you walked up to the pond. They are a very tiny fish. Ramshorn snail were stocked from the creek because none where present before and within a year you could grab a handfull of gravel from anywhere on the bank and find several in your hand. Again this was for fish. Redear stomachs would be full of them. The domino effect brought in a million cricket frogs/tadpoles that were not there before as well and a lot of other small crittters. Shiners the first time were just left over from catfishing bait for the large channel cats that live in the live creek nearby and dumped into the pond before going home. They grew to a size so big I could catch them with lures. Early summer I remember seeing great shoals of tiny dark shiner fry in the pond. How well they did is the only reason I would replace them. It may be a coincidence or may not, but all other things being equal between the ponds the amount of fish and critters in each pond over an 18 year period was directly in line with how often we saw ducks in each.

Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7379917 12/18/18 03:59 AM
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We have 3 tanks on our property. The first one has high grass around it. Three years ago, it had a few ducks visiting itin the early morning and late evening. The last 2 years, I have not seen a single bird on it.

The second tank is half the size of the first tank and has a leak in the bottom, so it slowly drains out all of the water. It has trees around 1/3 of it (right next to the water), and medium grass all in it. It does have a good treeline about 30 yard off of it 3/4 of the way around. It was dry 3 years ago (no ducks), it held a little water last year and was hit or miss. This year it has held water all season and I haven't seen a bird yet. The third tank is basically 20 yd x 20 yds with a 5 yd wide draw coming off of it about 15 yds. It is heavily wooded around 80% of the tank and the 20% unwooded has medium-high grass. The last 2 years have proven to be a duck haven. Always have 10-15 woodies on it throughout the season and mallards towards the end of December. This year, I didn't have a single bird on game camera until Nov 27th or 28th.And then it is small groups of woodies. I did have 4-6 hooded mergansers for 3 days, but they have since moved on. We have seen alot of rain, so the lower areas are holding water and giving more habitat to the birds.

On the creek, I seem to have better luck where there is no grass along the banks. I think the ducks like being able to see anything approaching the water and give them time to react.

It has been a slow season, I have only shot on 2 occasions. Hopefully things will pick up as it gets colder up north.


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Re: Tank preference [Re: jnd59] #7382767 12/20/18 10:19 PM
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On those tanks that have held birds this season I'm seeing new birds show up. Saw another group of canvasback today. May be the same ones that were here last week but I usually don't see them hang around much. They are here and gone. I haven't had a chance to scout big water and won't until January. I just don't hunt early season anymore. Too many people and not enough birds where I am.

I am seeing birds on tanks without cover now. Which puts a dent in my original hypothesis. But I still don't see birds on the two tanks that were cleared (one was mowed and one was dozed and burned while the water was low). I wonder if birds tend to use the same tanks they used the year before unless something changed. I have noticed that tanks that held predominately greys one year have greys on them the next. Tanks that held greenheads one year see greenheads the next. That's not always true but in general it has been my observation. I wonder if birds coming back to tanks they have used in past years see a difference and move on. I know I'm asking a lot from a duck brain but I wonder if they have a "picture" of what they expect. If this has some merit then either it is the change or the adult birds in those flocks didn't make it past the midwest or were diverted for some reason. Or just decided to stick it out in Kansas.

Who knows. I could just be overthinking the whole thing and "a duck be what duck be" is the answer.

But it has always perplexed me why birds pick the water the do. Some of it is self evident. Tanks lined with millet or near grain fields. Tanks with acorns or big water with heavy cover.

The more I consider it the more I think it could be the small critters. Cleaning the tank shallow area has to have a negative impact on invertebrate survivability. It may be that birds land on tanks that used to have those qualities, find nothing and move on before I can see them. That would likely be in the dark so I would never register their presence.

I seem to remember that hens would eat a lot of invertebrates during spring before they lay their eggs. Can't see why they wouldn't take advantage of that same resource on the arduous journey south.


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