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Water Sources for Fishing Lakes

Careful construction and design will result in a fishing lake that is leak proof as possible. This reduces water losses to seepage through the ground, but it can’t prevent evaporation and splashing losses. Thus, every fishing lake or pond will need a steady supply of water to occasionally replace what’s lost over time. Yet, it’s often harder to secure the rights to use certain water supplies than you may assume, and some may not provide a high enough quality to work well for fish in particular. Compare the most common water sources for fishing lakes to choose the right one for your new water feature.

Water Quality Concerns

First, water quality is a major concern when it comes to raising fish in particular. Recreational or decorative retention ponds don’t need the same quality of water. Water that’s perfectly safe to swim or boat in might not be healthy enough to support complex life like fish as well. Some of the most common water quality issues interfering with fish keeping include:

  • Lack of dissolved oxygen or high levels of unsafe gases dissolved in the water
  • High levels of contaminants like chemicals, soil particles, and nitrates picked up from the surface or soil
  • High mineral content dissolved into the water, giving it an alkaline pH that is hard to adjust
  • Algae, disease vectors, and unwanted fish species mixing into the closed environment of the lake.

Springs and Seeps

Water that seeps up through the ground to fill the pond or lake is some of the purest water due to the filtering effect of the layers of rock and soil. Unfortunately, these water sources tend to be either very small in volume or highly regulated if they’re large enough to supply an entire lake. It’s expensive and difficult to secure permits to develop a year-round, high volume spring or seep into a fishing lake, but it may be worth the effort if it’s the only source of clean water. Don’t expect to build a lake directly over the spring to simply let it fill the space from below. The spring must be separately developed into a carefully built feature, that is then released into the lake as needed.

Creeks and Streams

Creeks and streams can supply a surprising amount of water despite their small size, as long as the flow is constant and year-round. However, most creeks and streams are hard to secure for complete diversion to fully fill up a lake. You may find it possible to divert a small amount of the total flow per hour, but that volume may not be sufficient for a larger fish lake of multiple acres. Don’t assume that a creek that crosses your land is free to use for a pond, even if it appears to originate and end only on your property. It may connect to underground or hidden water features that have shared rights attached to them. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is a program of the USDA that offers help to private land and business owners who are trying to identify if a particular water source is available for diverted use or not.


Rivers may seem ideal as natural water supplies for fishing lakes because they’re large, offer ample volume, and rarely run dry throughout the year. Unfortunately, they tend to offer lower water quality than what’s recommended for filling lakes with relatively little water exchange. Rivers also tend to increase flooding risks dramatically since even a small increase in flow can have compounding effects on the lake. Lake flooding is particularly dangerous if the water feature is located close to residential areas or recreational attractions to take advantage of tourist traffic.

Surface Runoff

If you have sufficient rainfall amounts each year, you’ll still need 3 to 5 acres of surrounding ground to supply each acre foot of the lake. An acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre just one foot deep. Considering most fishing lakes are anywhere from 3 to 12 feet deep, a lake can require dozens of properly sloped areas directing runoff into it to keep it filled. Runoff is also some of the lowest quality, water supply, due to the high chance of contaminants like soil, fertilizer, and chemicals. However, it can be treated and filtered to make it a good source for a lake. Don’t rule it out since it’s likely the only free source of water that requires no particular permit in most areas.


For most fishing lakes, in need of a constant and stable supply of clean water, purpose-drilled or repurposed wells are generally the best choice. Wells provide a similar level of quality to springs and seeps since the underground drilling reaches ground-filtered water tables. The water may be full of dissolved minerals, but it’s unlikely to have chemical contaminant issues or other quality problems. Wells do require electricity or generators to power them, so factor in the cost of operating the wells on a regular basis to keep the lake topped up as needed so the fish stay healthy and easy to catch. Allowing the water levels to fluctuate or drop too much sends the fish to the depths, and it can take weeks after the water levels restore for them to return to spots that are easier to access.

No matter the source you choose for your fishing lake, you need to make the most of every gallon you add to it. Install a flexible liner from us here at BTL Liners to ensure you don’t lose any water to unnecessary seepage and leaks for years to come. Our flexible liners come in fish-safe formulations, so you don’t have to worry about losing your valuable investment in stock.

Liners by BTL

AquaArmor Pond Liner

The most versatile liner on the market today, AquaArmor maximizes protection from harmful UV rays, tear resistance and punctures that cause leaks. Simply the best liner on the market.

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