How to protect your pondfish from Herons

The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) is one of the UK’s largest birds, standing short of a metre tall, and with a wingspan a little less than two metres. With their impressive beaks they seem almost Pterodactyl-like when seen in flight, and their distinctive long and deep squawk just adds to that. You might miss seeing them, as they often visit ponds at first or last light. The only hint may be a discarded fine feather floating on the water… or the lack of fish! You are unlikely to lose all of your fish in one visit, though it may seem like that, as the remaining fish often keep a very low profile for some weeks or months afterwards. (If all the fish have gone, might it be otters?)

There are plenty of herons in the UK, possibly helped by the fact that they are a protected species. They usually roost in rural treetops but can travel long distances and are common visitors to city centre ponds. An adult heron needs up to half a kilogram of food a day, and they will persist to obtain it, be that fish, frogs, voles, insects or even young birds.

Ornamental ponds with brightly coloured carp and goldfish can be easy pickings for herons, especially in the cool of the spring and the winter when the fish are sluggish and plant cover is lacking.

I’m often asked how to stop herons taking fish. There are various options and this is my experience on how they stack up:

5 Star Options:

– Pool Cover Nets

Netting over the pool comes top, though determined herons may still try to pick at fish through the net.

– Fine Nets (15-30mm gauge)

A fine cover net is the ultimate deterrent, but unsightly and more likely to become tangled with marginal plants. It will be of some use even if only used in the winter months when the plants have been cut back, and can be useful to keep out autumn leaves as well. Moulded or knotted square mesh tends to be easier to keep taut over the pond than the knitted diamond meshes.

– Coarse Nets (50-100mm gauge)

A number of my customers have had success with a 4 inch (100mm) square black mesh, held taut 30cm or more above the water. It is light and relatively invisible, allowing plants to grow through, and still giving access to the water’s edge for small birds. It will need removed for pond maintenance. (We get this mesh custom made to suit your pond size).

4 Star Options:

– Suspended Lines

A fine line can be stretched around the pool edge at 15 and 30cm heights, held in place with canes, or specially made wire, metal or plastic supports. This disturbs the heron if it tries to access the pond from the sides, though this is of less use in larger ponds with ample shallows where the bird can land straight into the water.

– Deep Areas

Herons much prefer fishing in the shallows, so ponds with steep sides and ample depths (1.2m/4ft or more), such as those found in ponds specifically for koi, will provide a good refuge for fish. Unfortunately, the heron can still swoop and stab at fish near the surface, so pondfish are only fully safe once frightened into the depths.

3 Star Options:

– Enclosed Situations

Ponds overhung by trees; really close to houses; in courtyards; and near reflective windows, all seem to be less vulnerable to heron attacks, though there are no guarantees, and hungry herons might still visit.

– Pond Grids

Custom-fitted pond cover grids and floating mesh units can dissuade herons, though they may still try to pick around them to get at fish. Unfortunately such grids make the pond difficult to maintain, and they can be unsightly if scale and algae starts to gather around them.

– Deterrents and Scaring Devices

Various devices are on offer, from elaborate electronic sensors that flash and screech or even spray out jets of water, to simpler floating reflectors. Most deterrents tend to work for a while, until birds get used to them and work out how to avoid them. Moving the devices about regularly can help a bit. The downside is that sensors can be set off unintentionally by you or your pets, and deterrents may keep away other small birds that you’d rather attract. Water-jet types can also freeze up in the winter.

– Hides

Creating areas where fish can take shelter is worthwhile and easy if incorporated at the design stage. Gaps under plant or ornament supports, or in cavities under stepping stones, or between planting containers, can all be of help. A large bore (15cm/6” or more) section of pipe on the pool base is another option, but rather unsightly.

1 Star Options:

– Children, dogs, and irate pond-keepers

They can all help to scare herons off, but these birds are surprisingly persistent creatures and they will return when you’re not about, even if you’re only just out of sight.

Zero Star Options:

– Ornamental herons in brass, stone, plastic, whatever…

These simply don’t work! Herons can be solitary, but they feed in groups too.

Pond with cord around the edge

A cord stretched around the pond edge. Fishing line would be less visible.

 

Device with water spray outlet

A device that fires a jet of water at herons

 

 

You can find more useful information on herons from:

RSPB and BTO


91 thoughts on “How to protect your pondfish from Herons

  1. A heron used to visit our garden pond, sit on the edge for up to 30 minutes, before flying off. We don’t keep any fish but the pond has plenty of frogs.

    Almost certainly been shot by the local farmer for raiding his fish pond.

    Farmers rarely get caught, so they do what they want. Its very sad.

    • A heron has just stolen & killed a large goldfish & a large shubunkin from my pond. It is sad that the heron near you was shot by the local farmer…….maybe a bow & arrow would be a better option!!

      • I’m gutted , I have one fish out of fourteen left . keep praying that they’re frightened at the bottlom of the pond . Two days now . Don’t know how to protect them . As I told my grandson if I can I’ll hit it with a frying pan !!!

        • We have one goldfish left also Teresa, and our 2 coy still. Have ordered a Velda reflective ball from ebay, hope it works

        • Don’t dispair our pond was like the Marie Celeste at the week end after a heron attack. If you have enough depth they will be hiding. Unfortunately the heron was back this morning. We are going to net the pond

        • I’ve had heron attacks periodically, the fish can be very adept at hiding for a long time – it’s clearly the poor thing’s biggest fear. I still put feed in, but later at night – maybe they feel safer to eat after dark, as the feed is gone by morning. The last time I thought I’d lost them all, but food disappearing gave me hope & slowly their fear went and all of them were still there, it took a good few weeks. I put it down to very good luck (the heron cleared a neighbour’s pond, so was maybe less persistent at mine) and allowing oxygenating plants to grow thickly over the deep section to the extent that they appear to be very densely ‘floating’ on the surface; this gives the fish a covered deep area to quickly get totally out of sight in. A net across the pond at dusk and overnight is a must too and either a piece of pipe or a hide area made from stacked bricks. Spring and late autumn seem to be the worse times.

        • Hi test we had a heron on mon was gutted as we had 20 fish desided 2 clean the pond out tdy Fri and found 12 they had been under since mon so good luck m x

        • I suffered devastating loss of fish for 2 years due to the local heron – although the fish do hide for months when they have been spooked. Now I have fishing wire strung at various heights across the wading end of the pond. Works a treat! Heron still calls occasionally, but there is no way he can get in!

      • Think that’s bad we have a large pond in our field with over a thousand various fish from goldfish to koi and carp. two days and it is practically empty!
        I wonder what Heron tastes like?

    • Dreadful killing the heron it’s just eating. He has no idea they are not his food. No it’s not nice he’s just left our pond can’t see any fish hopefully hiding under bridge. I’m going to try floating either cheap trellis on the water or empty plastic water bottles failing that balloons tied around the pond. Last year we tied a couple of plastic bags around the pond and it work’s as the wind blows them.

      Still a beautiful Bird though.

      • We are in Whitstable and have had our pond for over 30 years. A pair of seagulls have now started to swim and catch our fish – nightmare! Our solution (so far successful) is criss crossing the pond with fishing line, through large eyelets screwed into the pond sides at low level. Not the best looking, but easier on the eye than a net. Bought the line at a local fishing store where they said that it is commonly used to deter thieving birds.

      • I agree with all you’ve said. Beautiful bird just feeding. Yes it’s very sad the local heron has emptied my pool twice….sad but just nature.

        • I’ve built a canopy and a small fence round my pond that kept the heron away, I had 50 mixed fish some of them over 10yrs old, I went on holiday for a few days last year and when I came back I found out that some of the local CATS had a party while we were away 🙁 I’ve now got 4 fish. 2 koi 12 inches long 1 gold fish 10 inches long 1 orfe 8 inches long, the rest were eaten or clawed :((

  2. Farmers do like to play with their shotguns, shooting wildlife.
    When was a farmer ever prosecuted for shooting birds or badgers?

  3. After trying everything to protect my pond from Herons who lunch, it suddenly dawned on me that if Herons are solitary feeders, why not have a live Heron by the pond. I noticed that the Herons always land on my lawn then approach from the same direction, so I placed a tall mirror on the fence just before my pond. The Heron landed and strolled toward the pond, when it got level with the mirror it jumped and flew off never to be seen again. Let the Heron scare himself, and the mirror looks good too.

    • Thanks for your comment Colin. Herons often feed on their own, but they are not always solitary. I suspect it was the sudden surprise at seeing the reflection which scared it, and hope that your heron stays scared rather than getting used to seeing itself!

      • My mirror idea is still working, hope it continues. Another thing I have tried successfully was to peg a boiler suit on our rotary washing line whilst we were on holiday. As it blows around it resembles a person.

        • Hi Colin,
          me and my Mum have tried the mirror idea and we wait and see if it works tomorrow morning!
          He is so noncholant! Huge great thing!
          Would he attack us do you think?
          I will let you know what happens.
          Thank you for your advice.

  4. Use a doll to scare herons is a good way to protect your pond fish. I see in Asia people use doll to protect their rice in farm. It’s really helpful.

  5. We use little wooden posts arranged around the pond which hold 3 stainless steel wires in place. The heron will not step over the wires and therefore cannot fish. The pond is also deep, that helps.

    We’ve used this method for several years and no heron kills since.

    Ps mesh over the pond looks bad, plastic herons are useless…..

  6. Right, it’s war!! A very persistent Heron has killed our largest Koi but couldn’t carry him away. So even though we had fishing line across the pond it didn’t stop the Heron.

    I’m now going for the option suggested here and will put up a barrier around the pond.

    During the summer we leave our cats out over night and that seems to have kept the Heron away but as already mentioned here, these Herons are very determined.

    Fingers crossed that this works.

    • Best wishes with your plans, and I hope that the barrier is sufficient. If the heron can stand in shallow areas of the pond you may need some form of cover net.

  7. We have a large pond, approx. 6 metres x 6 metres. We have a rope “fence” around it approx. 18 inches high and nylon fishing line spread across like a spiders web. The pond is next to a conservatory so we have fishing line running from the roof down to the waters edge and still the heron gets in! We do have lots of plants and lillies and short lenghts of plastic rain water pipe at the bottom of the pond for the fish to hide in. A few days ago a heron got caught in the lines and before flying off he regurgitated four gold fish, two of which were still alive and managed to swim off! We are still looking for a permanent fix.

    • Herons are persistent! From others’ experience I think that lines across the pool may need to be at as little as 4-6″/10-15cm spacing to fully deter herons. Glad to hear that your heron gave two of your goldfish a second chance.

  8. We have had a well stocked pond for about twenty years with no problems using a fine net in the winter and fishing line stretched over the pond in the Summer. Last Summer we suddenly lost a lot of fish to a heron so we put the winter net back which wasn’t the best but at least we saved our remaining fish. This year expecting the same we kept the net. This however hasn’t been good enough. This year’s heron just walked on the net pushing it into the water and stabbed at the fish through the net. It couldn’t eat them as it couldn’t get them through the net but still killed them through injuries. I then put fishing line on sticks around the edge as well as the net. It just pushed its way through the line. I know this as it is very bold. The pond is just feet from the kitchen window and we have watched it doing it. It just ignores banging on the window or shouting. You have to physically go out and chase it away. I though they were shy timid birds? It isn’t even bothered by our dogs. We have now raised the net up on canes so it is about 30cms above the water and comes vertically down to the ground along the pond’s edge. It is like an upturned box over the pond completely covering it. So far so good. The heron still comes but stands on the lawn just looking at the pond. I can live with that if that is all it does.
    We keep chickens as well and have to protect them from the foxes. Why can’t Mr Fox turn his attention to the heron instead and solve two problems at once?

    • I also have chickens whose coop is close to the pond, and they set up a hue and cry when a heron approaches. I’m hoping the heron gets bored quickly.

  9. My Father in law install a “gazebo” style frame around the pond and hung beaded strings at 5-6″ intervals and had Heron free years.. may not be suitable to many ponds – but seemed to work. i have a plan for a low level raised pond but uniformly deep and am considering this as a protection measure…

  10. All your comments have been somewhat interesting but we seem to be doing what have been surgested . We have had a pond for 20years and never had any problems until 2 days ago it as just sat on the fence behind the pond looking down at it we waved our hands and off it flew .So far the cheeky Heron as not got away with any fish but we think it will come back so looking for different ways to detare him we are at war Bill

    • Unfortunately, once the heron is taking a close interest a suspended cover-net is probably the only reliable method of protecting the fish

  11. Heron just left and no fish to be seen, although nearly all the surface is covered with plants and water hyacinths. So I must devise a net or fence but I love the many birds that bathe and drink on the surface, so what can I do?

    • Where a 4″/100mm gauge net is stretched taut over the pond, the smallest of birds can still get through. A compromise option might be to leave a part of the pool shallows un-netted, to allow all birds to bathe there, but fence it off from the main body of the pond with more rigid underwater mesh to stop large fish from getting into that section. Although some fry might still get picked off by the heron there, the other fish should be safer.

  12. Be careful around herons, don’t let your dogs chase them, some herons will stand there ground, our friends Labrador was killed by a heron when it used that powerful beak to smash through Busters skull killing him instantly.

  13. We’ve not had any problems with Herion for over 17 years with our fish in top pond or bottom pond .
    Then right before Christmas 2016 the
    neighbour saw it at our pond .
    We’ve had decoy ” Herion ” waste time !!!! He’s persistent all around everyone pond round the village.
    The cheek of it bold as brass 7:30 at my bottom pond ” took my loved looking at them . So mad with this herion, we’ve lots coverage in pond where fish hide as well .

  14. Two killing sprees so far, thought maybe mink the first time. An oily slick on the surface containing scales. Actually frightened the heron away accidentally the second time, magnificent prehistoric looking creature. Every morning brings trepidation now. The mob have become total recluses so it’s hard to tell how many were killed but looks like most of the 15 blue orfe are no more. Wish I’d dug an even deeper deep part and more steep sided parts that could be retro-fitted with overhangs. At a loss trying to decide a strategy. Heron’s not going to pass up on easy pickings so must try something. Maybe net the shallows.

    • Your blue orfe may actually be among the survivors. Being a skittish fish, orfe are some of the first to hide away once scared (and they really know how to hide), and may take weeks to show themselves again. Netting the shallows will help against herons, but little use if you have a mink/otter.

    • Little egrets are a relatively recent arrival in the UK, having moved North from the continent to our Southern coasts. I wasn’t aware that they would avoid herons, and in this BBC clip they are both shown feeding in the Hayle estuary.
      I’ve recently found a collection of heron and egret pictures on this Guardian photopage which may help in identification.

  15. We have an average sized pond with 50-60 goldfish -and to our surprise 4-6 frogs and two toads this year..A heron has shown interest landing in the tree that looks down on the pond but having a Westie who is out in the garden frequently and barks at anything he feels should not be there has made a difference!!!

  16. I’ve just had a visit from a Heron (first time,I think?). Luckily I was alerted by a neighbour and have netted it all for now (bottle of wine well earned) but I seem to have lost all my little (<6") black goldfish (unless they are hiding). My proper gold and white ones of all sizes are present and correct? though nervous. I am going to build an underwater triangular shelf across one corner and grow plants around it (2 foot by 3 foot wide 6"off the bottom) to give them somewhere to hide next time. Two questions:
    1) Should I do it lower make it harder for predators?
    2) When should I replace the ones I lost and would different fish fare better e.g. Blue Orfe as mentioned above?

    • 1) Herons can easily stand in 12″ of water, so make sure your shelf is lower if possible.
      2) Make sure your fish have been lost before adding more. Scared/hiding fish may take 3-8 weeks to show themselves, assuming no heron visits in the meantime. Herons normally pick out the brightly coloured fish before the darker coloured ones, so your black fish may still be lurking. For that reason, Golden Rudd may fare better than more brightly coloured goldfish.

  17. I have two smallish ponds ,one had 6 goldfish in ,the other only 3 koi .
    I have just had two early morning visits from a very large heron,who has had all my goldfish from the one pond .
    My husband shooed him away ,but I kept seeing it swooping about overhead .
    We have netted both ponds now,and purchased an ornamental solar powered heron ,lights up at night.
    So far it seems to be working,but after reading how persistant they are I am not so confident it will last .
    Very interesting to read all the coments from everyone ,thank you all .

  18. Any suggestions when Ducks visit the pond too … ? the Heron is taking loads of our Frogs, I suspect the fish are either less now and the rest hiding at the bottom of the pond. our pond is quite large 20 feet by 14 feet and in the main up to 6.6 feet at its deepest point with shelves. shallow is probably 18 inches, not that it makes any difference as the heron will step into the pond at the shallow end. I can not place any wire anyone near the pond due to the Ducks flying in … and getting out of the pond. I did place large logs around the pond as well as plant pots and one side has a large rockery .. however none of the helps either as the heron just steps over and will walk over and down the rockery from the back of the rockery too … just standing onto of the rockery watching for the fish … ! does anyone have any suggestions ? we did try the plastic heron … and of course netting of any type can not use due to the ducks who visit from early spring until autumn ish . this time round we have the Heron visiting 4/5 times a week .. no idea how many times during a day though … ive seen him catch lots of my frogs … four on one occasion until I decided 4 was enough and scared him away.

  19. Fed up with the Heron have netted all the pond came back to find it had trodden on the netting don’t know how it managed to pull the fish through the netting but only had 2 left of the original 6 when they eventually put in an appearance. Replaced them to 8 have just arrived back to find the net sunk in again I have seen 3 so far but they are obviously spooked so don’t know how many he has had although this time can not see any oil slicks of oil but net sunk in again and this was daytime. Do you think if I had chicken wire this would be stronger. or any other suggestions

    • All I can suggest is using a square mesh (rather than the stretchy knitted/diamond type) and stretching it as taut as possible at least 30cm above the water level – you might need some sort of frame/bar at the edges to pull the net over. Wire mesh is heavy and very unsightly and unless well supported can also sag into the water – it is probably more than is necessary to keep out herons, but may be of use with otters/mink.

  20. Can you use old CD’s. String them up so that they move in the wind and hope that they will scare them off. Our pond is wide open and with a very good net over it but it still managed to get a fish out of the pond and then leave on the side, dead. We have both a dog and a cat but is still manages to get one.

    • Like other deterrents, CDs and other reflectors can work for a bit but birds may get used to them, which is why I’ve only rated them three star. Moving their position about every few weeks may help, but they aren’t guaranteed to repel persistent herons. If fish left on the side are particularly large (over 35cm) and badly mauled, then suspect otters rather than herons.

  21. I have had a heron visiting for the last two weeks he seems to be getting braver every time calls
    I have a net over my pond and he still tries I know he has taken at least 2
    I send the dogs out to chase him off

  22. I’ve just lost my two goldfish that have survived in a smallish pond (under feet of snow in winter) for the last twenty-odd years. Never seen a heron at the pond before today. My question is this: if I don’t replace the fish for a couple of months, say, will the heron give up on my particular pond and fish elsewhere, or is it, once discovered, never forgotten?

  23. Ooh don’t get me started, I am fighting a losing battle with the heron in our garden. Tried virtually everything over the last 25 years to no avail. The current heron totally emptied my whole pond last year, and even found our koi lying in the middle of our lawn. I assume it was either too heavy to fly off with, so the heron just stabbed it to pieces. I looked out of my window this morning at 7.20 am and saw the heron again on the pond trying to break through the net which is covering the pond, luckily I managed to run out and scare it away, but for how long I don’t know. I have tried all the usual deterrents, had thought of using like chicken wire to cover the pond, but don’t know …… any suggestions welcome!

  24. I have lost all my koi to a local heron that lives at back of our property along the canal. Left the pond empty over the winter as we just had one lonely goldfish who had hidden.
    I now have bought 6 koi and they are beautiful but I dread the bird coming back and can’t understand why I can’t protect my fish from the Heron !!!! I know the bird has to eat and I love wildlife but please Mr Heron give me a break !!!

  25. Just seen a her on at our pond balanced on the wire/ fine cord round the pond! That doesn’t work but I am going to try the boiler suit idea!

  26. I have had a garden pond 15ft x 10ft x 3ft for 13 years. Stocked with goldfish, ghost koi shebunkin etc. About 8 years ago a local heron made numerous visits but didn’t take fish. One returned two days ago. So far no thefts/murders! Don’t know if this helps. My pond is surrounded by large rocks stones etc as I was told herons wade into water. The last two days it has stood on the paving slabs outside the stones and not ventured in. Maybe he’s stupid.Way back I also invested in a dummy heron and periodically I would walk round the pond showing it to the fish. Maybe fish are not stupid and when they saw the dummy they scooted for cover. Or were they hiding from me!!! I am going on early morning shotgun duty and wait for the blighter to turn up so I can give it a good kicki…talking to.

  27. After a Heron cleared out our pond and ate 15 koi and goldfish over two days, we decided to stop the damn thing. We built a pergola over the pond and attached two rows of metal wire around the pond onto the posts. This stopped the Heron immediately. It couldn’t get in and if it did it certainly couldn’t fly out with its wing span. No nets worked for us only the pergola cover and wire.

  28. Our pond is not small and we had around 60/70 gold fish stocked in it- all having bred in the same pong. Saw the heron by the side of the pond one morning and he had taken half. Put some more fishing line over the pond – went out this morning and I can’t see any. Can you tell me how long I ill have to wait to find out whether they are hiding. The pond is deep in the middle. I gave them food this morning but it it still there.

    • Goldfish could take two or three weeks to show themselves after the last scare from the heron. Orfe can stay hidden for a good time longer, up to two or three months. Add tiny amounts of floating food and see if it is eaten over a few hours. If not, net it out to avoid pollution.

  29. We have resorted to using electric fencing hitched up to a car battery and using the stakes and wire that is the type suitable for livestock/horses. We have put the wire around the edge and also a few strung over the top. The heron was calling regularly (sometimes two or three times daily) but since he got a shock from the fence he has not been near the pond. It doesn’t look too pretty but it has worked for us so far !! Hope it helps.

    • I’ve heard that electric type fences/lines can be of use, and hope this works for you. There is a version made by Velda specifically for ponds that is powered by a small transformer, though I’ve not had direct experience of how well it might work.

      • I use mains type electric fence as used for cattle on farms my dog cat and myself have had a shock they keep well away ,the cat rubbed its nose on it I’ve never seen it run so fast ,I still put net over it when frogs are spawning ,basically herons know a pond is concentrated food I’ve been reading loads of these articles on herons and was suppriised to hear that one stood its ground against a Labrador and killed it instantly with its beak though the skull

  30. What a brilliant post. Loads of things to try. We have a small pond at the top of the garden. Spent the last few weeks digging a large one just outside the back door. Yesterday the fish were moved from the small to the new improved large pond… today 3 have gone. Haven’t seen a heron can’t see cats being able to get in. Am so sad. Poor guys. Wish we had left them in the little pond now 🙁

  31. We feel sick this morning, our one large (8″) goldfish, the only one left from six over the years, and five small ones have gone from our small – 8′ x 2′ x 18″ deep – pond. We thought that because of surrounding sheds and trees a large bird could not have got in but it’s the only possibility. The garden is cat and fox-proof because we have chickens. We spent a lot of time, effort and money to make it so but it works. We had thought of making a ‘roof’ of pig netting over the whole small, suburban garden to keep out magpies, now we’re thinking of it again.

  32. Gallagher offer a mains electric wire system specifically for keeping herons away from fish ponds. Has anyone had experience of this deterrent?

  33. Had 6 huge Gold Fish taken on Saturday morning. then found out a neighbour had 17 Koi Carp taken in one day! They’re now more common up here in Glasgow. Totally gutted about it 🙁

  34. Try suspending old CDs on fishing line over the pond. They move and flash and most birds don’t like that. Once a heron finds your pond it will be back time and again. I am trying this at the moment its not a good look but if it works I will keep it.

    • Sorry to hear that. I do occasionally see heron damage to my customers’ pond liners, usually repairable. This damage is most often in the shallows on the shelf or on sloping areas near the edge and can be in distinctive opposing <> cuts.

  35. We have quite a large pond 5*10 mts and have always been pestered by by Herons. The message I want to leave here is. They will find a way of getting to your fish sooner or later. I have seen them crouch under the smallest bush to get fish. What ever method you use think about keeping out a very determined bird. I use an electric fence like farmers, but we still lost 15 blue and golden Orfes while we were away in April. The Koi were too large so they survived.

  36. What an interesting site. We have a large irregular pond which has evolved from an old washing place – people did their washing in it years ago. We have large water lilies and much water hawthorn, so a large proportion of the surface is covered. We get visited by heron, usually in the early morning and at dusk. We have two life sized dummies dressed in some of our not -the-best clothes. These are moved every other day. We also have a floating ball with large eyes. The heron treats these efforts with contempt. What does seem to put it off is being ambushed and shouted at. But that means standing around waiting for it to turn up in the late evening. It is not practicable in the long term. We cannot net the pond because of its large size and irregular shape. But perhaps we could try an electric fence – we have one. For this, how high off the ground should the lectrified line be?
    We don’t know how many fish the heron has taken over the years. We ope that we have sufficient regeneration to keep things going…

    • For your electric line it might be worth trying around 40-50cm high. The RSPB used to recommend two lines (non-electric) at 9 and 18″ (22 & 45cm) to dissuade herons, though a lower electric line is in danger of leaking to earth through stray plants or blades of grass. The ‘Scarecrow’ water-jet devices might also dissuade them, but have their own drawbacks too.

  37. Our pond was installed 19 years ago. We started out with 5 fish. One died shortly afterward. The other 4 multiplied over the years to approximately 60 fish. We never had a problem with herons until last month. One morning I noticed a huge pile of fish in a big huddle over in one corner of the pond, under a big plant that sat on a ledge in the pond. I had no idea what they were doing, as I had never seen this before! The next morning I went out to check on them, and they were still all in a big huddle in that same place in the pond! NONE of the were swimming around, just like the day before. I then saw an unfamiliar bird fly by my window! STILL, I didn’t figure it out! The third morning I went out to check on the fish. I lifted the part of the plant which I had lifted the 2 previous days to reveal that huge huddle of fish. I saw NONE! THEN it hit me! That unfamiliar bird was a heron!! My heart was broken. The 4 original fish, which were all over 19 years old were gone, along with about 55 other fish!

    As I searched on the other side of this plant, I did find 1 lone fish hiding deep inside of the plant. I thought it was the only one left. In tears, I called my husband at work. I told him I had to cover the pond NOW! He told me there were 2 x 4s and some lattice out in the shed. I went out and made about 8 trips carrying this material to the pond. I covered it completely!!

    It was a week before I saw 5 fish in there! I was so excited! One swam across the pond and hid behind a rock. Then another followed, then another and another. They all hid behind the rock. Then they swam back and hid under that big plant, where they all hid when the heron was bothering them.

    We were about to leave on vacation. I was not going to leave if my fish were not safe. So the lumber and lattice stayed on the pond! We also took a big, plastic storage bin, turned it upside down, cut holes in both ends for doors, and put this in the pond for the remaining few fish to hide in to feel safer.

    The pond is not beautiful like it was before the herons visited, but my fish are safe!

    My daughter fed the fish and cleaned the pond filter while we were away. When we returned, the fish were still all hiding. She said she had seen a few of them out swimming when she was here one day, but they didn’t stay out long. They hid again. That was still GREAT to hear!

    The fish continued hiding all the time. I would go out and check on them about 20 times a day, and they were always hiding. I was afraid somehow they had died in there. Then I saw a tail swish by the opening of the plastic bin! Then I saw another fish swim by. All of a sudden, they started coming out of the bin! To my surprise, 15 of them came out!!! I had no idea that many were still in there! They only stayed out for about 10 minutes. Then they all went back into the bin.

    About a week later, while I was sitting by the pond, praying they would come out of the bin so I could see them again, they did eventually come out. This time there were 18 of them!! AND, I saw 5 brand new babies!

    It has now been 5 weeks since the herons attacked. I am very happy to say that even though the fish still spend a LOT of time hiding, I have seen some of them out swimming 3 different times today! This is a first! Also, when I fed them, some of them came to get the food! This is also a first! It broke my heart to dump the food in and have none of them come to eat! So I am thrilled!

    We do not want to leave the lumber and lattice on the pond permanently. It does look AWFUL! : ) We are going to build a wooden frame about 3′ high to go all around the pond. We are going to cover it completely with either chicken wire or wire fencing. I know this will not be beautiful, but it will look better than the lumber and lattice. We are going to build a large door on it, which will open over the top, so I can still sit there and be right there with my little buddies. I will then close the door when I leave.

    I was just wondering if anyone has used chicken wire for this purpose. I read that it will not keep all predators out, because they can chew through it. I doubt the herons can get through, but I would like to know for certain before we do this. I’m wondering if we should just use the heavy wire fencing. Oh, I hate to do this to my pond, but I’m not going to lose anymore fish!

    • Wire mesh over a pond is more than enough to keep herons out, and will keep out some larger predators too. Plastic net mesh may not last as long but is usually adequate for birds, and a whole lot lighter to support – you may find companies making garden fruit cages with steel or aluminium struts that can be modified to the type of cover you describe. One note of caution with wood. Many softwoods are treated with preservatives, and water dripping off large amounts of wood may end up leaching sufficient chemicals into the water to upset the fish. At least let new wood weather a while before placing it over the pond.

  38. It does make me laugh when I hear people talking of putting fake herons next to their pond. How many herons do you think you would find at a heronry?

    The only way to stop a heron taking your fish is to actually stop the herons getting into your pond. The most secure way would obviously be a net, but most people do not want to cover their pond.
    The second most secure way is to put a fence around your pond. The reason for a fence is because herons are ungainly creatures that struggle with landing and taking off and so they always land away from water and walk into the water.
    So, fence off your pond and voila! When I say fence, I do not mean a 12″ high fence either as the heron will just jump over it. The ideal solution for most people would be [link moderated] purpose-made metal posts with eyelets for two wires around the pond.
    Bare in mind, it is not just herons that take fish, cats, seagulls and Otters are all known to like a bite. Otters have been increasingly been seen due primary to changes in their own natural environment.

    Hope this helps someone.

  39. A plastic decoy heron CAN be made to work but only if you make it look dead! I discovered this by accident when the wind blew an old decoy (left by previous owners of our house) into the pond, where it floated upside down. This seemed to deter herons as we saw them fly over but not land.

    Since then I have modified the “corpse” by cutting off the ridiculously inadequate flat stand plate with a padsaw but leaving the outline of the feet. Drilling half a dozen quarter inch holes in each side allowed me to insert goose feather quills to vaguely represent outstretched wings.

    The whole assembly lies on its back on top of a raft of Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum) water weed and looks quite dreadful. I suppose I could add some blotches of red paint to represent mortal injury but that might frighten the grandchildren.

    So far, it’s worked but then, so has the fence of eight feet high garden stakes (the green plastic coated steel ones) with 30lb breaking strain nylon monofil strung between them and across. Any sea angler has miles of this stuff that’s past its best before date. A heron did once perform an amazing vertical drop between the strands and landed in the pond but, when scared off, it wasn’t so efficient at rocketting upwards and left several feathers entangled in the monofil. We’ve left them there as they also appear to be a deterrent. BB.

    • Thanks for the info on the decoy heron though I suspect that the monofil line over the pond is the most effective part of your strategy.

      • Agreed, but the objective of the “dead heron decoy” is to deter live herons from attempting to penetrate the monofil array in the first place. They are protected birds and we have no wish to entrap them.

  40. Having just had a heron attack I have read the posts with interest. My fish are terrified, I have seen a few but don’t know how many I have lost. I need to do something. I’m looking advice and ideas.
    It is a raised pond 60cm high but with an internal depth of 100cm. Approx 350cm X 180cm. It is close to a fence on one long side and foliage on a short side. I’m thinking of:
    Thin metal posts round the edge, wire and bells between, but how high and should it slope inwards
    Or
    A pergola structure with a “roof” of thin wires, but how high, what gap between wires and how far should it protrude over the pond and do the sides need something.
    All comments will be gratefully received.

  41. I saw a heron standing at the edge of my pond twice in two days, but I don’t know if he took any fish. They – goldfish and shibunkin and golden tench – come to eat from my hand and there do seem to be fewer of them, though the number (out of about 30 total) that show up at any given moment varies) I made the pond (10 x 3 meters) just over a meter deep with no shelf specifically to make it impossible for herons to fish. Also there is lots of surface cover as well as deep hiding places. Questions: could the missing ones just be hiding? And is it a mistake to feed them by hand which encourages them to hang out near the surface, waiting for me?

    • Your fish might be hiding still. Feeding them by hand can make them more tame but also means that they will swim around near the surface where they might be more vulnerable to a heron picking them off.

      • Thanks — could you possibly something for me? Feeding the fish at all means they come to the surface because the food floats. I have heard that they get enough food from the natural pond, and that feeding them is really for the humans, in order to get them to come to the surface to be viewed! So should I not feed them at all? And, do you think my pond design, a meter deep and with no ledge or shelf for a heron to wade out on, is helping keep the fish safe? Many thanks for your kindness in sharing your expertise!

        • There’s information on feeding fish on the main part of this website here. I’m sure that your deep pool without ledges is helping to protect fish from the heron to some degree.

  42. Caught a heron on camera, crouching on the rockery by the pond. It leant forward and lunged itself towards the cowering fish, fell in, got out ,had a shake then absailed back down the rockery. This bird has not given up. Only got 10 fish left after a cat raid, not sure how many are left now but I caught it catching and eating a large goldfish on camera. Have seen the large orfe but fear for the others, just hope they’re still hiding. I am under the impression that these birds will try any trick if they’re hungry, this one is very adept at rock climbing and won’t let anything deter him. Don’t know how to stop it, just scattered obstacles everywhere

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