Building a Lake: 4 Quick Questions to Help You Get Started

Building a lake can be a great way to enhance your property, whether you are after boosting its resell value or simply adding a picturesque waterfront view to it. In fact, it has been found that residential properties with a waterfront view consistently sell at a higher price compared to their inland counterparts—thanks to the law of limited supply.

However, building a lake is definitely a big undertaking, even for seasoned property owners. Considering the time, manpower, and cost that building a lake involves, it is important to ask the right questions before you get started.

Starting with the end in mind is always an efficient way to list out what you need, but with projects as complex as lake-building, the list can be overwhelming. So, if you are looking to learn more about where to begin, here are some of the questions to help you navigate building a lake:

What is the ideal location?

Be intentional about choosing the lake's location, keeping in mind that it will directly impact its functionality and purpose. Whether you are building a lake for fishing, recreational activities, irrigation, or wildlife conservation, a well-placed location can serve your needs effectively.

Purpose aside, environmental considerations are also a significant factor. As much as possible, the lake must not disrupt its surrounding ecosystems while also avoiding areas prone to erosion. Proper placement can also aid you with managing the water quality and supply since building a lake near a reliable water source can provide you with a steady water inflow.

What is the lake's size and depth?

Determining the dimensions of your lake must also align with the lake's purpose. For instance, an irrigation-intended lake that is too small may not provide sufficient water resources, while building a lake for recreation that is too large can be difficult to maintain.

Building a lake specifically for fishing

Another consideration of your lake's size and depth is your budget and maintenance capacity. An expansive lake will naturally cost more to build and require higher maintenance than a shallow one.

How do I begin creating the lake?

While building a lake can elevate a property, starting the project is definitely not a simple task. Before you even get to the excavation phase, you would first need to secure permits and get your hands on specialized equipment for earthmoving—not to mention shell out quite a sum for the whole project.

This is why it is important to hire an excavation services specialist who can help you navigate the process while also ensuring correct execution. After all, doing it right the first time is the only best way to go about building a lake.

Although hiring a contractor might seem like a stiff investment at first, you will soon find how hiring an excavation specialist is an invaluable time and money-saver in building a lake correctly.

Here are just some of the few services an excavation contractor does for you:

  1. Securing Permits

    The permitting process can be complex in building a lake, especially with varying jurisdictions per area. This is why it is advantageous to hire a professional who is well-versed in the local regulations and permit requirements specific to your area.

    An excavation contractor can guide you through the permitting process efficiently, ensuring that all the necessary paperwork in building a lake is completed correctly and submitted on time.

  2. Excavation

    After the complex permit phase, next comes the labor-intensive excavation stage. An excavation specialist has the heavy machinery and specialized equipment needed to clear, dig, and shape the lakebed according to your desired size and depth.

    Correctly building a lake also requires careful consideration of the soil composition, groundwater levels, and the topography of the area. Their expertise minimizes the risk of erosion, uneven terrain, or other complications that can arise from amateur excavation attempts.

  3. Safe earthmoving

    An excavation services specialist complies with industry-standard safety protocols to protect both the workers and the environment during the excavation process.

    Coupled with the right tools, practices, and knowledge for the job, an excavation specialist can bring peace of mind to building a lake.
An excavator building a lake by digging

A qualified contractor can accurately, safely, and efficiently prepare the groundwork for you, ultimately saving you time and resources in building a lake.

Remember, hiring amateurs might seem like a cost-saving decision upfront, but their miscalculations and unsafe work practices will likely cost you more in the long run. When it comes to building a lake, investing in professional excavation services is worth every penny.

How do I maintain the lake?

Lastly, another consideration in building a lake is its maintenance. Once the lake is built, you need to maintain the water quality not only for aesthetic appeal but for ecological and functional performance as well.

There are several ways to maintain the water quality of your lake, ranging from simply clearing the water from debris to more complex ways, such as installing aeration systems. Monitoring the water quality of your lake by tracking its pH, oxygen, and nutrient levels lets you identify and mitigate any imbalances, such as algae blooms or excessive nutrient content.

Monitoring water quality after building a lake

While building a lake is the immediate goal, being responsible for its impact on its surrounding ecosystem is just as important.

To wrap it up

Remember, the construction is just one aspect of building a lake. Once it is set up, it is proper maintenance that will dictate how well your lake will serve your needs. A healthy and beautiful lake can add a unique charm to your property, all the while bolstering its value.

These are just some of the most important considerations to factor in when building a lake. By asking these questions, you can be sure that you are building a lake that fits your vision and your needs—without wasting precious resources on repair work.

Although building a lake is a major project, the process does not have to be painful. With the right preparation and specialists helping you realize your goal, you will find that building a lake can even be an enjoyable journey.

7 Key Techniques in Fishing Lake Digging You Need to Know

Fishing lake at daytime

Fishing lake digging opens a world of excitement and rewards for fishing enthusiasts. In this blog post, we will explore the importance and benefits of fishing lake digging and seven key techniques to enhance your fishing experience. 

Whether you're an experienced angler or a newbie, these techniques will provide valuable insights to create a thriving fishing lake that suits your needs. 

Each technique is crucial in building a successful fishing ecosystem - from selecting the ideal site to stocking the lake with fish. 

Let's learn more about the essential techniques for fishing lake digging and unlock the potential of creating your fishing paradise.

Site Selection

Site selection plays a pivotal role in the success of fishing lake digging. It involves carefully choosing the most suitable location for your fishing lake based on various factors. 

When selecting a site for your fishing lake, several factors should be considered:

Soil type

The type of soil at the site is crucial for water retention and quality. Clay or silt-based soils are ideal as they retain water, ensuring a stable water level for the fish habitat.

Water source

A reliable water source is vital for your fishing lake's sustained health and productivity. Natural sources such as springs, streams, or wells provide a constant fresh water supply for the fish and aquatic ecosystem.


Easy access to the lake is essential for activities like stocking fish, maintenance, and recreational use. Assessing road access, parking availability, and potential obstructions ensures convenience and smooth operations.

By carefully considering these factors during site selection, you can create an environment conducive to fish growth and a pleasurable fishing experience.

Crafting the Lake's Design

The design of your fishing lake significantly impacts its functionality, aesthetics, and the well-being of the fish within it. A well-thought-out lake design promotes healthy fish populations and enhances your overall fishing experience.

When designing your fishing lake, the following factors should be considered:


Determining the appropriate depth for your lake is crucial. Different fish species have specific depth preferences for feeding, breeding, and finding shelter. A varied depth profile with shallower areas and deeper sections cater to the diverse needs of different fish species.


The size of your lake depends on various factors, including available space, intended use, and desired fish population. Larger lakes offer more space for fish to thrive but require more maintenance and resources.


Incorporating features such as underwater structures, submerged vegetation, and spawning areas adds complexity to the lake ecosystem. These features provide hiding places for fish, promote breeding, and contribute to a balanced aquatic environment.

Tips for designing a lake that suits your needs and the needs of the fish:

Navigating Legal Requirements

Understanding the legal aspects of fishing lake digging is essential to ensure compliance, avoid penalties, and have a successful project. Navigating the legal process involves securing necessary permits and adhering to local regulations and guidelines.

The legal aspects of fishing lake digging include:


Depending on your location, permits or approvals from local authorities or environmental agencies before beginning your project may be required. These permits ensure your fishing lake digging complies with environmental regulations and safeguards natural resources.

Environmental impact assessments

In some cases, an environmental impact assessment may be required to evaluate the potential environmental effects of your fishing lake. This assessment helps identify and mitigate any negative impacts on the ecosystem.

Tips for navigating the legal process:

  1. Research your area's specific legal requirements and regulations regarding fishing lake digging.
  2. Engage with local authorities and environmental agencies to understand the permitting process and any specific guidelines.
  3. Seek professional assistance, such as environmental consultants or legal experts specializing in land and water use.

By following the necessary legal procedures, you can ensure that your fishing lake is established within the boundaries of the law, minimizing any potential issues and fostering a positive relationship with regulatory authorities.


excavator digging fish lake

Excavation is a crucial step in the fishing lake digging that brings your vision to reality. It involves removing soil and creating your lake's desired shape and depth. Hiring a professional excavation team is highly recommended to ensure precision, efficiency, and safety throughout the excavation process.

The excavation process typically includes the following steps:

Site preparation

Clearing the designated area of vegetation, debris, and obstacles to make way for excavation.


Excavation machinery removes soil and shapes the lake according to the planned design. The soil removed during excavation can create berms or other landscape features around the lake.

Sloping and benching

Sloping the sides of the lake and creating benches or ledges at different depths can provide diverse fish habitats and improve the shoreline's overall stability.

The benefits of hiring a professional excavation team for your fishing lake digging include the following:

  1. Expertise and experience 

Professionals have the knowledge and skills to execute precise excavation according to your design requirements.

  1. Efficient equipment 

Excavation professionals have access to specialized machinery and equipment necessary for the job, resulting in efficient and effective work.

  1. Safety considerations 

Excavation can be a hazardous process. Hiring professionals ensures that safety protocols are followed, reducing the risk of accidents or property damage.

During excavation, it is important to consider safety:

By hiring professionals and prioritizing safety, you can ensure a smooth and successful excavation process, bringing your fishing lake to life.

Lining Your Lake for Longevity

Properly lining your fishing lake is crucial for longevity and preventing water leakage. A reliable and effective liner ensures that the water stays within the lake, maintaining optimal water levels for the fish and preserving the ecosystem. 

Let's explore the key aspects of lake lining.

One of the primary reasons for lining your lake is to prevent seepage. Using a liner creates a barrier that helps retain water and minimizes the risk of losing valuable resources. There are two main options for lake liners: natural clay and synthetic liners.

Natural Clay

Natural clay liners, composed of compacted clay soils, can provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution. These liners have low permeability, effectively reducing water seepage. However, their effectiveness can depend on the quality and thickness of the clay layer.

Synthetic Liners

Synthetic liners, made from reinforced polyethylene or PVC materials, offer a durable and reliable solution. They have high puncture resistance and superior water retention properties, ensuring minimal seepage. 

To ensure your liner is effective, consider the following tips:

  1. Proper installation

Professional installation is crucial if you opt for a natural clay or synthetic liner. The liner should be carefully laid and secured to prevent shifting or tearing.

  1. Adequate overlap

If using synthetic liners, ensure sufficient overlap between individual sections to create a continuous barrier. This prevents water from seeping through gaps.

  1. Regular inspections

Periodically inspect your liner for any signs of damage or wear. Promptly repair or replace any compromised areas to maintain the integrity of the lining system.

Filling Your Lake

Once your fishing lake is prepared and lined, you can bring it to life by filling it with water. Filling your lake is a significant milestone that completes the construction phase. 

Filling your lake typically involves introducing water from a suitable source. Consider the following factors when sourcing water:

Natural source

If available, using a natural water source such as a spring, stream, or groundwater can provide a sustainable and environmentally friendly option. Make certain that the water quality is suitable for fish habitat.

Trucked-in water

You may need to bring water to your fishing lake using water delivery services. This option is convenient when natural water sources are not accessible, or the required water volume is significant. Ensure that the water source is reliable and meets quality standards.

After filling your lake, monitoring its water levels and quality is crucial. Some key tips for monitoring your lake include:

  1. Regular water level checks

Monitor and maintain the desired water levels to ensure a balanced ecosystem and provide sufficient habitat for fish.

  1. Water quality assessment

Periodically test the water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient levels. This helps ensure a healthy environment for fish and aquatic life.

  1. Addressing issues promptly

If water quality issues arise, such as algae blooms or imbalances in nutrient levels, take appropriate actions to mitigate the problem and restore a favorable environment.

By carefully selecting your water source, monitoring water levels, and ensuring water quality, you can create a thriving fishing lake that provides an optimal habitat for fish and enhances your fishing experience.

Stocking Your Lake

fishes and duck swimming in the lake

Stocking your fishing lake with fish is an exciting and rewarding step that brings your fishing ecosystem to life. Properly selecting fish species and creating a balanced ecosystem is key to a successful stocking process.

Fish species selection

Choose fish species that are suitable for your fishing goals, climate, and the lake's ecosystem. Consider factors such as preferred water temperature, feeding habits, growth rates, and compatibility with other fish species.

Balancing the ecosystem

Creating a balanced ecosystem within your fishing lake is crucial. This involves considering the food chain dynamics and the relationships between predator and prey species. Introduce appropriate vegetation, aquatic plants, and other organisms to provide the fish a natural habitat and food sources.

Maintaining a balanced ecosystem ensures a healthier fish population and a more sustainable fishing experience.

Final Thoughts

Fishing lake digging offers a rewarding opportunity to create a thriving fishing ecosystem. You can establish a successful fishing lake by implementing the key techniques discussed, from site selection to stocking the lake. 

Enjoy the tranquility and excitement of your personalized fishing paradise, and experience the satisfaction of creating a balanced habitat for fish and a fulfilling fishing experience. Embark on this journey and reap the rewards of fishing lake digging.

From Expert Pond Excavation Contractors: What are the 7 Things to Consider During Pond Excavation?

Many people wonder if it's necessary to work with pond excavation contractors to excavate ponds for them. It might seem basic, but knowing how to excavate a pond properly is extremely important.

We all know that pond excavation contractors could do the job properly, but do you know the benefits of doing it right?

Before your pond excavation contractors start digging, there are some things that need to be done first to ensure the smoothness of the project. First, assess the pond's property and consider all the existing utilities and structures.

Second, with a site or laser level, determine the low and high areas where the pond would most likely be positioned. That gives you a better idea of any challenges or obstacles you might have to overcome when installing the pond.

Working with pond excavation contractors offers many benefits.

Remember to also look at construction access points for the establishment; this would help you determine your options for the excavation process. Are there any narrow walkways, gates, or steps that would block equipment access?

Site Assessment

As you walk surrounding the pond perimeter, determine the high and low areas of the main viewing area. Most ponds are found next to a patio, so the patio would be the starting point. We would like the water to come up to the viewing area and typically set the water level two to three inches below the patio level.

When the water level is established, make the whole pond perimeter a minimum of 2″ above the water level. The level would be much higher at the back edge of the pond where the waterfall is located, depending on the final waterfall height. All measurements from this point forward will directly relate to the water level.

Building Ledges

Ledges serve as a safe staircase as opposed to a slippery slope. They also add stability and strength to the pond. Terracing is less likely to collapse and much more stable than a tall, steep wall.

In addition, ledges provide aesthetic appeal. If you want a good ecosystem pond, the water will be clear, and the pond floor will be visible. Ledges provide contours and layers, adding interest to the pond's interior.

Pond ledges also offer shelves for aquatic plants; different ledge depths are ideal for planting the many species available. For example, marginals will grow in 1-12 inches of water, while water lilies and oxygenators prefer 12-36 inches of water.

Pond Shelves in a Man-Made Pond

The first pond ledge is usually 6 to 10 inches deep and must be dug around the perimeter of the entire pond. Note that this ledge should be covered in gravel, so a ledge that is six inches deep will become a ledge that's four inches deep after the gravel is installed. Ledges can vary according to usage, but they do not have to be perfect.

The goal of creating a pond is to copy nature, and natural ponds don't have perfectly level or symmetrical ledges that graduate towards the bottom of the pond. When the first ledge is finished, your pond excavation contractors can mark out the next area to be excavated.

The background area is where the pond will transition into the surrounding landscape; the wide shallow ledges are ideal for mass plantings of aquatic plants to assist with this transition.

Consider the Waterfall

The other area that requires careful consideration is where the stream or waterfall enters the pond.

The waterfall, or stream, is important for many reasons, from aesthetics to function and costs. From an aesthetic point of view, what water entry point type is desired? A small riffle zone or a large dramatic waterfall?

The water's depth at this entry point greatly impacts the design's success. If, at this point, the water is deep, it would dictate the size of the boulders necessary to frame the waterfall; it would also change the sound of the waterfall (deep=base tones, shallow=treble tones).

There are many considerations in a pond excavation project.

Shallow water at the point of entry of a swift-moving riffle area will create a natural rippling impact on the surface of the water and aid in the overall pond circulation. Defaulting to shallow water near the waterfall or stream entry gives you the greatest options.

From a cost and function standpoint, deep water near the waterfall requires larger boulders and more time. Water quality is usually better with shallow water as it would help with overall pond circulation and debris removal.

Berm Building

During the excavation phase, the filters and piping are laid as well. It is always first to set the biological filter, and the flexible piping follows. The excavated soil could be used to produce a berm around the biological filter, and its size must be equivalent to the size of the pond. In other terms, if the pond is 11′ x 16′ and 2 feet deep, the berm should be 11′ x 16′ and 2 feet high.

If the biological filter is higher, more soil will be needed to disguise it, and it may seem out of place. The berm will need more spread if it's set lower to use the soil. Each site should be evaluated for how high or low the waterfall should be.

Soil usage is typically an overlooked part of the construction process, and you do not want to be left needing to remove soil from a project.

If the soil's quality is poor, organic topsoil could be brought in to be used for future plantings. The broader and larger the berm, the easier it would be to incorporate plantings naturally to help a water feature seem as natural as possible.

Challenges of Poor Soil Conditions

Many soil types can cause all sorts of pond excavation challenges.

Clay Soil: Fall and spring are the best times for excavation since the clay is softer, while mid-summer requires a pick-ax to chisel through the hardened clay. The clay soil in certain areas is notoriously bad, and the selling price of the job must reflect the extra time needed to complete the excavation in difficult soil.

Rocky Soil: In addition to longer digging time, rocky soil has other challenges. One of them is a hard sub-surface to deal with after the digging is complete.

In this instance, your pond excavation contractors can lay down several layers of underlayment to serve as an additional cushion under the liner. In serious cases, they can place a layer of the fabric above the liner where larger boulders will be set.

Bedrock is the toughest because it takes much longer to dig than other soil conditions. Based on where the rock layer is found, the pond may need to be built completely above grade or half and half. The deeper you could dig, the better the pond would look. It's hard to make a pond look natural when sitting 18″ above the surrounding soil.

In some parts of the country, jackhammers are necessary equipment. It is the only way to cut through the hard layers. It could be a slow process, but extreme conditions require creative solutions.

Sandy Soil: In loose, sandy soils, the digging is a piece of cake, but it is virtually impossible to cut a ledge into it. The easiest way to deal with this problem is to dig the pond using a flat bottom, with its side gently sloping into the middle.

When the pond is dug, there are two options: Place boulders on the sloping sides, and put gravel on the bottom – or place boulders on the backfill and bottom behind the rocks creating boulder and gravel terraces. Planting areas and irregular ledges could be created with this method.

Considerations for Large Projects

On larger projects of 600 square feet or more, large equipment is needed to help excavate, large boulder placement, and material handling.

Heavy equipment and tools are used in a pond excavation project.

Backhoes and skid-steers are the two most common equipment, but cranes and loaders can also be used. A skid-steer could effectively excavate the pond's top shelves, but the bottom and final shaping should still be done using hand tools. Your pond excavation contractors like us here at Shilling Excavation could maneuver around enough to do a bit of digging; however, some handwork is still needed to clean things up.

Advantages Of Hiring Professional Pond Excavation Contractors

Aside from saving time and not having to get your hands dirty, several other benefits are gained by simply hiring pond excavation contractors for your excavation project. Many pond excavation contractors would want to perform every aspect of the project themselves.

Novices won't be familiar with various nuances of pond excavation, such as level, shaping, and depth, and professionals also understand the significance of structural integrity. Some areas may have to be refilled, increasing the project's cost. While anyone could dig a hole in the ground, only professional pond excavation contractors like us could excavate it in a manner that can suit a pond.