Brrrr! The air temps are starting to get a tad chilly in most parts of the country, but that doesn't mean you should stop feeding your fish just yet. As a rule of thumb, air temperatures are not what matter when it comes to figuring out when to stop feeding your pond fish--it's water temperature.

It's important to buy a good floating thermometer at your local fish shop, and keep it in your pond at all times. Once water temps hit 60 degrees farenheit, it's time to switch over to lower protein food for the autumn. Since your fish are now shifting from the summer growth stage to prepping for their winter hunkering down, they no longer need to bulk up with high growth foods. This allows their intestines and gut to get ready for a food-free winter.

Once the water temperature hits 50 degrees, you quit feeding them. Period! Resist the urge to continue feeding because they still "appear active" or "look hungry" to you. As the water temperatures cool, pond fish metabolism slows down as well--and you risk food that is improperly digested getting caught in the fishes gut and potentially killing the poor animals. Furthermore, fish rarely die from starvation. There are always insects, algae and all sorts of things that your fish will feast on even if you aren't there to throw in pellets, peas or shrimp bits. Overfeeding a fish is a sure fire path to death as opposed to under feeding.

Also, if your water temps have been 50 degrees or below for a few weeks and suddenly you get a week or two of an indian summer, you should still not feed. The warm spell can end abruptly, and you risk food getting trapped in the gut. Again, the minute you see that 50 degree reading, just pack the food away.

If you have properly fed your fish all summer, they have built up food reserves that will last them through the winter when they go into their fishy hibernation. You will soon notice them gathering together and remaining pretty still through winter. At this time, it's best not to fiddle to much with them and disrupt their state of semi-sleep. Check them often, of course, to make sure everything is all right with them and make sure your pond has frozen over, etc.

When do you start up feeding again? Check that thermometer carefully in the spring, and once the water temps hit 50 degrees consistently for at least 2 weeks you may begin slowly feeding the specially formulated spring feed (same as the autumn food), which is low in protein and has easily digestible wheat germ. Once you see the 65 degree temps hit consistently for a few weeks, you can begin the protein rich summer feed that packs on the weight.

For more tips on winterizing the pond, check out Preparing Your Pond for Winter.