I’m guessing I’ve got your attention now, so here is the short and sweet of it:
We are having a fish salvage at the five fish ponds on the east side of Duck Creek, approximately 0.7 mile south of the main Duck Creek entrance along Highway 51. These ponds will be drained shortly, and we would like to maximize the public use of this resource.
Between now and Aug. 15 folks can salvage fish from these five ponds and their immediate spillways. The following restrictions apply:
On July 21 the levees to the fish ponds will be notched and the ponds will be drained.
Once the ponds are drained a ground survey will be completed.
The topographic information will help finalize the engineering plans to incorporate a larger drainage network that lies across the adjacent 75 acres. This dirt work will be a part of the next stage of our renovation. The area will be managed as a mix of seasonally flooded forest and marsh habitat.
There is a well on site, and this area will provide additional waterfowl-hunting opportunity.
The removal of the interior fish pond levees will allow floodwater to be connected across 800 acres, as water from Pool 2 will become connected in this ground during large flood events. This will help provide additional flood water storage to the basin and will seasonally function as valuable migratory waterbird habitat. As seen during this spring, endemic swamp fish will also benefit from this habitat during flood pulses.
In March 2011, the Conservation Commission approved the donation of 52 acres. Most of this acreage is enrolled in the Westland Reserve Program (WRP) and includes these fish ponds which cover 11 acres. During the last few months staff from multiple divisions has looked at this property and its current condition, as well as the surrounding topography and habitat conditions.
First we evaluated the fish populations, water quality and levee conditions. Unfortunately, what we found was that the sport fish populations in all five ponds were in poor condition and there were many undesirable fish species present, such as hybrid sunfish, green sunfish, yellow bullhead, gizzard shad and gar. Additionally, the water in all five ponds is muddy, which is most likely due to an overabundance of yellow bullheads and channel catfish. Finally, we found out that these ponds are quite shallow and the levees have extensive muskrat damage. These ponds need some work to manage them appropriately. However, because the ponds and the surrounding acreage are enrolled in WRP. This is a federal program offered to private landowners to protect, restore and enhance wetlands. Work to repair or enhance the fisheries in these ponds is not compatible with WRP policy.
Similar to our other renovation work, we looked at the topography of the site and the surrounding area to help identify areas of opportunity and what kind of habitat would make the best sense for this location. A large drainage cuts across the northern half of Pool 2. Despite the roads and levees this drainage historically cut south across this new property. Removing the interior levees that cut across the natural contours will allow water to be managed more easily. This will also help water to spread out more naturally during large flood events.
There are trees to the north, south and west of this parcel. Additionally, because of WRP there is a requirement to maintain a forest component on this tract. Most of the lower elevations are currently not forested. This spring we saw sora, blue-winged teal, and northern shovelers forage in the flooded wetland vegetation in the lower basin. By managing water according to elevations we will be able to manage the marshy habitat in the lower elevations and maintain the trees on the higher elevations. This makes the most sense for habitat now and into the future.
Hopefully, this added background information shows you how we’ve sized up the situation and made our decision to move forward. Please come out and take part in the fish salvage now. Over the next year or two the next renovation stage will move forward. Plan on enjoying this as an added spot at the waterfowl draw in the future. Thanks again for your support and interest.