Draining Branchwood Pond

Fri, July 24, 2015 | Golf

As has happened a few other times in my career, I was asked to ‘rescue” the fish in a
pond before it was drained or dried up or met some other ill fate.  In this case, as the
POA moved forward to re-purpose Branchwood golf course, the decision was made to drain the Branchwood Pond.  Of course, folks always perceive that a pond is full of fish and none of us want to see them die, right?  But in this case we had no knowledge of the fish population in this pond and no real way to gain that knowledge before draining the pond.  so we had to simply just create a game plan to try to rescue whatever fish were present as we drained the pond.

This week, we began pumping water out of the pond and could see that Wednesday would be the day we would completely drain it.  So we went prepared to seine the fish out once the pond water level lowered until it was about knee deep.  After pumping all day, that afternoon around 2 pm we waded in and began seining fish out of the mucky remains of the pond water.  Every fish we caught was placed in our fish hauling tank in our pick-up where oxygen was pumped into the tank to keep the fish alive.  Once we ceased catching any fish in the seine, we knew we had caught all the fish in the pond and the one and only turtle – a snapping turtle with a very unfriendly disposition. 

We hauled the fish to the closest location, Stoneykirk Access on Loch Lomond and let the fish go. From this effort, Lomond received three grass carp, 2 adult largemouth bass, two adult bluegill, and hundreds of fingerling largemouth bass and bluegill.  The two bass each weighed about one pound.

That was not much of a fish population but it was a case of  “you don’t know until you try” and it was good that we tried and did rescue what fish were there.  I’ve had similar experiences in the past. Once in Virginia, when I was the District Fisheries Biologist over the Shenandoah Valley, working for the Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries, we were asked to rescue the fish from a pond that was drying-up on public land near the north fork of the Shenandoah River.  My technician at the time, Dan Garren (now Regional Fisheries Supervisor for Idaho Game and Fish Dept.) and I, proceeded to rescue about a dozen common carp and nothing else from this pond.  Common carp are very common in the Shenandoah River system, and it seemed a tremendous waste of time to me then to be adding another dozen carp to the river resulting from an all-day effort.  Common carp are not a valued fish in western culture and in fact are an introduced species from the other side of the globe that have spread throughout the United States and are regarded generally as a nuisance, or undesired species. But the woman that asked us to rescue the fish was so happy and a huge picture of Dan carrying a carp to the truck tank, made the front page of a local paper.  It was good public relations and good that we didn?t just let those fish dry up in that pond – same with Branchwood Pond.  Once the decision was made that the pond was to go away, we had to do our best to provide a new home for its inhabitants. 

The Branchwood Pond apparently always leaked and so ground-water from a well was pumped into the pond periodically to maintain the level of the pond.  Groundwater is usually low in dissolved oxygen and often high in hydrogen sulfide.  The manner in which the pond was managed for years, receiving a great deal of pumped groundwater from a well, was apparently not conducive to water quality habitat capable of supporting a good fish population.  The process will now begin to fill-in the old pond. 

As has happened a few other times in my career, I was asked to ‘rescue” the fish in a pond before it was drained or dried up or met some other ill fate. In this case, as the POA moved forward to re-purpose Branchwood golf course, the decision was made to drain the Branchwood Pond. Of course, folks always perceive that a pond is full of fish and none of us want to see them die, right? But in this case we had no knowledge of the fish population in this pond and no real way to gain that knowledge before draining the pond. so we had to simply just create a game plan to try to rescue whatever fish were present as we drained the pond. As has happened a few other times in my career, I was asked to ‘rescue” the fish in a pond before it was drained or dried up or met some other ill fate. In this case, as the POA moved forward to re-purpose Branchwood golf course, the decision was made to drain the Branchwood Pond. Of course, folks always perceive that a pond is full of fish and none of us want to see them die, right? But in this case we had no knowledge of the fish population in this pond and no real way to gain that knowledge before draining the pond. so we had to simply just create a game plan to try to rescue whatever fish were present as we drained the pond.