Dam failure drains lake; fish moved to new home
Officials said the lake’s drainage system failed, leading to the release of the water. About 3,000 fish were moved to Turnmill Pond at the nearby Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area by Sept. 15.
“We have had eight or nine people out in the lake from [the Fish and Wildlife bureau] and [people] from the Bureau of Land Management for about the last week,” DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese told the Tri- Town News. “The goal here is to get as many fish out as we can. Our ultimate goal is to protect this resource.”
Using a process called “electrofishing,” DEP biologists and land management employees used specially outfitted boats that introduced an electric current into the water, temporarily immobilizing the fish.
“It’s enough to give a slight shock to the fish to slow them down. It doesn’t hurt them, but it makes it slightly easier to catch them,” Ragonese said.
The situation at Prospertown Lake came about when a 27-year-old metal gate watercontrol structure for an earthen dam on the west side of the lake gave way after Hurricane Irene and other storms struck the area in mid- to late August. According to a DEP Internet webpage devoted to this incident, the water level dropped by about 1 foot a day. Prospertown Lake was originally about 14 feet deep; however, by 2 p.m. Sept. 16, the water level was at about 2.5 feet.
Officials expect the lake to completely drain out.
“We deal with these lake lowerings and dam failures all the time,” DEP principal fishery biologist Chris Smith said. “Some [lowerings] are planned, some are not. Obviously, the dam has failed and we can’t control the release [of the water], so we kind of just have to go with it as it’s going.” Officials said the eight species of fish affected by the incident — largemouth bass, black crappie, yellow perch, golden shiners, bluegill sunfish, pumpkin seed sunfish, chain pickerel and brown bullhead catfish — are all expected to be reintroduced to Prospertown Lake sometime next year following repairs to the water control structure.
“I’m sure folks will miss their regular fishing area, but there are other options we offer. I’m sure the fishermen have other places to go,” Ragonese said.