RIVERDALE - A fishing pond located adjacent to the Downstream Camping Area immediately below the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery hasn't seen much activity in recent years. The trout pond was created in 1997.
The primary purpose of the facility was to provide fishing opportunities for children who were accompanying their parents for a few days of camping. The pond was located a short walk from the campground and was stocked with trout provided by the hatchery. Spending time at the pond with a fishing pole in hand was an excellent way to have fun while enjoying the outdoors.
Over time though, the edge of the pond became overgrown with cattails and access became difficult. The natural flow of water from the nearby hatchery was stopped by the work of beavers in the area. The pond was in peril.
Rob Holm, Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, stands in a trout pond that will be reconstructed this summer. The removal of the small island at right center is one of several scheduled improvements.
"It worked out great for kids in the campground to come here and fish, but the flows through the structures have slowed," explained Rob Holm, hatchery manager. "The piping is plugged. We can't get flow out of the pond so the water got warm and the trout ran back up to the hatchery."
No trout, no fishing. But a solution is on the horizon. With work done by the Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Holm says the pond will be revitalized in the coming months and should once again become a fisherman-friendly facility.
"We're going to remove an island that is choked with weeds and deposits silt into the pond," said Holm. "We'll deepen the pond, make a better slope on one side and add a big fishing pier. We should be able to maintain the water level."
Today there is only a few inches of water in the pond. It has been drawn down to make it easier to reconstruct. Once the dirt work is complete and water control structures are in place, the pond will be filled with water that flows naturally downhill from the hatchery. Catchable trout will be added and a once popular attraction will again be available to the public.
"We've got a lot of campers down here. It's kids, camping and fishing," said Holm.
When the level of water in the trout pond reaches the desired height it will naturally overflow into the Missouri River, the same source where the water originated. The natural flow of water also raises an intriguing possibility, that being the creation of an outlet for the return of spawning-age salmon coming up the Missouri River. No plans for such a project have yet been approved or funded.