Eureka fish pond rehabilitation project moves ahead with FWP grant funds

| May 15, 2020 8:41 AM

Josh Letcher wasn’t hooked at first on the idea of tapping state and county resources to build a fish pond near Eureka.

After all, Lincoln County teemed with mountain lakes whose cold, clear waters nurtured lively trout speckled with splendor.

But then Letcher, now a member of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners representing District 3, saw how popular the stocked pond was among young and old. The young can keep the trout they catch; the old must toss them back.

Letcher said staff at Mountain View Manor told him that many of its elderly residents, some of them close to the end of their lives, found peace and enjoyment fishing at the pond.

Thus, Letcher said he was heartened to learn in March that the county’s grant application to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for $26,000 in funding to help fix the pond had come through.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Letcher said May 11.

The existing pond, located at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds outside of Eureka, was first constructed in 2002 and stocked with fish in 2004.

But the pond’s liner began to fail in 2015 and the stocking of fish halted after 2016.

It received both rainbow and cutthroat trout through the years, said Brian Stephens, a Libby-based fisheries biologist for FWP.

Earlier this year, Lincoln County applied for the grant to replace the compromised liner with a new, more heavy-duty plastic version.

As envisioned, the county’s road department will play a key role. Its pond-related work will include excavation at the current site, laying a base of sand to protect the bottom of the new liner from punctures and similar work to likewise protect the liner’s top.

The road department’s involvement, including labor and materials, will be an in-kind contribution, with an estimated market value of about $60,000 if a private contractor performed the work.

Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2) has said that the road department has materials on hand that can be used for the pond. He also noted that the department’s funding comes from timber receipts and Secure Rural Schools funding from the Forest Service.

The previous pond was open to all. But anglers 15 years old or older were expected to release their catch.

Both Libby and Troy have fish ponds.

FWP said fishing ponds can be “cornerstones of local cities and towns across Montana – a place for families to gather, kids to learn to fish and people with disabilities to cast a line.”

Letcher said work to fix the pond has been delayed by the ramifications of COVID-19. He said he hopes it will open for fishing sometime in the next couple of months.