Management at Pow Wow Pond - Past, Present and Future|
by 341st Civil Engineer Squadron
10/22/2010 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Many members of Air Force Global Strike Command don't get the chance to enjoy the outdoors like Airmen at Malmstrom. For many base residents Pow Wow Pond is not only a convenient place to fish, it is the only place they can catch fish. The east side of base is also remote enough to attract residents simply looking for a little piece of nature.
"Work around Pow Wow Pond, whether it is education, restoration, water quality or invasive species management, pre-dates my involvement by many, many years," said Jason Gibbons, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron conservation program manager since February 2009. "Every May, just before National Kid's Fishing Day, we plant the pond with approximately 600 rainbow trout ranging from 12 to 16 inches. The Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office out of Bozeman, Mont. has helped us find an affordable way to keep Pow Wow Pond stocked year-after-year."
A FRESH START FOR THE POND
A lot went into making Pow Wow Pond look like it does today. Rudy Verzuh, 341st CES chief of environmental, recalls the numerous efforts to eradicate goldfish and restore the borrow pit into something that resembled a fishing pond. "In March 2005, we performed a large restoration project to improve the habitat and recreational value of Pow Wow Pond," said Mr. Verzuh. "We also drained the pond down and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service treated it with the pesticide rotenone, which killed all the fish in the pond including 1,000 goldfish. Between poisoning and restoration efforts that included stabilizing the shoreline by reducing the steepness, placing riprap and planting vegetation, the pond was measurably clearer and the trout growth and survival rate was very high."
Other efforts to improve water quality included the planting of a pine tree windbreak and installation of a wind-powered aerator in the deep end of the pond.
"My job is to look at all of our natural resources, from alfalfa to zebra mussels," Mr. Gibbons said. "It sounds like the company-line, but I manage them in a way that promotes the Wing's mission while also conserving, sometimes removing, those species or habitat types in accordance with Federal and state law. Enhancing the infrastructure around Pow Wow Pond and providing a recreational fishery is one of the perks I take away from this job. I love providing a beneficial service to the community."
NATIONAL KID'S FISHING DAY EVENTS
National Kid's Fishing Day was celebrated June 5 and approximately 150 people lined the crowded shoreline. The nice weather was a welcome change from snow in 2009 and 72 children ages 3 to 15 registered for the event.
"This year 33 trout were caught between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., with 5 of them weighing-in over a pound," Mr. Gibbons said as he recalled the festivities. "The largest fish reeled in was a 3 pound, 16 and a half inch rainbow trout.
The 341st CES provided bait and gave away 46 prizes consisting of rod and reel combos, tackle boxes and rod holders. The 341st Force Support Squadron provided free food, drinks and rods. Many large, carryover fish caught this year can be attributed to the success of the windmill aerator.
"The aerator installed in 2005 has helped trout survive the hot summers when dissolved oxygen is at its lowest," Mr. Verzuh explained, "and has reduced the number of fish killed over the winter to almost zero."
This year, Pow Wow Pond was closed to fishing 7 days prior to the National event, which resulted in more fish being available for the children.
So what is next for Pow Wow Pond? Canoeing, remote control boat racing, pike fishing? Jesse Patton, business management and integration specialist for the 341st CES, has been working with other base entities to develop a long-term plan.
"I believe that Pow Wow Pond is an underutilized gem," said Mr. Patton. "Offering fishing, a small walking trail, a picnic pavilion and helping to mitigate storm water runoff, this area benefits the community and the environment. We are currently looking into the feasibility of increasing the number of activities being offered at the park. The 341st FSS just completed a survey asking the base what activities they would like to see offered at the park, and shortly, I will be working with the engineers and Security Forces to determine which activities can be offered in this area."
In addition to a long-term development strategy, the base's conservation program is focusing on improving access to the pond, especially access to those with disabilities. These improvements will include a floating fishing dock, similar to the dock at Wadsworth Pond, and improvements to two of the shoreline fishing areas. Two benches at Pow Wow Pond are being replaced, and they are working with the 819th RED HORSE Squadron to potentially pave the remaining 1,400 feet of walking path around the pond.
THE GOLDFISH SOLUTION, PART 2
The conservation program on Malmstrom have been working with fisheries biologists from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bozeman, Mont. for over a decade. Predator fish have always been considered a feasible option but continued release of goldfish was something none of them saw coming.
Another option that has been enacted is the planting of an experimental population of largemouth bass. The theory goes something like this: bass eat goldfish, bass reproduce, goldfish disappear, and people catch bass and trout. Who doesn't like that idea?
"We really need people to understand that the largemouth bass are off limits until the goldfish population shows signs of depletion and the bass have had at least 2 successful reproductive years. Within this time frame, we'll end up with a very enjoyable largemouth bass fishery," Gibbons said.
If an angler does incidentally catch a bass that cannot be released unharmed, the conservation program should be contacted so growth and diet information can be recorded. Some bass are expected to be lethally hooked, but anglers need turn them over to the conservation office rather than risk being caught taking them home.
There are various sizes of bass in the pond ranging from 6 to 13 inches, all of which are tagged with a visual marker and some with a Passive Integrated Transponder, or PIT tag.
"I use the tags to determine mortality, identify spawning beds and locate bass that somehow leave the pond," Mr. Gibbons said. "With the help of state and federal fisheries biologists, we looked at stocking the pond several other predatory types of fish. When it came down to effectiveness, permitting, availability and ability to retain a trout fishery, largemouth bass was really our best option."