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The City Is Investigating Massive Fish Kill in a Southern Dallas Pond

A dead Buffalofish at West Bond in the Joppa Preserve.
A dead Buffalofish at West Bond in the Joppa Preserve.

Fisherman from the area have known the pond for decades. Tucked away in the Joppa Preserve in South Dallas, its official, government name is West Pond, but locals refer to it as Bad Leg Fred Lake after the man who once ran a small operation selling bait and supplies to anglers after the bass, crappie, perch, catfish and carp that filled the pond since it was first stocked decades ago by philanthropist and beer distributor Bill Barrett.

At least, those fish used to fill the pond. The author of Dallas Trinity Trails visited this weekend and found them all belly-up and decaying in the June sun. He writes:

I wonder what went wrong here. The pond here has never seen a fish kill according to the fishermen who have angled here back to the Bad Leg Fred era. In 2011 when Dallas saw a record drought the pond held full all summer. This spring the periodic rains every few days have turned the woods around the Trinity River green and lush, the kind of rain that allows aquatic life to flourish.

Clues to what might have caused the fish kill probably lie in the off-color of the water. The once green-blue water is now clear, stained a shade of light brown. It was a mass extinction event that killed all the fish, top to bottom, big to small. Surprised to see the larger carp die off. In the heat of the summers here, the carp are the very last fish species to die in the shallow water of drying lake beds. They can live in what amounts to a muddy pudding. To die in a large pond is a question that needs an answer.

Fish kills of the type at West Pond tend to happen overnight and are typically caused by oxygen depletion caused by overpopulation, agricultural and livestock runoff, or die-offs of oxygen-producing algae and aquatic plants. More rarely, the die-offs are caused by toxic substances in the water.

City of Dallas spokesman Frank Librio says the city was notified of the fish kill last week and that staff retrieved fish and checked water quality. He writes in an email that "The pond is incised, and has no defined inlet or discharge. ... Appears to be due to seasonal turnover and population stress (larger than optimal number of fish for pond size). Have notified Dallas County, TCEQ and Texas Parks and Wildlife."

The Dallas Trinity Trails author suspects natural causes, which doesn't make the loss of one of southern Dallas' best fishing holes any less of a shame.

"[T]he pond here has been a haven for anglers without the means of transportation to other larger bodies of water. Some take DART. Some hitchhike. Some walk. Some walk miles to get here," he writes. "I feel for those folks. Their refuge from the day to day grind has evaporated for the summer."


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