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RJRD relocates 1,000 fish within Heritage Preserve

Posted: April 28, 2017

by John Benson


Last month, the first step was taken in what has been a long process toward repairing Richfield Heritage Preserve’s Lower Lake dam. However, it had nothing to do with the barrier itself. 


Instead, on April 4 the Richfield Joint Recreation District and the Cleveland Metroparks relocated roughly 1,000 mostly largemouth bass and bluegill from the preserve’s Lower Lake to its Upper Lake.


Completing the cost-saving project were officials from the RJRD board and Cleveland Metroparks.


“In order to repair the Lower Lake dam, we have to lower the water level,” said RJRD Trustee Jeff DeLuca, who is the park operations chair. “And if we didn’t do that, and we opened up the dam, all of the fish would be basically flopping at the bottom of the dam.


“Not only won’t this overpopulate the Upper Lake, but it would have cost us a lot of money to have a company come in and move the fish.” 


Cleveland Metroparks aquatic biologist Mike Durkalec said if the fish were left in the drawn-down lake, odds are many would die due to increasing temperatures in a smaller pool of water. So how exactly does someone move a mass quantity of fish? The answer is electricity. 


“It’s called electrofishing,” Durkalec said. “It’s a very standard tool for fish management. We have a 6,000-watt generator on the boat that puts a controlled electrical charge in the water. 


“Think of it as a stun gun. It  immobilizes the fish, which float to the surface and we net them. There’s no harm done.” 


A study last year revealed there were anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 fish in the Lower Lake. DeLuca said the plan included another transfer of 1,000 fish on April 18 followed by a third move scheduled for this summer. 


Normally, this type of fish-moving project can be quite costly. 


“We didn’t charge the park anything,” Durkalec said. “We came in helping a neighboring park using our equipment and expertise. We were given one load of a couple hundred fish essentially as our payment.


“But if you were to pay for the service, you’re talking a couple of grand every day they come out for something like this. It’s labor intensive.”


As far as the cost to replenish the lake with fish, current rates are anywhere from $5 per adult bluegill to $13 a pound for largemouth bass. 


“When you do the math and figure it out, they’re getting thousands of dollars of fish that might otherwise be wasted,” Durkalec said. 


Deluca expects the Lower Lake dam repair to go out for bid later this year. 


“I don’t know exactly when the project will start, but I would think it will definitely be going into next year,” DeLuca said. “After work is completed, we can take the fish back from Upper Lake to Lower Lake. Overall, we’re saving money.”

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