BURLEY — Richard Kicklighter has been on a year-long quest to improve a Burley trout pond, but his love affair with the fishing hole began when he was a boy.
In January, the Burley City Council approved a project spearheaded by Kicklighter, a Heyburn resident, to make Kids Creek Pond at Freedom Park, deeper and remove the center island. The pond is owned by the city.
“Over the years it has deteriorated, and was in a terrible state,” Kicklighter said.
Most of the pond was about 4 feet deep with spots reaching 7 feet. It was full of sediment and moss with overgrown willows surrounding it.
Kicklighter has lived in Mini-Cassia since the 1970s and remembers when the pond was stocked with trout and was a popular fishing hole.
The name, he said, is a misnomer because anyone can fish there.
“The pond has 57-degree crystal-clear water that comes from a natural spring at the airport,” Kicklighter said, “and it’s perfect for trout.”
The pond will be excavated to a depth of 15 feet, a liner installed along with rock. Grass seed will be planted around it and a sprinkler system installed. The area will be accessible to the handicapped.
He still needs to raise $17,000, which includes the cost of a liner for the pond. Donations for the project can be made at Burley City Hall, 1401 Overland Ave.
“I’ve been knocking on doors trying to get the funds,” he said.
Art Thornton and Zale Gillette have donated man hours and equipment to the project and excavation is underway. Others have also made donations, but more is needed.
Idaho Fish and Game officials said they would give stocking the pond another try with 1,000 rainbow trout in June if the work is completed by then.
“I really hope we can have it done by then,” Kicklighter said.
Doug Megargle, regional fishery manager for Idaho Fish and Game, said the pond was historically stocked but over the past five years the habitat degraded substantially and they stopped putting fish in it.
The agency applied herbicide to the vegetation surrounding it, but it did little good.
But, the main reason stocking was halted, he said, was due to people complaining that the fish disappeared immediately after they were planted.
Fish and Game tagged fish before they were planted and found that about 95 percent of them were taken by predatory birds.
They found the fish tags at Pelican Island on Lake Walcott, taken there by pelicans and cormorants, large black diving birds.
“The department couldn’t see putting fish in the pond when no one was benefitting but the birds,” Megargle said.
The department is willing to try stocking the pond again after work is completed to see if the increased depth solves the problem.
Pelicans don’t dive — they just reach down into the water for fish. Cormorants, however, dive for their meal, but the increased depth may offer the fish better protection and a chance at survival.
“We really share Richard’s goal of having easy access to urban fishing opportunities for people who may not have a lot of time to go other places,” Megargle said.