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State to move forward with Mirror Lake fish stocking

MERIDEN — Is the water quality of Hubbard Park’s Mirror Lake good enough to support 1,500 trout? Lifelong angler Frank Milano Jr. doesn’t think so.

“All I can say is that it’s a pretty poor pond, water-wise,” he said in an interview Monday, also noting its lack of depth. “And if people don’t catch them all, where do they go? I’m saying they die.”

Milano wrote a letter to the editor expressing his concerns after the fish stocking plan was announced this month. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will stock the pond with 500 trout by the start of fishing season April 19 and with an additional 1,000 trout as the season progresses, along with 300 adult catfish to be added in May.

According to a statement, the fish will “be healthy and of a good size, with trout estimated at 10 to 13 inches, and the catfish weighing two to four pounds.”

Originally a clear body of water, Mirror Lake can regularly be found discolored and muddy, with some areas suffering from an excess of waterfowl feces. But DEEP official Michael Beauchene said he is confident the fish will be fine.

“We wouldn’t go to stock it if we didn’t have reason to believe there is a resident fish population already there and doing well,” said Beauchene, DEEP’s supervising fish biologist. “There are lots of other water bodies in the state with similar water qualities and aesthetic-looking conditions. For the fish, it’s not an issue.”

Wildlife and outdoors enthusiast Mike Roberts, who writes a weekly column for the Record-Journal, said he was aware of some residents’ concerns. Still, Roberts said he often sees fish being caught at the pond.

“I’ve seen people catch trout out of there,” Roberts said. “They must have been in there for a while. Every species that comes out of there, there are no signs of fatigue or anything like that from the dirty water.”

While Roberts said the water is dirtied by animal feces, he says he has eaten the fish out of Mirror Lake and knows of others who have done the same. Roberts said he has yet to see a fishkill at the pond and said it could mean the water is not of poor quality. DEEP does not test water quality before stocking.

While trout may need cleaner water than other types of fish, Beauchene noted that it is different when it comes to fisheries. In an area like Connecticut, Beauchene said the waters are dependent on fish stocking. While water temperature could be an issue, by the time the water becomes too warm for the trout, most of the fish have already been caught and brought home.

“There is a very small percentage of truly wild trout,” he said.

Jason Vokoun, an associate professor of fisheries management at the University of Connecticut, said that if there is reason to believe Mirror Lake supports aquatic life then there likely would not be concern about stocking the pond. The problem, Vokoun said, would be if not enough fish were caught and taken before the temperatures warmed.

“When we stock fish in a body of water, we don’t expect them to stay there very long,” he said. “They are raised in a hatchery and because of that they are edible and carry less of a contaminant load than the resident fish in a water body.”

Vokoun added that trout will begin to stress when the water temperature reaches about 65 degrees. Once the temperatures reach into the 70s, he said most trout will begin to die off. DEEP is likely stocking 1,500 trout based on other bodies of water in similar urban areas that have seen levels of success, he said.

Beauchene admitted there is an “overabundance of nutrients” in Mirror Lake because of the significant amount of waterfowl feces. He added that DEEP could work with the community on figuring out ways to reduce the contamination.

“The quality is not always necessarily affected, but it would just help to improve the park because it does get a lot of use,” Beauchene said.

Fishing regulations in Hubbard Park were changed in the 1970s, disallowing fishing for people over the age of 15 because, at the height of the sport, children sometimes struggled to find a good spot to fish.

In 2011, however, the park was opened to senior citizens for fishing and last year for people of all ages.

The fish stocking is part of a program known as Community Fishing Waters. Started in 2006, Beauchene said the program encourages fishing in more urban areas or where it is more difficult for people to easily access fishing locations.

“We just hope to bring stocked fish, which is a great asset, to Meriden as another activity for people to use the park,” he said. “We are optimistic this will encourage more people come out in the park and recreate.” 203-317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

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