Save the trout from the lake

The plan to stock Hubbard Park’s Mirror Lake with 500 trout at the start of fishing season next month — then with an additional 1,000 trout as the season progresses — might sound like a good idea.

Until you actually look at Mirror Lake.

Conceived more than a century ago as a crystal clear pool to reflect scenic vistas of East Peak and Castle Craig, today it’s the color of mud, with some sections choked by goose and duck feces and no doubt teeming with bacteria.

The fish living there consist mainly of carp who fatten themselves on the loaves of bread residents insist on feeding to the birds. Carp can tolerate poor water quality and low oxygen levels far better than most species. While I’m sure it’s fun to go fishing for them, in other places these type of carp are actually considered an invasive species.

The city and outdoor enthusiasts like Record-Journal Woods & Water columnist Mike Roberts have promoted fishing in Mirror Lake in recent years. The lake is also home to an annual fishing derby sponsored by the Meriden Rod and Gun Club in conjunction with the Daffodil Festival. I’m certainly supportive of anything that gets people outdoors enjoying a resource like Hubbard Park.

But let’s not kid ourselves about the lake’s water quality.

Trout are a clean water fish and aren’t suited for Mirror Lake, a point made last week in an excellent letter to the editor from reader Frank Milano Jr.

“I challenge anyone to take a glass and fill it with Mirror Lake water and drink it,” Milano wrote. “I don’t think there will be any takers... Assuming some of these fish are caught by kids and adults alike, now what? Do you dare eat the fish?” The trout that aren’t caught will die in time due to the poor water quality, Milano wrote.

It may be instructive to note that the original source of Mirror Lake’s contamination is actually Interstate 691. Before the highway’s construction, the lake really did live up to its name as a true embodiment of industrialist Walter Hubbard’s vision. But in the mid-1960s, the state sought the path of least resistance in building the highway. With acquiescence from city officials, the highway was routed through Brookside, City and Columbus parks before finally cutting a swath through the jewel of the municipal park system, Hubbard Park. This avoided the ordeal of acquiring private property, but at a huge cost to future generations of park-goers.

By 1969, the Morning Record reported that Mirror Lake was “better called Chocolate Pond,” because it was filled with dirt from highway construction. Road salt and oil from the highway have kept it contaminated while water sources at elevations above the highway remain unpolluted. Ducks and geese only make matters worse in Mirror Lake.

The idea of stocking the lake with catfish has come up in the past and the latest plan calls for 300 adult catfish to be added in May, along with the trout. Catfish are a much hardier species with an “unusual ability to adapt to many adverse water quality situations that can kill other fish,” according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation website.

So the catfish could work, I guess. As for the trout, state officials would be wise to heed Mr. Milano’s letter and please find them a cleaner home somewhere else.

Reach Managing Editor/News Eric Cotton at ecotton@record-journal.com or (203) 317-2344. Follow him on Twitter @ecotton3.



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