A friend of mine and occasional Outdoors page contributor, Hal McKnight of Oklahoma City, spent the last few days trying to save the fish from his dying farm ponds in southwest Oklahoma.
He shared his experience in this story and photo that I decided to share with you in my blog.
“My favorite childhood memories surround the farm ponds in southwest Oklahoma where my grandparents had taken me fishing. Those same ponds have been ravaged by excessive heat and long term drought.
“It is doggone difficult for those of us losing bodies of water to not witness a sense of hopeless despair.
“I recently decided to try and save some of the fish facing certain death given the daily disappearance of water.
“I called a friend in Bray, Keith Prater, to help me run a seine in several small ponds that were close to going dry. There were four shallow impoundments about two acres in size that should be loaded with copper nose bluegill, golden shiners, and ghost minnows. All excellent forage fish for hungry bass.
“Keith met me at 4 p.m. on a clear July day where my temperature gauge read 112 degrees. We tied two minnow seines together resulting in a 40-foot long net that was five feet tall.
“We were full of optimism when we attacked the first pond. Unfortunately, we quickly came in contact with soft mud making it almost impossible to walk.
“It was as if we were walking in molasses, and we caught very few fish. After several frustrating attempts we gave up and moved to another pond.
“I had forgotten my tennis shoes so I put on a pair of chest waders. The hope was that these chest high boots would protect against any hostile snakes.
“Everything was working well in the second pond, until we reached the middle and found ourselves in quicksand.
“Suddenly I went from knee deep water to a depth where waves were tickling my chin. My waders quickly filled with water and I was stuck.
“I somehow managed to churn my way to shore over the next half hour. We were close to throwing in the towel when Keith came up with a new plan.
“The next day he bought a used 60 foot commercial seine, which we attached between two 4-wheelers. This automated system worked like a charm, and allowed us to stay on dry ground.
“I did buy a pair of high topped converse basketball shoes for pond work. My 10th grade basketball coach, Jerry Potter, would have been proud of me.
“We moved the bait fish to a deep pond that should hold adequate water until the rains come. We used a 150 gallon stock tank to transport the fish which we carried inside a horse trailer.
“Heavy plywood acted as a lid. An oxygen bottle bubbled air to ensure a safe trip.
“This formula will work for almost anyone that wants to save their fish from certain death in ponds approaching the critical level. The kicker is having a lake with enough water to survive this horrid heat to put their rescued fish.
“A curious thing happened on our final release when the after glow of the sun painted the turquoise sky in streaks of pink and purple.
“I set free a pair of huge bluegill larger than your hand that darted off toward deep water. Amazingly, both returned and seemed to thank us for saving their lives.
“I could not help but be reminded of my grandparents that took me fishing on these ponds many years ago.”