20,000 fish feared killed in Hope Mills Lake drain
Fishing in Hope Mills Lake might be off again for years because workers drained the lake less than two weeks after a wildlife officer restocked it with bluegills and sunfish.
On Oct. 29, a wildlife agent dumped 10,000 bluegills and 10,000 red-ear sunfish into the lake, which had filled to 103 feet in August for the first time since floodwaters swept away an earthen dam in 2003.
On Monday, the city gave approval for workers to open the new concrete dam's floodgates to do routine repairs.
"It was wide open," lakefront resident Lisa Waring said. "The water was spewing. It was coming out such force it was hitting the fish ladder and bouncing off."
Waring said she was researching an article on the fish for the local paper when she saw the water pouring out of the dam.
"We pray some of them are still here, but we don't know," Waring said.
A state biologist said he stocked Hope Mills Lake that day because he was already in the area putting fish in nearby Lake Upchurch. The biologist said he knew the lake level would be dropped but had not been told the drain would be so drastic.
On Thursday, only the creek running through the lake bed and an occasional puddle were wet.
"(I'm) very, very shocked," said Bobby Bright, who visits the lake every day before he goes to work. "It shouldn't have happened, but it happened."
Town Manager Randy Beeman said he did not know the lake had been restocked with fish when he gave the OK to open the floodgates.
The fish only cost about a penny each, so the price for taxpayers was low, about $200.
The lake, however, cannot be stocked with sunfish again until next October. Catfish and bass would be introduced the following spring.
That setback means that fishing might not be allowed at Hope Hills Lake for at least two or three more years.
"It's 5½ years now, and every time we turn around, it's one thing or another with the lake," Waring said.
"Nobody can seem to stay on track," Bright said.