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Sports Actually: The heartbreak of a dead lake

Sports Actually: The heartbreak of a dead lake

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Good Wife Norma and I made a special trip to Aurora one day last week, her to see if the laundromat was equipped to handle a huge, king-size quilt (no dice, out of order) and me to check (once again) for signs of life in the lake near town (there were none).

Pioneer Trails is a wonderful little recreation area developed and manicured by the Upper Big Blue NRD here in York. Nice restrooms, picnic shelters, dedicated tent camping area, pads with hookups for the big rigs surrounding a picturesque, pristine lake with great fishing.

No less than Nebraska Game and Parks fishing guru Daryl Bauer tagged Pioneer Trails one of the best in the state for keeper size bass (15 inches or more) a few years back. Crappie fishing is good, the catfish fat and sassy.

Great times rolled until a couple years ago. As Exhibit A I offer this photo of grandson Dominic with a big grin moments before releasing a nice Pioneer Trails bass.

But that was then. This is now.

A couple years ago – though it seems longer – York and Aurora and a whole lot of other places were inundated with repeated torrential rains. Water poured from silt-covered fields to glut creeks, rivers and nearby lakes. It rang the death knell for Pioneer Trails and Recharge.

It mattered little in the case of Recharge where the fishery has been suffocated by turbidity for years. Carp and catfish can make a living in there with their scent feeding systems, but sight-feeders like bass, crappie and walleye do not stand a chance. You might luck into a survivor in Recharge, but no viable, healthy fishery remains.

The director of fisheries for the state in this region told me in a phone conversation a year or so back, that no more resources will be wasted trying to rehabilitate Recharge. They tried but failed miserably years ago.

Until carp infestation and silt runoff can be controlled there is no point.

Recharge’s demise doesn’t tear me up that much because I have never had a decent day fishing there anyway.

Not so Pioneer Trails where GWN and I, with numerous family members and friends, have enjoyed better success than we deserved.

That is why, dear friends, I am in mourning for this wonderful pond within a half hour’s drive.

The lake’s water quality went straight in the tank that fateful monsoon season. As far as I can tell the passage of time since has not improved its mudhole status one iota.

The frustration is only made worse by the fact there is apparently nothing to be done to help this dying aquatic gem. The folks at the NRD explain that it’s our bad luck to have soil hereabouts which, once dissolved into silt, does not settle out. Ever. -It just hangs there suspended from surface to murky bottom destroying the ecosystem. No plants. No aquatic insects. No minnows for forage. No frogs. No fish.

I am told there are conservation strategies farmers up the drainage could take to eliminate or greatly reduce the runoff scourge, but I suppose that’s a hard sell to those folks.

I wonder if the NRD staff would help. I bet so.

Let me stipulate right now that recreation was never the main motivation to build these lakes and others like them, but what a great secondary benefit. No question, the Upper Big Blue does admirable work developing and looking after the facilities on land. Wouldn’t it be something if the lakes were once again their equal?

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