Fish to be moved so Liske Park's lake can be drained

Catch 'em if you can.

The fish you don't catch at Frank Liske Park this month just might be passing you as you drive down the road sometime soon.

That's right: Many of the catfish, carp, bass and bream that inhabit the 10-acre lake at Cabarrus County's largest park will have a change of address in the next month or so.

Because of structural damage to the lake's earthen dam - caused by the root structure of some dead trees - the lake has to be drained so that repairs to the dam can be completed.

Park officials have arranged for as many fish as possible to be moved to the three ponds at Camp T.N. Spencer Park.

It is the first time in the park's 28-year history that Cabarrus County Parks and Recreation leaders have had to go to such extremes. Director Londa Strong said Frank Liske Park's lake had to be partially drained about 10 or 12 years ago so some dam repairs could be made.

The lake was already in place when the park opened in 1982, and Strong suspects its volume is in the "millions of gallons." Its deepest point is 17 feet, and its average depth is 9 to 10 feet.

Located in the lake's southwestern corner, the dam is inspected regularly by officials from the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Last summer, inspectors determined three trees in particular were dead and that their root structures compromised the dam's structure.

With help from the state Wildlife Commission, park officials developed a plan that includes welcoming fishermen during December.

"This month, we haven't had as many (people fishing) as we anticipated," Strong said. "It's simply because of the temperatures. On one of the days it was warm, we had a lot of people."

A state fishing license is required to fish at Frank Liske Park. In addition, the park charges $1 a day ($20 per year) for any adult fisherman. Those younger than 12 may fish for free.

Though Parks and Recreation does not keep formal records of the number of fishermen who use Frank Liske Park, Strong estimates that between 5,000 and 10,000 people fish there very year.

Another estimate Strong reveals is the amount of fish in the lake: She guesses 1,000 pounds' worth. (No guess on the amount of tartar sauce that would require.)

Reportedly, the lake is home to some bass that weigh up to 6 pounds and carp that reach 30 pounds. The county participates in a program in which Wildlife Commission officials stock its lakes and ponds twice a year.

Because of its participation in the stocking program, Parks and Recreation is required to move the fish. But Strong said her department would have chosen that option anyway in advance of the draining of the lake.

Comprehensive Habitat Services, a private company from Salisbury, will use a tanker to move the fish, though Strong said it's inevitable that some won't live through the move.

Once the fish have been removed, the lake will be drained through an adjacent creek. The sheer volume of water will allow for only a limited number of gallons to be drained per day.

The process of rebuilding the dam does not have a timetable or a budget, since the job has not been bid out yet. Strong said she expects rebuilding the dam, filling it and restocking the fish will take months, thereby affecting all lake-related activities, including paddle-boating.

While other forms of wildlife also inhabit the lake - geese, turtles and frogs - Strong is confident they instinctively will be able to find new habitats.

As for the bass, carp, catfish and bream, there's only one word fish can use to describe the end of their existence at Frank Liske Park.