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Spillway ‘Unwatering’ Creates Fishing Party For Hundreds

Joe Horne and T-T watched from the railing on the outlet structure.

By Jack Gurner

ENID DAM – Just about the time I think I have seen it all, something new will come along.

Last Wednesday I watched the run for the fish in the outlet channel at Enid Dam. It was a first for me.

The event coincides with the five-year periodic inspection of the outlet structure by the Corps of Engineers. According to a Corps spokesman, the inspection is conducted by “unwatering” the outlet structure. What that means is that the gates are closed shutting off the flow of water and then pumping out much of what remains.

The problem is that the shallow pools that are left contain thousands of fish. It wouldn’t take long for the fish to die and it also wouldn’t take long for the fish to start decomposing. The resulting odor would be very unpleasant.

The solution is to allow folks to gather the fish using whatever method works best. That’s where the fun begins.

Just after 11 a.m., a large crowd was lined up behind a temporary fence several hundred feet downstream from the outlet structure. The “fishermen” carried nets, buckets, ice chests, and at least one washtub. One man was even carrying plastic Wal-mart sacks. He must have come unprepared.

The crowd waited patiently as the Corps pumped out the water. The goal was reduce the deepest pools to around three feet.

Around 11:45 one man broke out of the crowd and ran back downstream waving his net in the air. He had spotted what appeared to be a large buffalo. He scooped it up with his net making the first catch of the day. A couple of people cheered.

Just after noon, Corps officials conferred one last time and turned the crowd loose. Rangers cautioned everyone to move slowly so that no one would get hurt. By this time there were probably 150 to 200 people in the fishing party. Almost that number lined the banks and railings just to spectate.

Billy Samuels, Resource Manager for The Corps of Engineers at Enid, stood at the railing holding a bullhorn and keeping a close watch. When asked what the fishermen could expect to catch, he said, “Anything and everything.”

The majority of the crowd stayed in the shallow water around the rocks, but a brave few ventured into the deeper pool within the outlet structure. In the initial frenzy, a lot of fish were being caught. Occasionally, someone would tip over his or her container and their catch would swim away.

One lady in a pair of pink pants suddenly let out a scream and ran toward the bank shouting, “Something bit me, something bit me!” One of her friends held up a small fish and pointed as if to indicate he had caught her attacker.

A man in a blue shirt carried five nice size fish in his two hands. Unfortunately he slipped on the rocks and the fish got loose.

Joe Horne, an Enid Lake resident, and his Chihuahua, T-T, watched from the railing on the outlet structure. T-T seemed to be enjoying the show as his head swiveled to watch the humans in action. A couple of other dogs sat behind their masters as if bored by the whole thing.

Even after an hour had passed, fish were still being caught. But, some of the old-timers had tired and made their way up the bank. “My wife told me the last time I had better not do this again because I smelled like fish for a week,” said Jody Reeves as he caught his breath. “Another five years and she’ll get over it.”

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