Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Humphrey Lake Repairs Part 1 6/30/12

Many of you know of, have read about, or have been to, my families private lake. It's nestled just off the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee. Many of my greatest memories were made at this lake. Here are just a FEW pics that I have.
First, a little history on this lake. It was built on a piece of property from my maternal grandfather. It was made to be a congregational spot for our family and family friends. It's much more than just fishing. The days and nights sitting around a campfire with my family and friends is irreplaceable. I have gotten to know my cousins whom I might never had had anything in common with aside from this 12 acres of land. They could have been faceless people at the reunion, but have instead become pieces of my life. I have tried my best to make the aboslute most of this priceless piece of land. I have made it a staple of my childrens lives as best I can, to make them understand the value of land and the hard work of our forefathers. This place, in its way, has defined me.

This lake, at its peak, was about 20 feet deep at the valve. Most of the depth was around 6 feet. It is spring fed. Before repairs were attempted, there was a good amount of tree cover.

Over the last few years, the lake has had many problems. Water eroded the passage under the spillway which caused it to lower the level. There have been numerous leaks as well. It has been unable to maintain the level it once had which has greatly diminished the quality and quantity of fish in the lake. For example, shifting water level will wreck a baitfish spawn. If the baitfish cannot reproduce, then the bass have nothing to eat. I think it has also had an affect on the bass spawn. Fish seem to be harder and harder to catch. There were times, as a kid, where we would catch a hundred fish over a weekend. Now, a GOOD day would be a dozen.

I also believe that 40 years of silts and deposits have covered up the natural contour and cover that the fish used to have. Now there are only two stumps that I know of. I have tried to add cover as best I can with old tires and toilets, but it's too little too late, I am afraid.

The first repair was attempted 3 years ago. The lake was drained to a small pool in the deep end. A trackhoe was brought in. The trackhoe dug up rocks where we believed water was seeping through. To get the trackhoe in, all the trees on one side were bulldozed. A plastic layer was laid down and staked.

Initially, this fixed the problem. Fish production was up, though size was a different matter.

After one good year, the problems persisted. The level dropped again and the fishing suffered.

At the family reunion, the state of the lake and it's future was brought up. Problem number one is that not many family members use it. Which feeds problem number 2, which is that repairs cost money. A lot. Not only money, but time and lots of effort. Those that use it a lot don't have a lot of money. So, the burden has fallen on the shoulders of just a few people. Namely, my grandfather, my dad, and I. I don't have to tell you that money is tight for me....having 3 kids. But I am much better off than most of the family. Dad has already said he would help as much as he can. We have the help of a few of the cousins as well. So, we decided that instead of trying to repair the problems piecemeal, we would drain it entirely and try a ground up approach.

Naturally, there is risk associated with this. The fish are a lost cause. It will cost around 3-5 thousand dollars. And it may not fix it. But it's better to have a quick death and try to fix it than for it to die a slow ugly death from either doing nothing or botched repairs.

So, the syphoning began on Thursday a week ago. On Sunday, dad and I went up to the lake to check on it. The syphon had been interrupted, so we had the decision to either wait until we had the proper tools, or try and start it ourselves.  This meant filling the syphon by hand in order to start the gravity feed. According to my envelope calculations, that was 450 gallons. 90-100 5-gallon buckets...by hand. To our great fortune, our cousin Craig showed up and was able to borrow a pump. Naturally the hose from the pump to the syphon was too short. We had 1 NASA rocket scientist, 1 NASA engineer, and one good old country boy to keep us in line with common sense. With a garden hose and a lot of duct tape, we got it running! It was quite a job, even then, in the 105 degree weather.

I was able to make a few casts and did catch what will probably be the last fish that will ever be caught out of that lake which has meant so much to me.

As of today, the lake is almost drained.