State sending algae-eating fish to Ridgebury Lake

SLATE HILL — As folks who live along Ridgebury Lake are near the end of another summer of suffering with algae-choked water, the state is offering some help in the form of fish-stocking, Wawayanda Supervisor John Razzano said.

The 263 new fish, 10-inch-long, DEC-approved sterile grass carp, are intended to contain the algae and make inroads toward restoring the ecological balance of the lake.

The problem started six years ago, in August 2008, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation, in its drive to rid the lake of a highly invasive species of fish, northern snakeheads, killed all the fish in the lake. That left the algae free to grow unchecked.

The DEC had feared that the snakeheads would make their way into the Hudson and wreak havoc on other fish populations.

The DEC’s $200,000 Ridgebury Lake snakehead eradication program did exterminate the snakeheads — and about eight tons of fish altogether — but it also destroyed the ecological balance of the lake.

This summer, residents who live along the 28-acre lake haven’t been able to boat or fish. The water is so weed-choked, boaters can’t even get oars in the water. Fish have been gulping for air through the algae cover.

Now, Razzano said he’s gotten a letter from the DEC pledging newfound money, $3,156 from the “invasive species fund” to stock the 263 sterile grass carp. That should happen in late October or early November, after the water cools for the season.

The DEC will also be installing a fish weir, to keep the new arrivals from escaping.

Don Paris, a lakefront resident, said the algae has been clearing slightly because the water has been cooling as summer draws to a close.

“We hope the cold water and the fish will kill the grass, if the fish get a running start,” Paris said. “These fish (the sterile carp) can grow to 20 pounds.”

Each fish costs about $12, and, Razzano said, the DEC permit is to stock 400 fish. The 263 will make up the balance from the last fish-stocking round, when the hatchery ran short and could only provide 137.

Razzano said fish-stocking is the most cost-effective way to deplete the algae. Adding copper sulfate to kill algae would be extremely expensive, he said.

“I’m an eternal optimist,” said Razzano, who is also a lakefront resident. “I always like to think good things are going to happen. They (the DEC) keep saying, ‘Give it time.'”

Photo caption: Mike Bradford attempts to row his boat on Ridgebury Lake in the Town of Wawayanda earlier this summer.
JOHN DeSANTO / Times Herald-Record

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