Fishing prospects brighten for Dugualla Pond

Anglers may again have access to Dugualla Pond once a new set of diking district commissioners gets organized.

The Island County Commissioners on Monday filled all three seats on the Diking District 3 board. There were no incumbents, as the terms of all three incumbents had expired.

After Monday’s action, the diking district board now consists of Bob Lang, Dave Burbank and Joe Cerullo.

They replace Bonnie Newkirk, Joe Ducken and the late Dorothy Christensen.

Loann Gullick, Island County elections officer, said the appointees will remain in office until an election can be held. She expects a filing period to be held in December with an election to follow in February if any seats are contested.

The district is small, with only about 27 property owners included. There is no property tax assessment. Dike maintenance has been done in the past be area resident Joe Ducken.

Previous boards closed public access to Dugualla Pond, a small freshwater lake off Dike Road north of Oak Harbor. On the other side of the two-lane paved road is saltwater Dugualla Bay.

The Navy’s Ault Field drains into the pond. It maintains a pumping facility at the pond to keep water from rising too high, but doesn’t regulate public access to the pond.

Until the early 1990s, the public had fishing access to the pond, angling for rainbow trout planted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Diking district commissioners at the time, citing litter and liability concerns, closed the access. Fishing advocates have been trying to get back in ever since.

The cause of anglers was most recently taken up by Zeke Zardeskas, a retired Navy captain and fly fisherman. The previous board stymied his efforts to obtain public access, despite letters of endorsement for the idea from local elected officials and renewed interest from Fish and Wildlife in bringing fish back to the pond.

Zardeskas was unsure of the status of the pond Thursday, but was hopeful that the new regime would open the pond to public fishing once again.

County Commissioner Bill Byrd recommended the three board members appointed by himself and fellow commissioners Mac McDowell and Mike Shelton. Byrd has in the past supported opening the pond to anglers, but he said that decision now rests with the new diking district board.

“That’s up to them, I didn’t want to get into that,” Byrd said. “But I think they have something in mind.”

Board member Dave Burbank had not yet received his letter of appointment as of Thursday, although Byrd said it was in the mail. So Burbank wasn’t ready to make any promises to anglers. But he supports the concept of making Dugualla Pond a public fishing hole under certain conditions.

“We’re still trying to find our job description,” Burbank said with a laugh. But in discussing public fishing he said, “That’s what’ll probably happen, but I don’t want to have to police it.”

Burbank isn’t even sure who owns the pond. He purchased property in the diking district three years ago and he’s uncertain where it ends and the boundary of the pond begins. But all seem to agree that the diking district controls the small access road to the pond where there’s a tiny grass parking area that could accommodate a few vehicles.

Before allowing fishing, Burbank said, he would have to be assured there will be no litter, trespassing or other problems associated with public use.

Zardeskas said the last fish were planted in the pond in 1992. Rainbow trout only live a few years, and they apparently don’t reproduce in the lake, so it’s probably without fish at the moment. But there are rumors.

“There’s an urban legend they’ve reproduced,” he said.

Byrd has heard the same rumors. “I’ve heard accounts there’s some fish in there,” he said.

But Burbank said that’s not the case. He has fished the pond with several types of bait with no luck. “There’s no fish in there,” he said. “I spent 12 hours there last year and didn’t find any indication of a fish.”

But he’s sure fish would thrive in the pond if reintroduced by Fish and Wildlife. He said he had the water tested before he purchased his property and the quality was excellent.

New Commissioner Bob Lang, a lifelong resident of the area, said his dad stocked the first fish in the pond. In those days unfiltered runoff from the airfield drained directly into the pond.

“The fish tasted like a jet flying by, but they grew one-inch a month,” he said.

Lang too would like to see fish returned to the lake, but he emphasized that it’s too early to make any promises.

The first order of business is for the new commissioners to call their initial public meeting. But chances are, they’ll be talking about fishing.

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