More Fish Rescues of the Easy Kind.

This past week, I received calls from two different people and an email from a third person looking for help with their ponds. As I am the website contact person for the Austin Pond Society, I get the calls first and then make the decisions regarding the outcome of the various and different requests after I have followed through and obtained the details.

Usually, it is a simple decision regarding the type of action and if it is something that the Pond Society can handle. Then I decide if it is too big for me in which case I pass it along to Jeannie, our President who also handles all of the larger fish rescues.

What is a fish rescue, you ask? Simply put, it usually is a cry for help from the public to assist them find a new home for the fish they have in their garden pond which for any number of reasons, they are closing down. In many cases, the Husband has died and the pond is too much work for the remaining spouse or in the case of one of the calls I received, the owners had sold the house and the new owners wanted to keep the pond but did not want the fish. In nearly every case, the owners are closing down the pond.

With the three requests I received, I quickly determined that the first was too big for me and was one that required both help with the rescue and then the ability to house 10-20 medium sized Koi until permanent homes could be found for them. As I am not setup to house any fish other than my own, I passed this one along to Jeannie so that she and her merry band of Koi Rescue Enthusiasts could make the arrangements to handle. I should mention that we try to find good homes for any fish we rescue by offering them among our members first as they always get first dibs. Then we turn for help among the general public and finally, we donate them to Mayfield Park here in Austin. The Park has 5 ponds that are big enough to house a substantial number of Koi and Goldfish and this year, both Jeannie and I have placed a large number of Koi, Goldfish and Carp into these ponds. The Carp were in error and were mistaken for large black Goldfish but they seem very happy in their new environment.

The second and third calls were both in the range that I could handle and so I called the owners and set up dates to visit with them and make the rescues. The first house was located not too far from me in an estate where all of the homes were so big, my own house would probably fit in them at least twice and probably more. This house had already been sold and the ex-owners were just completing the final clean out and catching up on the odds and ends. When I got there, I could see the pond behind the fence with the gate open and “Jim”, the ex-owner was already standing in the pond with his net, splashing around in an attempt to catch the fish. I said hello and introduced myself. We chatted for a bit as he tried to catch the couple of fish left in the pond. I suggested that I would hook up my pump to lower the water level giving him a much better opportunity in his task.

The deal was that I was to take an 8 inch Koi and the two largest goldfish and he would keep the much smaller remaining goldfish for his new home. He proudly showed off the Koi that he had managed to catch which was in a 5 gallon bucket standing by the pond. As if on cue as we watched, the Koi jumped out of the bucket and back into the pond. After we both recovered from the fit of laughter that this caused, I hooked up my pump to help him by lowering the water level so that he could catch the Koi for a second time. In no time at all, he had caught all of the fish. I bid him farewell and then made my way back home where I put the Koi and Goldfish in different ponds at my house.

The next rescue, a couple of days later was also another easy one. The owner, a very friendly lady by the name of Debbie met me and showed me the pond which was a circular one of about six feet in diameter and only a couple of feet deep. It was real close to the driveway making it easy to load out the trailer. I set up my pump which quickly lowered the water and I pulled out seven water lilies in pots as it was pumping. It was very easy to catch the twelve small Koi and Goldfish and transfer them to my container ready for transport. Between us, we bagged up the lilies and reloaded my trailer and in thirty minutes, I was back on the road again.

This time, I headed to Mayfield Park where I planned to put the rescued fish. This went by without any problems despite notices spread around the ground warning the public, “To not disturb the Peacocks and Peahens as they incubate their eggs or they might attack you”. I repacked my trailer and made my way back home. The water lilies made it back to my house and into my containers that house my surplus plants which are free to anyone needing pond plants.

Interestingly enough, this last rescue was one street down from where I used to live out in the Pedernales area thirty two years ago. On my way back, I pulled into the street that was my old home and drove to the end just for old times sake. It brought back very happy memories of my time spent living out there on my five acres and rekindled in me, the old longing to turn back the clock. Of course that is not possible but a man can dream, can’t he? There was a Realtor’s Sign for the property next to the acreage I used to own so I took down the number and gave them a call. Turns out to be a 15 acre lot with an unfinished house and the asking price was $425,000. When I sold my 5 acres thirty two years ago with a house, a large horse barn and paddock, aviaries and sheds and fully fenced, it went for $120,000. Go figure…


The Second Fish Rescue.


Mayfield Park

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I worked two fish rescues this past week. The one in Georgetown is the subject of that blog. This one was in a place called Kempner which I have never heard of. When I first received the email from Sonja asking for help with her fish, I had no idea that eventually it would lead to a 75 mile one way trip.

She explained in her email that caring for the pond was getting too much for her so she was going to close it down completely and would like someone to come and rescue the fish and find them good homes. We conversed and I made arrangements that I would visit her on Saturday. She sent me a Google Map of where she lived and the shortest route to get there as I had never driven up to that part of the State  which is another reason I agreed to make the rescue.

Basically, the drive was up Hwy 183 North for most of the way towards Killeen and Copperas Cove with a couple of tricky turn offs onto Hwy 190 before taking FM 1630. My GPS was only good so far and in the end, I had to rely on the printed Google Map for the final directions. It was an interesting drive and it is only when you drive on the less travelled roads do you realize just how big and beautiful this Country really is especially with Spring just breaking out.

I pulled up to the house which was on a country road way out in nowhere although with houses all the way up and down the street to be met by the Man of the house who opened the gate for me. He directed me to the pond and I was able to drive right up next to it which is always a plus. Then Sonja came out and greeted me with a thick German accent pleased to see that I had arrived early. We chatted for a bit and exchanged histories of the why’s and when’s of out arrivals to the States. All of this while the pond was pumping out.

Sonja told me that she had built the pond 15 years ago by herself except for a couple of the big rocks that required help and had maintained it herself in the interim. It  was her hobby but for the last year, it had started to get more work than she could handle and she admitted that she had sadly neglected it. She had very recently changed out the pump, a 3600 gph unit and was looking to sell it as she had no more use for it with the pond closing down.

It was obvious that the pond had been neglected. The water was very cloudy and it was almost impossible to see the fish. There was a huge of cluster of water lily plants growing in the middle that upon inspection, turned out to be just one lily. It had long overgrown the pot and was firmly rooted into the sludge on the bottom of the pond.

I put on my wellie boots, rubber boots to you Americans, and carefully climbed into the pond. Sonja was fussing over me the whole time so worried that I would slip and fall and indeed, the bottom was really slick but I managed to stay on my feet the whole time. With the water going down, I could spot the fish and went about the business of netting some them and handing them up to Sonja who transferred them to the containers.

I started to cut back the lily plant so that we could get it out of the pond it was so big. It took quite a while but eventually, I had it into smaller and more manageable pieces all of which could be repotted and would probably regrow. While I was working on the lily, Sonja and her Husband were trying to catch the remaining fish which were proving to be very elusive.

Finally, with the water level down and the lily out of the way, we were able to be very positive that we had netted all of the fish. Altogether, there was one very large Koi and 15 what I thought were black goldfish, all in beautiful condition regardless of the water condition. Fish are so adaptable.

We collectively reloaded my trailer including all of the water lily pieces and I carefully strapped everything in place. I told Sonja that the fish would probably end up in Mayfield Park which seemed to please her that many others would get the same pleasure out of them that she had.

I said my farewells and drove off trying hard to remember which roads I took coming up. Needless to say, the GPS was not showing the way back that I used to come up and redirected me at least 20 miles out of my way so instead of going to Cedar Park, I ended up on IH 35 in Killeen. Mumbling under my breath, I headed for Mayfield Park in Austin.

Being a weekend, the Park was very busy but luckily, there is an unloading zone right next to the entrance with no one in it. I parked and uncovered the trailer and loaded one of the containers onto my dolly. As I wheeled it into the area where the ponds are located which is very rough stone, the container managed to slip off the dolly and it and fish were everywhere. A couple of people stopped and helped to pick them up so that I could get them to the pond we had worked on the previous Saturday. It was over a week and I figured that the chlorine in the water had already dissipated. The second trip was uneventful and just like the time before when I was unloading the goldfish, I had a lot of help and questions from the younger members watching the whole process. Altogether, I placed 13  fish into that pond.

I repacked my trailer and made my way home with the Koi and a couple of the black (Gold) fish which I put into the 5000 gallon pond where they happily mingled in with the other fish that already reside there. In the opinion of at least one member of the Pond Society, it might turn out that the black fish may not be goldfish after all but common carp although the previous owner stated that she bought a black goldfish way back and has no recollection of any carp added to her pond.  Regardless, they are still beautiful fish in very good condition and will make a good addition to my pond and Mayfield Park. Koi are very close members of the Carp family anyway.

All in all, another successful fish rescue and I got to meet some more very nice people plus enjoying a trip to a different part of the State. Altogether, I covered around 160 miles because of the redirect to Killeen.

An Easy Fish Rescue.

goldfish2 (002)This past week, I visited two different locations to rescue the fish and plants that the owners no longer wanted. That sounds a bit harsh and in both cases, they had very legitimate reasons for giving up their water hobbies. In the first case on Monday, the owner, Renee, was selling the property and she did not have the room to re-locate the fish. In the second instance, Sonja, the lady who contacted me stated that the pond was getting to be too much work for her.

I made arrangements with Renee to visit them in Georgetown on Monday. It was a bit of a problem finding her house as the GPS would not show her address. I even stopped to talk to the mailman but his directions were not that clear. I finally pulled into another guy’s driveway and he was able to point me in the right direction.

As it happens, Renee had been on the lookout for me and she was waiting at the top of her driveway. We chatted for a bit and she then redirected me around the back of her house to an 8 foot circular barn trough that had a couple of straggly looking plants growing out of it but was full of goldfish. They ranged in size from very small to about 6 inches.

It was a comparatively easy to catch them although not the cleanest of jobs as the tank had a lot of sediment in the bottom. I pumped it down as far as I could which left about 3 inches of water in the bottom and then went about netting the fish. Renee helped with her own net and between us we caught around 50-60 fish.

When that tank was emptied, she directed me to the side of the house where she had yet another small trough that held another 50 or so fish of which she had already caught 35  or so and had them in a 5 gallon bucket ready to transfer them to my tanks. Altogether, there must have been close to a 100 goldfish in my containers.

I packed up my trailer and after bidding goodbye, set off for Mayfield Park where I planned to populate a couple of the ponds. The journey to the Park was uneventful and I pulled in and began to unload the containers that held the fish. The Park was really busy and I got a lot of questions especially from the younger generation as they watched me rehome the fish into their new surroundings in two different ponds accompanied by the raucous racket of the Peacocks.

After emptying the containers, I repacked the trailer and made my way back home. The traffic was light making for all in all, a good rescue day.

Another Fish Rescue 2-3-2017


The peacocks at Mayfield Park

Alex, Jeannie and myself participated in yet another fish rescue yesterday. This one had been in the works for a couple of weeks when I received the original phone contact from the owners. The problem we had was finding a home for the fourteen or so Koi that lived in the pond. I had pretty much as many as I could house in my ponds and we needed to find homes for the others.

Jeannie Ferrier is President of the Pond Society and she and her husband Steven Monfrini, have worked several rescues this year. She has a rescue tank set up  in her backyard next to her 10,000 gallon Koi pond and has a very interesting arrangement for changing out the rescue tank water as she replenishes it with water from her pond. Depending on the number of Koi in the rescue tank  at any given time, dictates how often the rescue tank water has to be changed.

We had to hold off on the rescue until the new rescue tank  was completed and ready to take more fish and yesterday, everything was a go.

I arrived early at the rescue pond and set up my pump to lower the water. Turns out that the electrical outlets by the pond were not working which accounted for the water being so dirty. I had brought a 100 foot cable with me so in next to no time, my pump working on the water level. While that was happening, I filled the three transport containers that I have with pond water ready to put in the fish. The existing pond water was very dirty and we had had to wait until the water was low enough to even see the fish. I caught the Koi, a couple of which were of  a good size and handed them to Alex who transferred them to tanks in his truck and my trailer. We were lucky that we were able to drive up right next to the pond making it really easy to transfer the fish. We chatted to the owners, Dave Phelps and his Mother, who had lost their Husband and Father which was the reason for closing down the pond. They also made a small donation to the Pond Society for our efforts in rescuing the fish.  We also rescued several pots of water lilies and they went into my trailer as we planned to drop them off at Mayfield Park to donate them and in the meantime, store them in their ponds to overwinter.

We left the rescue site although I planned to be back to pick up the rocks that surround the pond and made our way to Mayfield Park. I had only been there once before and although I had an idea of its location, had to use my GPS system to get directions. Jeannie and Alex beat me to it and were waiting for my arrival. We loaded the lilies onto my dolly and dragged them to the first pond where Alex dropped them into the water.

Next stop was at Jeannie’s house and the rescue tank. Even though originally, I had decided that I didn’t need any more Koi, the color and beauty of some of these helped me to change my mind and I ended up taking four of them home. Alex took a couple and Nancy Reinert, alerted by a call from Jeannie, met us and took a couple more. The rest were transferred into the rescue tank awaiting their turn to find new homes at any of our members ponds.

I drove back to my house and carefully placed my four Koi into the 6000 gallon pond where they quickly assimilated in with the others. I unloaded my trailer and backed it into my garage ready for any other task that may come up. I noticed that the lights on the trailer need some work so that will be my next project, when it warms up.

The pictures are by Jeannie taken with her cell phone.

Another Fish Rescue…

DSC_3433On Tuesday, I stopped by two different places, one to give advice and the other to review rescuing the Koi and helping to shut down the pond. The first one the lady that called me had 5 butterfly Koi she wanted to find a home for as she was moving and was closing down her very small pond. She also had a couple of water lilies and a lotus that she was willing to give up. The only equipment was a small pump that she wanted to hang on to. I checked things out and made arrangements to come back the next day.

The next place that I visited had a very nice pond that really required a lot of work to clean up the water. It was really very dirty and the Koi that it contained were doing a good job of keeping it stirred up. What was surprising was that it had an Aquadyne Filtering system which he showed me and gave it a quick flush to show me what he did to keep it clean. He explained that he had larva rock inside and not the “Beads” that it really requires which probably accounts for it not working properly. I gave him the Aquadyne address so he could look them up.

I suggested that if he joined the Pond Society for $30.00, he could rent the pond vac and storage tank but he had to be a member in order to do so. I also gave him the name of a couple of our Sponsors that do this sort of work as he really needs to drain the pond, scrub it clean and then refill in order to get it back to where the filtering system could hold its own.

I showed him what he had to do on his computer and went on my way. Later that day, I had confirmation come through that he had joined the Society.

I went back to the first place the following day, this time with my trailer and all of the things i would require to rescue the fish and collect the lilies and lotus. The first thing I started when I arrived was to put my pump into the water to lower the level so that I could catch the fish. While that was going on, I carried two 5 gallon buckets of the pond water back out to my trailer and placed one in each of the two coolers I had brought with me. getting them ready for the fish. It was a pretty straight forward job to catch the fish although I was sure that Beth, the lady who was closing the pond, told me there were only 4 of the Koi and I found 5, the last one I spotted when I went back to pick up the plants which I had bagged up on plastic bags. Lucky for the fish. I rescued as much of the lilies as I could dig up from the bottom muck as they had grown out of their pots and were growing wild. The Lotus and yet another Lily were in pots in a separate tank which was easy to lift them out.

I carefully wrapped things up in a tarpaulin and lashed everything down for the drive home which was very uneventful. My timing was good as I didn’t hit any of the rush hour traffic. When I arrived home, I quickly wheeled the coolers to the 5000 gallon pond and one by one, introduced the new fish to the mess of fish that already calls that pond, home. The lilies were placed into containers and  added to the many plants that I am trying desperately hard to give away, preferably before any frost we may get, although if this winter is anything like the last one, we won’t have any frost.

So ended another successful fish rescue.

Another Call for Help…

dsc_6211I received a call from a lady who had a couple of fish that needed a new home. Turns out, she had a small goldfish and an even smaller shubunkin. Both were well marked and pretty fish to look at. She was keeping them in a 10 gallon indoor aquarium and felt that as they grew, they would need more room.

I made arrangements to meet her at her apartment the following Saturday. As it happens,  her apartment was less than two miles from my house. It took me a while to locate it after I got into the complex and was saved by her hanging out over her balcony, waving madly at my car.

Just as she had stated, the fish were in the 10 gallon aquarium totally unaware that they were about to be moved from their very secure location indoors to a 2000 gallon pond where they could mix and mingle with many of their own kind. They would certainly lose the luxury of being the center of attention as they were going to be with about 60 of their own kind.

I asked Beth, the lady who called me for something to transfer some of the water from the aquarium into my 5 gallon bucket and without further ado, using my very tiny 4 inch square net, quickly caught the fish and transferred them into the bucket where they swam around checking it out.

I said farewell to Beth who along with her daughter, said goodbye to the fish as I walked out of the door. The short drive home took 10 minutes and I quickly placed the fish into the goldfish pond. With that many fish in the pond, it will be a job to pick out the goldfish in the future but the shubunkin will be very visible as it is a pretty little fish.

This has got to be by far and away, the easiest and quickest fish rescue I have ever done. I wish they were all this easy….

Re-Building the Middle Pond

The "L" shaped pond with the bog on the right.

The “L” shaped pond with the bog on the right just after it was built in 2007.

My middle pond is kind of “L” shaped with the a bog on the inner side of the “L”. I had long viewed that bog as a source of irritation and was forever cussing out the guy that built it. As that guy happened to be me, all of the cussing and badmouthing in the world was going to have very little affect.

When I first built the pond, it seemed like a good idea to include a small bog. It never worked very well as there was not a sufficient flow of water to do anything more than to create at best, a marginal bog for those plants that like to have wet feet.

Needless to say, those plants which included Arum lilies, Lizards tail and a  few Rushes quickly grew out of their pots and sort of took over that part of the pond. Another thing that made me want to dig it out was that the Heron, in one of his many visits, uses the bog as his personal fishing spot, even with the electrified wires that I have stretched to prevent him (or her).

In a fit of madness, I dug out all of the plants and pots and cleared out all of the pea gravel that was chock full of roots and cleaned the whole thing down to the liner. It was at the very least, a dirty and smelly job but I persevered and got it done including removing all of the decorative rocks. Its funny but when I put the rocks down several years ago, they were not as half as heavy as they were this time around. Pretty sad how growing old is also a weakening factor. I looked at the resulting area and decided that I didn’t need the bog anymore and instead, would make the pond bigger by including the bog area.


View of the steps behind the tree leading to the new skimmer on the right.

In between working on the bog, I did a couple of fish rescues. At one of them, the owner wanted her goldfish removed as she didn’t want to care for them anymore but was still going to keep the pond. That was a straightforward job and I ended up with nine small goldfish that I placed in the middle pond. The second rescue was much more complicated as the lady in this one, wanted to fill in her pond and re-landscape the area. She not only wanted me to take the fish and plants but also to remove the skimmer and waterfall along with the pump. I could not pass up a chance like that and was more than willing to accommodate her. End result was 41 small Koi of assorted colors ranging from fingerlings to a couple at 6 inches and the aforementioned hardware and pond plants. She had one Umbrella plant which was the biggest I had ever seen and I really wanted it. Upon close examination, the plant had quite literally grown through the liner as it had expanded. I didn’t relish the work involved in rescuing the plant and left it behind.

As I surveyed the middle pond which now had close to sixty small fish in it, I envisioned installing the skimmer and the waterfall box and the difference it would make to that pond. The pond did not have a skimmer as it was originally a part of a two pond system and the skimmer was installed on the other pond. The problem I was facing was how to dig out enough dirt to make the pond bigger and deeper and still keep the fish alive and happy with about a couple of thousand gallons of water in it.

I thought about it for a while and then hit on the idea that I could roll the existing liner back enough for me to work on small sections at a time and still keep the water in the pond. I pumped the pond down to about 12 inches of water and I devised a way with 2 x 4’s of propping up the liner while I excavated underneath which I very carefully did, bit by bit. When I finished one section, I moved along and propped up more liner and on and on until eventually I had all of one side of the liner propped up. It was not done without incident as a couple of times, the 2 x 4’s slipped and I lost some water into the excavation which sent me scrambling to get the props back into place. It was not such a bad thing as it softened up the dirt a little. It was tough going anyway and any little bit helped. I gotta tell you that water is heavy stuff especially when it is contained in something as flexible as liner material.

I eventually finished the excavation to my satisfaction and then had the problem of lowering the liner back down into place. Needless to say, it did not go well and although it might have been possible with more help, I could not get a couple of the folds out of the liner as once I laid it flat with water on it, I could no longer move it. I couldn’t even pick it up anymore as I had done the first time around.

I had excavated a hole in one corner to install the skimmer and I must have measured ten times to make sure I had it at the correct elevation. There is an old carpenters saying of “measure twice and cut once” and I certainly followed the rule this time.. I finished off installing the skimmer as the last thing I had to do was to cut a hole in the liner and then screw the face-plate into place to hold it all together. Satisfied with my work, I back-filled around the skimmer box to keep it from moving and then re-arranged the rocks the way I wanted them.

Waterfall box from the back

Waterfall box from the back

The next part of the project was to install the waterfall box. This box was a big one, probably bigger than I needed but as I had it, I was going to install it. I had previously knocked down the existing waterfall that I had installed when I first built the pond. This composed of a small waterfall box surrounded by rocks that I cemented together. I forgot to mention that another reason for doing away with the bog and rebuilding the waterfall was because I had a slow leak and had narrowed it down to either of those areas. I didn’t find anything when I dug the old bog out but did notice a hole in the liner that was behind the old waterfall probably caused by rats which like to make their home in between the rocks that surround the ponds.

After installing the waterfall box, I was then faced with the task of re-working the plumbing to the different units. I was still going to include the 100 gallon Skippy Filter that was already installed and thought that it might be possible to pump directly into the Skippy and then let the water flow from it into the waterfall. It turns out that after I had hooked everything up, the 2 inch pipe from the Skippy to the waterfall box which was gravity fed, was not big enough to take the flow of water coming into the box. It didn’t matter how much I throttled it back, it was still too much water. So, back to the drawing board.

This time, I plumbed the skimmer/pump directly to the waterfall box and ran a detour pipe from that line into the Skippy. I then changed the Skippy outlet to a 4 inch pipe and ran it directly to the waterfall box. By using a couple of valves that I also installed on each line, I was able to control the flows to both the Skippy and the waterfall to where they are both working very comfortably. I also had to go down on the pump size from a 3500 gph to a 1200 gph which fixed the problem of too much force of water.

I re-arranged the rocks around the pond and the waterfall to my satisfaction and considered the main work done and refilled the pond. I finished the whole thing off with some plants around the Skippy tank and re-arranged the plants in the pond. I now have a very nice little pond that is so clear, you could drink it. The fish are getting to know me and are rushing over to the side when I walk up. That is not a good thing as they will probably do the same thing for any wayward heron that pays a visit. Having a lot of really big Koi that are more the 24 inches is nice but there is something to be said for the very small ones as at least they are active and rush around all over the place showing off their beautiful colors…