BELFAST, Maine — Legend has it that giant goldfish, as big as 2 feet long, swim around the murky reaches of Belfast’s Kirby Lake after being dumped there years ago by their erstwhile owners.
Those errant pets soon will disappear from the small pond that is known locally as the Muck — if city officials decide to accept a proposal from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to reclaim it for youth recreational fishing.
“I think it would be a wonderful project and marriage between inland fisheries and the city,” Norm Poirier, the parks and recreation director for Belfast, said Friday. “I think it would give new life to the Muck, and a purpose.”
The Muck, a spring-fed pond that sits at the intersection of Miller Street and Lincolnville Avenue, historically has been used by the city for fire control and wintertime ice skating, although officials stopped plowing the snow off it a few years ago after some incidents involving too-thin ice and too-heavy equipment.
It also is a “wonderful bird sanctuary,” Poirier said.
However, the decades-long practice of dumping pet fish and bait fish in the Muck has led to problems, he said.
“The goldfish eat everything in sight,” Poirier said. “They eventually become very large.”
Maine Game Warden Chris Dyer agreed that the goldfish are a big problem. He said that his department heard this spring that the invasive species was in the Muck. They surveyed the pond and did find goldfish, along with brown bullhead catfish and species of minnow.
“The goldfish are the issue,” Dyer said. “It’s against the law to have goldfish in a pond, whether it’s a farm pond, or even going to Agway and buying a plastic outdoor pond for your backyard. They can be transported by people or other animals. It could be a very big issue. They reproduce like the dickens — we can’t have it.”
The game warden said that Belfast could reclaim the pond, get rid of the goldfish and have DIF&W restock it with trout and turn it into Waldo County’s first youth-only fishing area.
“Where it’s right in town, and the city’s trying to revitalize downtown Belfast, it would be a good fit,” he said.
Dyer met with the Belfast Parks and Recreation Commission this summer to discuss the concept proposal, and the commission voted in favor of the plan. He also spoke in late August before the Belfast City Council about the state’s need to eradicate the goldfish and the opportunity to develop the pond for youth fishing. Dyer told councilors then that he had been informed that goldfish become toxic as they get larger, but he said Tuesday that he learned from further research that such is not the case.
Poirier said the council approved the concept of the youth-only fishing pond and is getting an estimate of the cost to dredge out the Muck so that it’s at least 10 feet deep. The pond is only 4 feet deep in some spots. The city would like to minimize the cost of doing the work, and Poirier said he is hoping that local contractors might volunteer to help with the dredging.
“It’s a matter of will it cost us $5,000 or $500,000,” he said.
Dyer said he thinks it’s a good opportunity for both the state and the city.
“We’re not trying to take the Muck away from anybody,” he said. “We’re trying to enhance it and make it a destination where people want to go and take their kids.”