Any parent who has worked well into the night assembling a dollhouse or bicycle has nothing on Scott Hood, who for the past 10 years has worked to provide a pond full of trout for Tulsa’s children over the holidays.
It’s had its logistical issues, its funding issues and placement issues, but the Trout Pond for Tulsa tradition continues, this year with $3,000 from Oklahoma Trout Unlimited Chapter 420 and a match from NatureWorks. That’s three shipments of about 700 to 800 trout between now and the end of February.
“We have had a few hiccups over the years,” admitted Hood, who for the 11th time since December 2008 met a Crystal Lake Fisheries truck at a local pond on Wednesday to pour in hundreds of trout and immediately spread the word that it is off-limits to fishing until children — and guardians of children who are fishing — get first crack at this gift on Christmas morning.
“We’ll take down the “no fishing” signs sometime late Christmas Eve or real early Christmas morning,” Hood said, adding that help from Tulsa County Parks and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation game wardens is vital to the project.
This year the pond is again, and likely will be for the foreseeable future, the one at The Gardens at LaFortune Park near the corner of East 51st Street South and Hudson Avenue. In the early years, 2008-2010, it was at Leake Park Pond at 71st Street South and Memorial Drive, and in 2013-2015 it was at Veterans Park Pond in Jenks.
The 71st and Memorial location was prone to too much litter and it was difficult to stock. The Jenks Pond got complaints from fly fishers because it’s too brushy, plus it was in Jenks.
“It’s hard to have the Trout Pond for Tulsa in Jenks,” Hood said. Veterans Park continues to have trout stocked each winter, however, as part of the Wildlife Department’s Close-to-Home fishing program. “So now we have two ponds, which is great,” Hood said. “I don’t know if we can take kudos for that, but I think initially they did see the success we had at LaFortune and that got it going.”
Aside from the hatchery truck having to park facing the wrong direction along the shoulder of Hudson, this year’s stocking went off without a hitch, with fresh trout pushed through 100 feet of pipe into the pond.
“They have to park that way because the tank openings are on that side of the truck,” Hood explained. “Last year a police officer stopped and he parked in front of the truck with his lights flashing, I guess so people would slow down and be careful.”
No real disasters have accompanied the stockings but there have been interesting challenges.
“The truck got stuck one year. We’d had 2 or 3 inches of rain and when he pulled off the edge of the road it just sunk in,” he said. “It was a nighttime delivery and he was fully loaded so the truck was really heavy. He was finally pulled out by a tow truck at about 3 a.m.”
Weather can be an issue as well. “We’ve done it in a driving snowstorm and one time at night we were out there a few feet from shore using a hatchet to chop a hole through 2 or 3 inches of ice,” he said.
The most entertaining effort was in 2008. After guiding a hatchery truck backwards down a long serpentine sidewalk for the inaugural stocking, worries arose about a potential mishap, or damage to the walkway. So Hood decided to line a concrete drainage trough that ran to the pond with Visqueen plastic and dump the trout down the homemade chute.
The only problem with that is trout naturally swim upstream, so they swam out of the water and only a few actually flushed down into the pond.
“We had brooms out, whatever we could find, to push the trout down the chute,” Hood said with a laugh. “Yeah, that was a brilliant idea.”
Cost is another of the challenges the nonprofits face. Stockings have gotten smaller as cash doesn’t go as far as it used to. The limit at the city pond is four fish daily, and catch-and-release fishing with barbless hooks is encouraged for adult anglers so more children and families can take fish home. Donations to the cause always are welcomed as well, he said.
“The cost of live trout has gone up,” Hood said. “You see a stringer of four fish leaving the pond, that’s about 10 bucks.”
Hood emphasized the effort really is about providing an opportunity for children, with many Tulsa kids catching their first fish at the pond.
“I always remember a kid fishing with his dad that first year. It was about 25 degrees out there. He was maybe 5 or 6 years old and he looked up at me and said, ‘you know, there’s trout in here!’ That was a big deal for him, not some other fish but trout, and that was special. To me that’s what it’s all about.”