During the Livingston County Fair fishing competition on Monday, July 15, at the Litton Pond, anglers captured between 40-50 bullhead fish. Those sound like great numbers, and they are. However, there were never meant to be any bullheads in the Litton Pond.
Greg Pitchford, with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said how the bullheads wound up in the pond is still a mystery.
“We're not sure how they got here,” Pitchford said. “Often times, people think that we need fish species that we don’t really want. Sometimes we get help by people throwing fish in. Larval bullheads may have come in with a load of fish. I really don’t know how we got them, but we've managed this lake now for almost 20 years and never saw a bullhead until this year.”
Pitchford said the bullheads are creating serious problems for the fish hatchery.
“Bullheads can certainly cause muddy water problems and other problems,” Pitchford explained. “They like to feed in the bottom, and as they’re feeding, they stir up the bottom sediments and that gets suspended up in the water column. Usually you can see down 18-24 inches in this pond. Today, you probably can’t see down eight or 10 inches.”
Pitchford said the most effective way to eradicate the bullheads from the pond is to kill all the fish, including the desirable bass, bluegill and catfish, and to start over completely.
“We use a chemical called rotenone, which is a toxicant that is used to kill fish,” Pitchford said. “We simply pour it into the water and mix it with the boat motor. With the warm weather, it should detoxify pretty quickly, and we’ll restock this fall.”
Pitchford said the Litton Pond has been an important tool in aquatic education since the mid-90s. He said the removal of bullheads and the ‘restarting’ of the hatchery will ensure the pond remains strong for decades to come.
“This pond is a place we use to recruit anglers to the sport of fishing,” Pitchford explained. “A lot of kids and a lot of adults have caught their first fish here at the Litton Center. It's been a great, great partnership between the Litton Center and the Missouri Department of Conservation for almost 20 years. We're working today to make sure it's a great partnership for the next 20 years.”