DeKalb County Lake, a favorite bass-fishing spot in North Alabama, is being closed Monday and will remain closed for two years so the state can drain the entire lake, revamp the bottom and banks, and then refill it and restock it with fish.
"The fishing quality has declined in the lake," said Matthew Marshall, state lake supervisor for Alabama's Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. Many people call the spot Sylvania Lake.
"The bass population has shrunk, which impacts the other fish. When this decline happens you have to renovate the lake and start over," he said.
"If you can drain and eradicate the [nondesirable] fish it is beneficial for sure. A new fish population with a better growth rate will make the catch rate higher," Marshall said.
Once completed, the project will offer noticeable benefits to the community, he said.
"Typically the first one, two or three years after the renovation we see an increase in angler visits," Marshall said.
Marshall said three of the 23 state-owned lakes have undergone the same type of renovation in the recent past.
Brenda Biddle and her husband, Lee, have managed the lake for seven years for the town of Sylvania, which contracts with the state to operate the lake, but they are retiring.
Town Clerk Marla Fairley said that when the couple decided to retire, the town decided not to renew its management contract with the state. But she said town officials might have decided differently had they known of the state's plans to close and drain the lake.
"We understand that they are going to do improvements to it, but we are grieving that it will be drained," Fairley said.
She said she and her children go to the lake frequently to run and ride bikes, and so do many others in the community.
"The state considers it a fishing lake, but it is more than that to the people in this area," she said.
Marshall and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources did not know the budget numbers for the project, but said that labor is the main cost. Alabama owns three fish hatcheries that will supply the new fish.
Biddle worries that the two-year closure will hurt city revenues because fewer people will be coming to visit.
So far this fiscal year, DeKalb County Lake has racked up 5,900 angler permits, which cost $3 a day, along with 483 launch permits at $3 each and 247 flat-boat rentals at $5, according to Biddle's records.
During the same period, 7,433 fish were caught with a total weight of 7,357 pounds.
All revenue generated from the lake went to the town's lake fund and was put back into lake maintenance, according to Biddle.
"All we ask is that they take care of the lake," Biddle said.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 4230757-6592.