I was introduced to Louis Swift in a fortuitous way. Louis had been consulting with Dr. Fred Glover about waterfowl on the property, and Fred referred Louis to me for help with fish. I remember being in the Coop Unit Bldg. when Louis and I met the first time, which means it was around 1970. As a new professor, I told Louis that I did not know where my career was going, but I would be interested in helping where I could. A couple years passed before I saw Louis again. This time he was mining gravel from the area that became Bigmouth Pond, and I was teaching a course on pond and reservoir management. Louis’ needs and my career path appeared to match, but little did I know at that time what a wonderful professional and personal relationship with a most generous man would develop.
The first thing my class did at Swift’s Ponds was to poison carp and stunted crappie in West Pond (now Narrows Pond). Naming ponds was one of the more difficult things Louis and I dealt with; maybe we lacked imagination. We started with South Pond (now Bigmouth), North Pond (now Willows), and West Pond. When Rainbow Hole was dug to the west of West Pond, it became clear ponds could not be named geographically. West Pond went through the most names: Panfish, Panhandle, Pork Chop, and Narrows is the name that stuck. I don’t know why; it is relatively narrow but is not the narrowest pond on the property. Back to the poisoning. I thought that if the pond were shallower, there would be a better mixing of the toxicant. Don Kehn was removing the gravel on the property, but he did not have a large pump at that time. Louis went to Sterling Sand and Gravel, a competing gravel company in Ft. Collins, and talked them into letting him use their pump. We pumped the pond too low for me to run an outboard motor, and we opened seep areas along the sides of the pond. This was the first of many mistakes I made but learned from, and Louis never criticized me nor lost faith in me. I was concerned that carp would stick their heads in the seep areas and survive. I had students applying rotenone along the seeps with sprinkling cans. I stayed after class and continued with the sprinkling cans. At one point I cut across the pond and found myself in mud up to my crotch. Martha was concerned that I could not get out of the pond. With slow progress I worked free. Carp did not survive.
Narrows Pond gained fame on the property for the 3 lb. smallmouth bass it produced. Lately the pond has had trouble with low oxygen in the summer from respiration of abundant aquatic plants. Seventeen grass carp were stocked before the problem arose; more are needed. Louis and I wanted a fishing jetty on Narrows Pond. The small point on the east shore is what we had Don Kehn start. The fill material Don was hauling from his road construction projects contained too much junk (plastic bottles, tennis shoes, etc.), so we stopped the jetty.
Early in my relationship with Louis, I stocked South (Bigmouth) Pond. Louis had the entire family there for the event, which I had not expected. As a first installment with more to come, I had brought 19 smallmouth bass dropouts from a feeding project one of my graduate students was conducting. Dropouts were those that refused to eat the pelleted food we were using. They were small and skinny. Louis’ children were disappointed. Louis and I raised their spirits by having each one catch a fish in the bucket with their hands and carry the fish to pond’s edge and release it. That was their fish now swimming in the pond.
Louis asked if rainbow trout could survive in South (Bigmouth) Pond. I told him the best way was to stock a few and see what happens. That fall I had 38 rainbow trout left after a class feeding and growth exercise. I stocked them, and the next spring my class captured one that was skinny and appeared diseased. It looked like rainbow trout were not suited for that pond. Over the next couple years, Louis’ children and others had a great time hooking and losing about as often as landing 3-4 lb. rainbow trout from those initial 38 in a 10-acre pond! Louis had a story about the big trout he liked to tell. A buxom woman was fishing from a boat, and one of the trout dove into weeds. The woman thought the fish was going to get away, so she jumped overboard. Shortly she came up with weeds and the trout cradled you know where!
South (Bigmouth) Pond had been stocked with “minnows” from a dealer who got his fish from area reservoirs. My classes found fathead minnows, white suckers, yellow perch, green sunfish, Johnny darters, and perhaps other species that I have forgotten. One day Louis saw carp jumping into the pond from the outlet tube. We screened the outlet but too late. Over time smallmouth bass proved incapable of controlling the unwanted species. We decided to poison and start over. This was going to be a major effort because of the size (10 acres) and because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to record the biomass gravel pit ponds in the area were capable of supporting. We needed some manpower. Louis had become connected with a couple fellows in the Longmont bass club. We invited the club to help with collection of fish as they begin to die and come to the surface. My graduate students assisted with application of rotenone and the weighing and measuring of the biomass. Based on the experience from West (Narrows) Pond, we did not pump to reduce the volume this time. We were aware of a field tile conveying ground water in the north end of “picnic cove”. Louis had Don Kehn dump a load of dirt over the end of the pipe to stop the flow. Pressure built up, and water began to flow in a different place. We were not able to bury that location. Perhaps because of fresh water entering there or because of sheer size of the pond, the kill on carp was not complete. Biomass was calculated to be 120 lb. per acre, which was lower than I expected, and that was important to know.
I had read a food habit study of flathead catfish in Oklahoma that stated carp made up 30% of their diet. Louis said let’s get some flathead catfish. I called a contact in North Platte, NE, expecting him to tell me to contact a biologist on the Missouri River. Instead he told me there are flathead catfish in an irrigation ditch around North Platte, and capturing them with a telephone crank is the most fun thing the fish crew does. They would be happy to help us get some flathead catfish. Louis and I headed to North Platte in July and ran into a severe thunderstorm with hail. Next morning we were capturing no flathead catfish. We thought maybe hail had cooled the water, and the fish were not active. We decided to drive into town for lunch and let the sun warm the water while we were eating. Generous Louis bought lunch for all of us. Water temperature had risen when we returned, and we captured 44 flathead catfish that afternoon. A year or two later, Louis, Tim Baker, and Keny Kehmeier went back for 48 more. Louis funded the trip. I was on vacation in Alaska but had made arrangements with the North Platte crew. It was a very hot day, and somewhere along the line a water fight broke out. Everyone was soaked but a little cooler. The success of flathead catfish in Bigmouth Pond is largely unknown. My classes captured two; one was small enough to indicate reproduction had occurred. During two different springs, I saw one dead flathead catfish that I estimated to weigh 20 lb, and none had been stocked anywhere near that large. Carp have not become a problem in Bigmouth Pond, but largemouth bass are present now as opposed to smallmouth bass previously. I do not know if flathead catfish are still present in Bigmouth Pond.
South Pond became known as Bigmouth Pond after the above poisoning. The pond was stocked with largemouth bass, and Don Gabelhouse (in KS then) had come up with his big bass pond management strategy, which my class wanted to try. Louis always accepted what my classes wanted to do. The major part of that option is removal of smaller bass so that there is more food for larger bass to grow to memorable size. Every time we removed small bass (one year 7,000 of them), the adults would respond with a large spawn and there would be too many small bass again. Abundant small bass is the crux of Gabelhouse’s panfish option, and thus frustration with the big bass option prompted changing to the panfish option, which Bigmouth Pond is still under.
Grass carp were stocked into Bigmouth Pond because Martha did not like walking through weeds on her way to a swimming/diving platform Louis anchored off picnic point. The grass carp are not nearly as noticeable as in Willows Pond, probably because fewer were stocked.
Bigmouth Pond has had three annexes. The first presented an opportunity to emphasize structure with dark cavities for flathead catfish. Louis brought trees from his house, he hauled an old car in from somewhere (many of the catfish had been collected around old car bodies protecting curves on the irrigation ditch), and Don Kehn donated some culverts, tires, and worn out screens from his crusher. Louis, Keny Kehmeier, and I arranged the materials and had a Kehn employee take a bulldozer and make gouges and humps on the annex bottom. We stood on the bank admiring what we had done to create fish habitat. We discussed how many acres we thought the annex was, and we bet a future lunch on the size. Louis wanted to get water into the annex faster than seep would do. The three of us discussed making a notch in the narrow strip of land separating Bigmouth Pond from the annex. We concluded if it were a shallow notch, it should not wash too rapidly. Wrong! The sandy gravel quickly washed away, and water rushed into the annex. The car body moved, the tires were caught in the circular flow that developed, and we stood in awe. In less than an hour when the water levels equalized, Bigmouth Pond had dropped about 2 ft. Louis was so depressed that he got his rifle and shot holes in the tires bobbing in the middle of the annex to get them to sink out of sight. We never measured the area of the annex, nor talked about who owed a lunch. During a CSU student work/ice-fishing outing, I placed a hut over the submerged car body. In the dark confines of the hut I could see into the water. A largemouth bass swam in and out the side window opening on the passenger side!
The second annex to Bigmouth Pond was dug when I had a student who liked to catch largemouth bass on surface lures. He hauled many truck loads of Russian olive trees that were being cut down on the State tree nursery on the CSU Foothills Campus. The trees were stood vertically in tires filled with concrete. No notch was made this time. When full the annex was connected to Bigmouth Pond by reaching out with a track hoe and removing the overburden down to a shallow depth on the east side of the second annex.
The third annex was being excavated at the time of the infamous story of Louis dragging two huge spruce trees down Harmony Road with his farm tractor during the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Some additional trees and large cottonwood stumps were also placed into the third annex. Louis sent a bulldozer operator to rough up the bottom for fish habitat as had been done in the first annex. A while later another Kehn employee came by and thought the annex bottom “looked like Hell.” He went down there and smoothed the bottom. Louis was too kind to ask someone to return to make the bottom uneven.
Bigmouth Pond was the site for many student activities. The islands were (and still are) washing away from waves. Several times Louis collected Christmas trees, and the students would drill holes in the trunks to string a rope that was periodically attached to an “onion sack” filled with rocks. The trees were dragged into place on the ice. A picnic usually followed the work. CSU fishery students held an annual picnic/fishing day in the spring at Swift Ponds. A couple times Louis bought half a pig for the students to roast. Some students were there most of the night tending the charcoal. Louis would swing by and visit for a while. My pond and reservoir management class was seldom more than 10 students. Sometimes we would end the sampling effort (two months as more ponds were dug) with an evening of hot dogs, marshmallows, beer, and talk around a fire. Again, Louis would usually come by for a visit. Another favorite story of Louis’ was one time he was traveling in Alaska. A young man looked at him and said, “I know you; you are Louis Swift.” The fellow had been a student at CSU and had gotten to know Louis at Swift Ponds.
Louis had a strong interest in providing outdoor recreational opportunities for handicapped people. That presented a dimension to CSU fishery students that is lightly, or not at all, addressed at other universities. We addressed species that are relatively easy to catch and attributes and problems of different kinds of structure to attract fish to specific locations. Bigmouth Pond has bluegills, which generally stick close to shore and can be caught with simple tackle (cane pole, bobber, hook, and bait). Two (one has floated from its perch) fishing docks on opposite sides of the entrance to picnic point have brush underwater in front of the platform. Snagging in brush is a problem for all anglers. Persons in wheelchairs often locate on the west side of picnic point. Sections of PVC pipe are submerged in vertical position within casting distance to attract largemouth bass and black crappie. Snagging has been a minimal problem, and some nice sized bass and crappie have been caught from the PVC structure, but numbers of fish caught have been small. The third dock on Bigmouth Pond was built with the intent of loading persons in wheelchairs onto a pontoon boat to take them for a ride and to fish off-shore locations. To my knowledge, no one has ever brought a pontoon boat to fulfill the intent.
North Pond was ready for stocking about the same time as South (Bigmouth) Pond. Louis wanted different species in different ponds. Thus I stocked largemouth bass and fathead minnows. There is literature that says fathead minnows disappear in the face of largemouth bass predation. Fishery students piled cobble-size stones and anchored bundles of tree limbs in an effort to provide spawning/hiding places for fathead minnows. The stone piles sank into the sand, and the bundles came apart with wave action. I had another failure. Furthermore, even with cover provided by dense aquatic vegetation that developed (next paragraph), fathead minnows disappeared as indicated in the literature. Willow trees planted on the north and west banks grew to dominant features around the pond, and thus the name of North Pond was changed to Willows Pond.
Until recently there was a cornfield across the county road to the north of Willows Pond. Irrigation return flows from the field needed to exit somewhere. Louis, in his “good neighbor” attitude, allowed that water to flow into Willows Pond. Fertilizer applied to the cornfield entered Willows Pond, which is shallow, and aquatic vegetation completely choked the pond. I had a graduate student studying grass carp and told the student to stock some grass carp. Little was known about grass carp at the time; we did not know how many to stock. My student stocked all the surplus grass carp not being used in his study (more than 40 per acre; with more knowledge I now recommend 5-10 per acre). Within a couple years all rooted aquatic vegetation had been eaten by the large number of grass carp. Although I never witnessed grass carp eating leaves from the willow limbs hanging over the pond, there was an obvious “grazing line” on the willow limbs. Before an outlet was installed on Willows Pond, it would rise from its banks when water was entering from the cornfield. The grass carp would eat flooded grass around the pond. With rooted aquatic vegetation eliminated, nutrients from the cornfield cycled into blue-green algae. At times Willows Pond looks bad and smells bad. One could call grass carp in Willows Pond another one of my failures, but I call it a disappointment. Grass carp have made the pond fishable and prevented almost certain summerkill/winterkill problems.
One time when the grass carp were about 12 lb., a child there for a kid’s fishing day hooked a grass carp on a Rapala minnow, of all things. After landing the large fish the child was so tired that he did not fish the rest of the day! Barry Reynolds, noted fishing guide and author, perfected flies and techniques for catching grass carp at Willows Pond and then included a chapter about it in one of his books. One day he hooked a 30-pound grass carp on a fly rod. The fish peeled his line down to the backing and then headed around the island. Barry had visions of losing his $60 fly line. Luckily the fish turned back. Early sampling efforts revealed that grass carp make spectacular leaps over a seine. A recruiting video for fishery biology at CSU includes 30-pound grass carp in Willows Pond leaping over a seine pulled by students. A popular concluding activity with the high school Frontiers of Science program that has a session on fish ecology/management at Swift’s Ponds is seining grass carp and having them jump over the heads of participants who are in the water trying to hold the seine above their heads.
When Louis decided to install an overflow drain on Willows Pond, there was concern that common carp could enter from North Mallard Creek. I don’t recall whether Louis or Keny Kehmeier came up with the idea of a concrete box filled with cobble-sized rocks to prevent passage of fingerling and larger common carp (fry don’t seem to live in the creek). This box was the prototype for a much larger Colorado Division of Wildlife structure with gravel to prevent movement of sucker fry into Lake John.
Entry of irrigation water from the cornfield resulted in occasional immigration of unwanted fish species. Students in the classes that worked with Louis to manage the ponds decided to not stock prey species after fathead minnows disappeared. Largemouth bass in Willows Pond would be hungry and should consume unwanted immigrants. White suckers, yellow perch, black bullheads, and common carp found their way into Willows Pond, but none became permanently established.
Despite abundant and relatively naïve bass populations in “North”, “South”, and “West” Ponds, Cub Scouts had little success catching fish on their outings at Swift’s Ponds. Louis wanted to try rainbow trout. Even though rainbow trout had grown well in South (Bigmouth) Pond, I thought a pond with deeper, colder water would be better. Thus as the next pond was being excavated, Louis, at his expense, had two holes dug 17 ft. into the blue shale. One hole is about 0.1 acre and lies slightly southwest of the point on the north shore. The excavated shale made the point. The other hole is about 0.25 acre, and the excavated shale made the island in the pond. Previously, islands and safe, gradual slopes on the sides were existing gravel. In this pond and subsequent ponds blue shale was pushed from the bottom to slope the sides. This change yielded more gravel and made the ponds a little deeper. When groundwater filled the pond, maximum water depth in the excavated holes is 31 ft. With rainbow trout and deep holes, Louis logically named the pond Rainbow Hole.
We had observed wave erosion on the islands in South (Bigmouth) Pond, and did not want that to happen to the island in Rainbow Hole. Louis had Don Kehn dump some rip-rap material on top of the island before ceasing the pumping to keep the depression dry. The material was chunks of rock, mostly too big to work with. One winter my children and I used a pry bar to roll the smaller chunks that were not frozen in the ground down to the ice edge. It was a minimal effort, and fortunately the blue shale has resisted erosion.
Also while the depression was dry, holes were drilled into the shale on the south side of the larger hole for concrete pillars to support a fishing platform. The intent was to provide close access to where we thought rainbow trout would live during summer. Trout did not concentrate in the hole, probably because they needed to roam to find food. Also, youthful anglers lack ability and patience to fish deep water. Access to the platform was via a floating walkway. Muskrats liked to burrow in the styrofoam blocks and ice also degraded the floats. After a couple years Louis dismantled the walkway. On some occasions I took advantage of the isolated platform. In general students don’t like the tedium of conducting water quality tests, and they tend to wander in the direction of groups doing what appears to be more exciting. I would shuttle the water quality group to the platform in a boat and leave them there without a way to shore until their work was completed.
Larimer County Search and Rescue sank a boat and an airplane in the larger hole and then conducted training sessions at Rainbow Hole. After about 10 years hydrogen sulfide content in the water in the hole became high enough to make diving dangerous, and training was discontinued. If electrical power becomes available at Rainbow Hole, a technique called hypolimnetic aeration could be used to add oxygen to the deep water with minimal change in temperature. Oxygen would change the chemical reactions that occur in pond muds, and hydrogen sulfide would not be formed.
Prior to stocking rainbow trout I got permission from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to collect freshwater shrimp from reservoirs west of Laramie. Freshwater shrimp need vegetation, and a new pond will have none. We put seven bales of hay into Rainbow Hole along with about a gallon of shrimp. Chara, a macrophytic algae, started growing in Rainbow Hole within a year. The shrimp became established, and the rainbow trout were feeding on them.
As friends, Louis and I had gone to Horsetooth Reservoir to net crayfish and have a “crawfish boil”, which we enjoyed. We decided to create crawfish boil opportunities from Rainbow Hole. Unfortunately, crayfish introduced from Horsetooth Reservoir greatly reduced Chara in Rainbow Hole, and the freshwater shrimp became rare. Fathead minnows appeared in Rainbow Hole, we think, from an angler we caught fishing with bait. Brown trout and Snake River cutthroat trout feed on fathead minnows, so we tried them. The brown trout grew no bigger than the rainbow trout had, and only two cutthroat trout were captured when they were small.
Rainbow Hole is now being used by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) as a refugium for Sacramento perch, which once were doing well in several ponds in Larimer and Weld counties. CDOW biologists have added emerald shiners to Rainbow Hole to have a source for introductory stockings. Guest anglers at Swift’s Ponds seldom go to Rainbow Hole, presumably because it is a long way from the general parking area and Sacramento perch have been hard to catch.
Perhaps the biggest fishing success at Rainbow Hole was an ice-fishing instructional video Dick Gasaway , a fishing guide, and I made. The fishing was outstanding; we did not have to “arrange” any of the action. On two occasions after the video had been available for sale, a total stranger said to me, “I know you; you are in the ice-fishing video.” An acquaintance of mine saw me a couple years after the video was made, and he said he could not figure it out where I was catching trout so quickly near a highway with lots of cars going by in the background. I knew that he would not bother Louis with a request to go fishing, so I told him where there were lots of trout next to I-25.
Rainbow Hole may be the biggest failure Louis and I had. Digging holes that did not concentrate rainbow trout and building a platform that had little use certainly were the most expensive mistakes we made. Only a generous and forgiving person like Louis would want to continue with a young professor who was making mistakes but learning and developing what students considered one of the two best fishery courses CSU offered.
Don Kehn needed a relatively small amount of gravel in a short time, and he excavated a rectangular area north of Bigmouth Pond. Initially, I was going to request a diagonal dike, making two similar ponds that I would suggest calling Twin Sisters. The excavation unexpectedly cut across a field tile line that was draining ground water from the high water table under fields to the north and west of Louis’ ponds. Aron Kriss was in my class that year, and he pushed hard for diking off a small portion of the excavated area where the field tile was conveying cold water to make a trout pond for kid’s fishing. By being small, hopefully the trout could not “hide” beyond casting distance of children. The two ponds became known as Big Sister and Little Sister.
At the time Big Sister Pond needed to be stocked, Bigmouth Pond was on the big bass option, so my class decided we should get a pond started on the panfish option. Largemouth bass got started OK, but for some reason the bluegill stocking failed. Randy Van Buren (former CSU student employed by CDOW) had salvaged what he thought might be the last 20 Sacramento perch in Colorado, and he put them into Big Sister. After a couple years of only modest increase in Sacramento perch numbers, it was decided to salvage as many of them as practical before poisoning the pond and starting over. Largemouth bass are my favorite species, and I was depressed to be poisoning them without the usual reason of unwanted rough fish invasion. About 70 Sacramento perch were moved to Rainbow Hole, where they would not have to deal with predation by largemouth bass. Louis asked what rotenone would cost; I told him $50/gallon. When I got the bill, rotenone had increased to $90/gallon. He said nothing, and our relationship continued.
Little Sister did stay cold enough to support rainbow trout, but children were having difficulty catching them. Louis had been rigging rods with artificial flies and lures because he was interested in instilling a catch and release ethic. I thought it was important for kids to catch their first fish. Louis and I compromised. Kids fished with bait until they caught their first fish. Then when they brought the fish to the table for cleaning and placement into a cooler with their name on a plastic bag, they had to exchange the rod rigged with bait for a rod rigged with a fly or a lure. Success increased tremendously. The all-time high was 700 Cub Scouts caught 400+ trout. Little Sister had one shortcoming: it was too small, especially at the ends. Kids on opposite banks got lines tangled with criss-crossing casts.
Louis and I then laid out a long pond to maximize shoreline to spread out anglers but a somewhat narrow pond to reduce the area where trout could live beyond the length of a child’s cast. We located the pond to the north of Big and Little Sister Ponds, which intercepted the field tile supplying cold water to Little Sister Pond. Since cold water is more dense than warm water, it sinks. I proposed that a trench be dug in the bottom of this new pond to collect the cold water, and then a pipe extending into the trench would convey cold “overflow” to Little Sister Pond to keep it a trout pond. Piling the excavated blue shale in the middle of the pond would make the middle relatively shallow and further encourage trout to live in the trench close to shore, within casting distance of children. Louis, always thinking about access for handicapped anglers, came up with a fishing bridge spanning this pond so that anglers in wheelchairs could drop their lines straight down into the trench. The steel I-beams are in place, but much of the year they are under water (elevation error), and no decking has been installed. The person digging the trench was doing so the Friday before Memorial weekend. He told Louis and me that he was going to leave at 2 PM. The pump used to lower the water table for excavating had been removed. About noon Louis and I could see that time was running out to get the trench all the way around the pond, and by Tuesday water would be too deep for machinery to be in the pond. Thus we had the operator cut across the pond about two-thirds of the way to the east and bring the trench back to the west far enough for Louis and me to install the “overflow” connection to Little Sister Pond.
The connection was a simple design of an adapter/reducer attached to the piece of field tile going into Little Sister Pond and then a short piece of PVC pipe, a 45 degree el, a long piece of pipe to reach near the bottom of the trench, and a cap to keep fish from swimming into the pipe. Many small holes were drilled in the pipe at the depth of the trench to allow cold water to enter. Both Louis and I had done this kind of plumbing, but we struggled that day. The clay field tile kept crumbling when we tried to attach the adapter, so we would have to dig farther to try to get a solid piece to attach to. Accomplishing that took several attempts. Then we struggled and struggled to get the 45 degree el with rubber gaskets to slide onto the pipe. It was a very hot day, and we had consumed the water that Louis to had brought from the house. We, too, wanted to get away for the holiday weekend and did not want to lose time going for more drinking water. By the time we completed the work we were dehydrated and exhausted. We often reminisced about what a horrible effort that was.
With Big Sister and Little Sister Ponds representing Louis’ daughters, it was natural to name the new pond in proximity Big Brother. We often referred to those ponds as the family group.
With pond numbers and area increasing, Louis thought it would be good to have a recreational plan to direct our efforts. He provided $10,000 to the CSU Department of Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism to involve students in development of a plan. Louis did not get what he wanted, and additional work by a retired Department professor did not reach Louis’ expectations. Louis and I proceeded one pond at a time as we had been doing.
Carson Cox was one of my graduate students when Walleye Pond was being excavated, and he had represented fishery interests in the above mentioned plan. Carson was familiar with fishing docks, popular in Kansas and Oklahoma, and had pushed for a fishing dock in the new pond. Louis liked the idea of an opportunity to attract fish to a localized area for non-mobile anglers. Again the question of what kind of fish attractors arose. We decided to vary the structure and then evaluate for application for future fishing docks. The west side of the platform in Walleye Pond has vertical treetops anchored in tires filled with concrete. Louis let us drive his old side-dump farm truck to the Red Feather Lakes area to get treetops from a firewood cutting location. The brakes on the truck were not great, but we made two trips without incident. The south side of the platform has a stake bed (rows of first slabs cut from saw logs, driven into the pond bottom). Stake beds are a popular way to attract crappies in Tennessee. Pyramids of bundled pipe and stacks of broken concrete are on the east side of the platform, and tires suspended on a stretched nylon rope span the north side. It was never clear to me why Louis did not get the deck installed on the platform. At times he would pursue bids and line up someone to construct it, but the deck would not get built. As a consequence we never evaluated the fish attractors. For information to anyone who might construct the platform in the future, the design is like a square donut; don’t cover the hole in the middle. The attractors are under where the deck will be, and anglers can fish on the edge of the attractors either in the hole or outside the platform. Some fishing docks have a house, sometimes with heat, over the hole for winter fishing.
Walleye Pond is a misleading name for this pond, but Louis started it and it stuck. Yes, walleye live in the pond, but their role is “silent” predator. They should not be featured because reproduction is limited in small ponds. Walleye need wind-swept rocky beaches to scatter adhesive eggs. In an attempt to enhance their spawning success, we filled two shallow gabions with rocks. I thought it was odd to be adding rocks to a gravel pit pond, but in reality, the gravel had been mined, leaving crumbly blue shale. White crappie and yellow perch were the featured species because they provide high catch rates. John Goettl brought unusually large crayfish from Quincy Reservoir, and the large size continued in Walleye Pond. One time a regional meeting of fishery biologists had an evening social at Swift’s Ponds, and boiled crawfish from Walleye pond were served. Recently largemouth bass have gained access, and I don’t know what the aquatic community looks like now. Two changes can be observed from shore: 1. Bullfrog tadpoles are gone, likely from bass predation, and 2. Aquatic vegetation has increased; presumably bass predation has reduced crayfish abundance thereby allowing vegetation to flourish.
Golden Pond got its name from golden shiners (and the movie added support) that were stocked along with emerald shiners and fathead minnows to see if a combination of minnows would buffer each other and avoid elimination from bass predation as occurs with single species stockings of minnows. It did not work. North Mallard Creek backed up one time and flooded into Golden Pond, introducing common carp, white suckers, green sunfish, and largemouth bass. Carp have established a low population, white suckers did not establish, green sunfish were prominent for a while but are rare now, and largemouth bass have pretty much displaced the original smallmouth bass.
When another pond was excavated next to Golden Pond, Louis wanted to join the two ponds. I suggested a shallow connection to provide a bar for spawning. Bass use it, but at low water levels I could not get work boats to float across it. The underwater hump in the middle of the east section is not an island that washed away. Louis thought he had enough geese and did not want another island for them. I suggested a reef. Some trees that Louis removed from around his house and buildings are anchored along the west shore of the east part and the southwest shore of the west part. Broken concrete was placed along the north shore of the west part and off the point in the west part. Louis had a working relationship with Front Range Community College, and one of their classes got a $1000 seine caught on the pile of concrete off the point. They did not know it was there. A person with SCUBA gear was needed to free the seine.
North Golden Pond was the last pond to be excavated. Louis wanted to connect it to Golden Pond. At the time I wanted to follow the competition between smallmouth bass and the introduced largemouth bass in Golden Pond. North Golden Pond was supposed to be smallmouth bass only. Now largemouth bass have gotten into North Golden Pond, and a connection to Golden Pond would make no biological difference. However, without a bridge, connection would stop a circular traffic pattern on the property. Also, no pond on the property has Louis’ name, and I would suggest changing North Golden Pond to Louis’ Pond.
Louis’ Pond (North Golden) has framework for another fishing dock. Fish attractors were not placed around the frame because we were waiting for the evaluation of various structures placed in Walleye Pond. Plenty of fish structure was placed elsewhere in Louis’ Pond. Brush was placed along the east and south shores, and many piles of broken concrete were stacked in the middle portion. Jim White, a fishery graduate student at CSU, developed a sonar/computer evaluation of underwater vertical relief based on data collected from Louis’ Pond. The shallow lobes on the east shore came from another failure. In discussions of how to get kids interested in aquatic life, it came out that many of us who have that interest kept a tadpole in an aquarium or a tin can when we were kids. The lobes were initially isolated (from fish) frog ponds, but they did not get dug properly (sides were too steep). Don Kehn was moving his gravel operation to a different location, and we were losing easy access to excavation equipment. We were able to prevail on him before he left to connect the failed frog ponds to Louis’ Pond.
When the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society met in Ft. Collins, the attendees were bussed to Swift’s Ponds for an evening of socializing. During the brief program, Louis said some kind words about what CSU fishery biology students and I had done on the property, and he announced that the newest pond (at that time) was going to be named Doc’s Pond in honor of me. After those flattering remarks Louis turned to jest and held up a weird-looking wooden fence post with attached junk that a work-study student of mine had created. I had thrown it into Doc’s Pond to get rid of it; Louis had pulled it out, attributed it to me, and asked the crowd to explain what kind of fish attractor that was! It provided a good laugh.
Doc’s Pond has a relatively large reef and a few big cottonwood trunks. I like big fish, and thus “my” pond was stocked with tiger muskies and hybrid striped bass (wipers), both having the potential to get big. The tiger muskies were hard to catch, though Barry Reynolds (mentioned in regard to fishing for grass carp in Willows Pond) thought he had caught all seven (stocked one per acre) based on color differences. The last time I saw one of them I estimated the weight at 6-7 lb., not as large as I expected. The first stocking of hybrid striped bass produced some specimens in excess of 10 lb. The second stocking occurred during Mindy Gasaway’s Master’s thesis research, and unfortunately for Mindy, it was nearly a total failure because the young fish had not inflated their gas bladders during their early life at a fish hatchery. The hatchery changed procedures, and the next stocking had high survival. I knew that wipers are susceptible to capture in gillnets and therefore put only two nets in the water for an hour in the evening before going night electrofishing. We captured 84 and were still picking fish out of gillnets after dark. Because neither tiger muskies nor wipers are capable of spawning, likely both should be stocked again.
Louis and Shauna came up with the name Fishtank Pond from the nickname of Shauna’s husband (Tank from Tankersly). During discussion of what species to stock, I wanted an opportunity for fishery students to have experience with the three major species of black bass. Largemouth and smallmouth bass were in other ponds; I needed spotted bass somewhere to complete the trio. This species appealed to Louis; he had always encouraged me and my students to make the ponds different from the standpoints of species composition and management objectives. Learning and teaching were as important to Louis as to me. Because of concern regarding exotic species, I had to get special permission from the Colorado Division of Wildlife to import spotted bass. The permit states that spotted bass can be in only that pond, and if at some later time CDOW does not want spotted bass in this part of the State, the pond will have to be poisoned. Former student Carson Cox (mentioned earlier regarding fishing docks) was employed with the Kansas Fish and Game Department, and spotted bass live in his part of Kansas. I drove to Junction City to pick up 10 adults that he had collected for me. Spotted bass are attracted to spawn in the vicinity of brush on cliffs up to 20 ft. deep. We placed concrete and logs in the deepest part of the pond to satisfy that behavior.
Early on spotted bass were a big success. Scott Gilmore regularly organizes kid’s fishing days at Swift’s Ponds. He told me that when he has a child who has not caught a fish, he takes the child to Fishtank Pond, and he or she usually catches a spotted bass. Louis gave me permission to hold a mock fishing tournament on the property to get input on whether that could be a way to raise money for the property. I put aluminum boats on the six ponds (at that time) that had black bass, and every hour invited anglers moved to another pond. Two guys on Fishtank Pond were having so much fun catching spotted bass on surface lures that I had to be firm with them to get them to move. Like most of the ponds, Fishtank Pond now has unplanned largemouth bass. I don’t know if largemouth bass will displace spotted bass like they did smallmouth bass in Golden Pond.
As the one who worked most closely with Louis, it has been my intent in writing these anecdotes to give insight to Louis’ vision and generosity and how that connected to the education of CSU fishery biology students. The most visible tribute those students have for Louis is when I see one of them, after exchanging pleasantries the first thing they ask is what is going on at Swift’s Ponds. At one point in my career I thought about going to the University of Minnesota to be closer to my parents, but when it occurred to me that there would be no Louis Swift in St. Paul, I decided to stay at CSU. It was a good decision!