Abingdon resident Joe Kelly has been fishing at the pond at Harford County’s Friends Community Park in Forest Hill since he was a child, a tradition he has continued with his son, Brennan.
The chances of catching a fish at the pond, which is stocked by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources during the spring, can be “hit or miss” for Kelly these days. Much of the pond has become overgrown with plants along the shoreline and algae on the surface of the water and on the bottom.
“It’s way overgrown now ... you’re still catching fish out of here, a lot of trout — they’re stocking regularly,” said Kelly, who visited the park Monday with his son.
They were among a number of people at Friends Park on Monday, enjoying the sunny weather and fishing in the pond, playing at the playground or walking the trails — people can access the northern leg of the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail from there. Other amenities such as athletic fields and a pavilion are available, too.
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Wildlife was active in and around the pond, with birds singing in the trees, several geese floating on the surface and frequently sticking their heads under the water to feed, as well as turtles hanging out near the shore.
Joe Kelly has seen some anglers catch the legal limit in trout within 10 minutes, while others can sit at the pond all day and not catch anything.
“It’s different from when I was younger,” he said.
Other county residents have complaints similar to Kelly’s when it comes to the pond’s water quality and the prospect of catching fish.
Visitors expressed concern about plants, algae, a lower water level than in the past, as well as litter floating by the shoreline. Two turtles hung out by a wooden deck overlooking the water as people fished from it, sticking out amid dried leaves and plant matter, algae and scattered pieces of litter such as plastic wrappers and a paper towel.
The low water level was the first thing the daughter of Forest Hill resident Megan Yarbrough noticed when they came to the park, followed by a question about “all the green stuff” in the pond.
“We were kind of disappointed,” Yarbrough said. “We couldn’t really see anything because the water is so murky and so low.”
John Caldwell, of Forest Hill, fishes at the Friends Park pond on a regular basis; he made his first fishing trip at the park for 2021 on Monday. Caldwell, who noticed “a lot of trash” around the pond, has had luck catching fish there in the past.
“It’s great for kids to come here and fish, to catch guppies and bluegill,” he said.
He brings his children there to fish, and they have caught bass from the small island in the pond, which is accessible via a wooden bridge.
“I haven’t caught bass here in a couple years now,” Caldwell noted.
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The pond was renovated in 2011, and the plants were put in to keep the water at a manageable temperature for the fish, according to county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby.
Workers with DNR stock the pond with fish several times during the spring, with the most recent stocking happening about two weeks ago, Mumby said.
The county also has a maintenance program for the pond, which includes treating algae blooms. Staffers use Aquashade, a dye blend, to control algae. They also remove debris found in the water.
County workers treat the pond once a month from April through September — the first treatment is scheduled for next week, weather permitting, according to Mumby.
“Algae is naturally occurring, and this is a natural pond, so there will be algae,” she said Tuesday. “Our program is to prevent algae blooms.”
Brennan Kelly said he likes coming to the pond but noted “it is a bit overgrown” with many plants around.
“I like coming here, still,” the youth said. “You can still catch a lot of fish, but we don’t catch any fish, really, ever.”