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Altus-Lugert Lake dead as a fishery

BY ED GODFREY, Staff Writer, egodfrey@opubco.com Published: June 8, 2013
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Steve Galmor of Sayre has been fishing at Altus-Lugert Lake since he was 16.

“I've caught 18-pound hybrids, tons of sand bass,” said Galmor, who owns trailer homes less than a mile from a lake for weekend getaways.

“My passion is those mountains and that water. I have caught fish there all my life. I am 58. I will be 70 before I will be able to go back in there and catch a fish that is worth something.”

That's because golden algae has killed most of the fish in Altus-Lugert Lake. An estimated 350,000 adult fish died over a three-month period at Altus-Lugert because of toxic golden algae blooms.

Biologists for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation spent four days in April conducting electro-fishing and gill netting surveys. They didn't catch a single fish.

“There are no fish we can find in the lake,” said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It doesn't mean there aren't any. It means the population is so low we couldn't find any.”

State wildlife officials hope to restock the lake, first with forage fish and then with sport fish at some point, but they don't know when that will happen. The water is still toxic from golden algae blooms, and there is no guarantee there won't be another fish kill in the future.

Altus-Lugert Lake is essentially dead as a fishery, and no one knows when, or if, it will come back. It is a major blow for anglers in southwest Oklahoma where fishing holes are few and far between.

“It's a damn tragedy is what it is,” said Galmor, who along with many other Altus-Lugert regulars is now fishing at Tom Steed Reservoir near Snyder.

Altus-Lugert Lake, which sits next to Quartz Mountain, was one of the main fisheries for southwest Oklahoma. It once held the state record for both walleye and striped bass hybrid.

Larry Cofer, southwest region fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, has spent his entire 30-year career with the Wildlife Department in southwest Oklahoma.

“We certainly didn't expect to have a whole lake go belly up in my time here,” he said.

Golden algae forms naturally and can produce blooms that are toxic to fish and turtles. It is not harmful to humans or pets or livestock.

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