EUREKA — It was like the proverbial last-minute phone call from the governor, except there was no last-minute phone call and no governor.
The remaining European carp still living in the vanishing waters of Eureka Lake were given a short reprieve this week when heavy rains earlier this month delayed the plan to kill the fish to help save the lake. The process to kill the invasive fish species was moved from last Monday to Sept. 24.
"We just work around whatever Mother Nature gives us," Rob Hilsabeck of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said Friday. "You get three inches of rain on top of three inches of rain and you have to change your plans a little bit."
The short delay won't change the long-term plan, Hilsabeck said.
Low oxygen levels in the lake in the winter of 2013-14 killed thousands of largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish, leaving the carp population to survive, thrive and ultimately take over the lake.
IDNR's lake-saving plan includes drawing down the lake to a 2- to 5-acre puddle in the middle, then killing the carp with a root-based compound called rotenone, which is lethal to fish. The lake will refill naturally over time and then be restocked by IDNR next year.
Caught fish should be big enough to keep in a couple of years, Hilsabeck said.
On Thursday, a group of 10 Eureka College biology students scoured the lake's new dry spots and picked up 13 bags of garbage, fishing lines and lures and two large pieces of metal — a sign and a grill cover. The discarded fishing line is a particular scourge as a risk to wildlife like wading birds that can get entangled in it.
"College students and professors (Cecelia) Hennessy and (Katy) Everett are leading a clean up effort collecting fishing line and lures, and debris (at the lake)," City Administrator Melissa Brown said Friday. "We have had some other community inquiries on this and some residents picking up around the perimeter."
The students plan to return to collect more garbage.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.