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The future of the fish initially was uncertain after a water-retention pool at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets in Mount Wolf was drained recently. It's the former New York Wire plant property, and has been vacant for years. After getting permission to move some of the fish to Cousler Park, a three-person team headed to the pool on Thursday, Oct. 5, put on their waders and rolled up their sleeves. Liz Evans Scolforo

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Hundreds of goldfish have made the leap from a dwindling pool of murky water in Mount Wolf to new homes — and many are now inhabiting a pond in Manchester Township's Cousler Park.

The future of the fish initially was uncertain after a water-retention pool at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets was drained recently. It's the former New York Wire plant property and has been vacant for years.

Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA, said concerned people asked the SPCA to help, and local animal control officer Mike Ellis, who owns and runs Ellis Wildlife Control in Manchester Township, agreed to pitch in.

"He's always up for anything," Smith said.

After getting permission to move some of the fish to Cousler Park, a three-person team headed to the pool on Thursday, Oct. 5, put on their waders and rolled up their sleeves.

One might think netting goldfish in a drained pool would be akin to shooting fish in a barrel, but the rescue proved more challenging than expected.

That step was a doozy: Even though the pool is primarily drained, there's still a deep end, which Ellis learned when he took a step too far and wound up chest-deep in the remaining water.

"We were expecting little puddles," Smith said.

The deep water made it difficult to catch the fish, which were able to dive down to avoid being netted.

Also, she said, there were far more fish than the rescuers expected.

Ellis and Samantha Slate, an animal-care technician with the York County SPCA, netted dozens and dozens of fish, which they put in big plastic bins for transport.

Ellis improvised by laying a ladder directly over the deep end, with one end of the ladder resting on an ersatz ledge and the other end on the bottom of the pool, where it's shallower.

He then climbed across the ladder until he was above the deep area, which allowed him to get to fish that were hiding.

"There's still a lot of fish in here — hundreds of them," he said. "We can't just let them die."

'A horrible death': Once the water is drained entirely, any remaining fish would slowly suffocate from a lack of oxygen.

"That's a horrible death," he said.

Ellis grew up in the area and said that when he was a child, he used to stand on the sidewalk and cast a fishing line over the top of the fence.

"I'd catch catfish," he said, although the team didn't find any catfish during the rescue.

Ellis did, however, pull out a small sunfish.

"It's loaded with tadpoles, too," Slate said. She and Ellis also rescued and relocated as many tadpoles as they could.

Ellis said the fish in the pool got there because people put them in, and then some started reproducing on their own.

Neighbors helped: But since the pool was mostly drained, neighbors have done an about-face and started taking fish out in an effort to save them, according to Ellis and others.

They include 13-year-old Emma Simcoe, who walked to the pool with a bucket that Ellis and Slate filled with about 14 fish.

They are now in a aquarium with clean water. Emma's father, former York Dispatch employee John Simcoe, said she will split up the fish, with half going into a second aquarium so they have more spacious accommodations.

Also popping in Thursday to watch the progress was Dana Abenschon, who has lived in Mount Wolf for 23 years.

"I was here Monday (Oct. 2) with my dad," she said. "We got about 60, and my dad has them in his pond. I felt like a kid again."

Fish stories: Abenschon recalled stopping at the retaining pool over the years to watch the fish as she rested during runs.

"I was amazed at how big some of them were," she said.

Abenschon also recalled seeing firefighters drawing water from the pool to fill tanker trucks.

According to Ellis, the retaining pool was there to supply New York Wire with water to fight fires, and apparently was connected to the former company's sprinkler system.

Abenschon said she was happy to see the fish were being rescued.

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"Yeah, they're only goldfish," she said, but they can still suffer.

Invasive species: Goldfish are a type of carp and aren't native to the United States, meaning they can't legally be released into local waters.

"They're an invasive species," Ellis said. Invasive species, whether plants are animals, are generally bad for the environment and can have a negative impact on native flora and fauna.

Ellis said he plans to return to the pool and pump out more water so he can get the rest of the fish. He also plans to bring a long-handled dip net to make catching them easier.

"It's just too deep, and the leaves and mulch are so thick," he said.

Need some fish? Smith said she will likely have to find different homes for the remaining fish, as moving the entire population to Cousler Park would overload the pond.

Anyone who would like to adopt some goldfish can call the York County SPCA at 717-764-6109, ext. 126, and leave a message for Smith.

"To real animal lovers, we see fish as living creatures that feel pain," Smith said, but acknowledged that not everyone agrees. "So it made my heart happy to see so many people concerned about the fish.

"I just want to thank the community for alerting us to the situation and for realizing that all living creatures deserve protection."

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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