Eller Pond an oasis in the country
That place is Eller Pond, a wetland conservation area, three and a half miles south of Flora at County Roads 50E and 300S. The area includes two ponds one large, one small covering almost 40 acres. Wetland plants, shrubs and trees extend along the edge of the ponds.
For those who enjoy nature study, waterfowl hunting, frog hunting, fishing, berry-picking, bird watching, and the sheer beauty of sunset on the water, this is the spot to visit. Wildlife inhabitants include ducks, geese, furbearers, reptiles, amphibians, and shore birds.
The area is called Eller Pond because it was donated to the Department of Natural Resources by Dr. Alvan and Arlene Eller of Bringhurst. The donation process was completed in 2003. Since then, the DNR’s Division of Fish & Wildlife has added blue bird houses and wood duck nest boxes, interpretive signs, and recently, a gravel parking lot.
There was standing water on the property when the Ellers and Dr. Edward Langston purchased it, but their original intention was to drain it and farm the land. But they ran into trouble. While digging a deep trench, the contractor hit springs and flooded the area.
Eventually, the Ellers purchased Langston’s share of the property.
“We saw the beauty of the pond, and decided it was kind of nice the way it was,” Dr. Eller said.
“We knew if we didn’t get it into the right hands, it could be destroyed sometime,” he added. “We wanted to give it to an organization that would take care of it.”
Before it was a conservation area and open to the public, people asked the Ellers’ permission to hunt there.
One such person was John Carr of Otterbein. He wrote a letter to the Ellers after hunting there in October 1990.
“I genuinely appreciate being allowed to visit your marsh, regardless of the success I had,” Carr said. “Bringing down a duck for the table is only a very small part of enjoying such an outing, and carrying a shotgun is many times only an excuse for being there. When the sun came up, easily a thousand ducks and probably 250 geese came off the lake.”
Jane and Dick Bishop of Flora are birdwatchers, and have documented what they’ve seen at Eller Pond.
Jane said they have recorded the most sightings in the spring migration. They’ve seen merganser, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, and scaup (all ducks), and coot (a duck-like swimmer). They’ve also seen a white goose, a couple of swans, a great egret, blue herron, a gull, a loon (on March 29, 2002), sandpipers and other kinds of shore birds, as well as many kinds of birds in the trees.
“We see most of them in the distance, so it’s good to have binoculars,” Jane said.
Tom Despot is property manager of Eller Pond for the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
He said he has seen several hundred geese and mallards there at times.
“They’re not always there,” he said. “They come and go.”
“And you don’t necessarily see them when you drive by. I have
flushed out a
hundred mallards, actively feeding in the cattails.”
Despot said the next waterfowl season will begin Nov. 25. It will extend to Jan. 20 for ducks and to Jan. 30 for Canadian geese.
“Waterfowl season varies from year to year and from zone to zone,” Despot explained. “Eller Pond is in the south zone.”
Despot said the hunters now come on a first-come, first-served basis.
“If the number of hunters becomes greater than the area can support, we might have to go to a pre-season drawing,” he said.
Waterfowl hunting is the only hunting allowed, except for frog hunting. The posted hunting for frogs is June 15 to Aug. 31. Fishing is allowed from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31.
“We haven’t stocked the pond with fish, because it’s two shallow,” he said.
The pond mainly has yellow belly catfish in it, Despot said, along with other fish that people have thrown into it.
Back 15 or more years ago, fishermen Dick Oilar, Mo Smedley, Jerry Garrison and John Bickel fished other places, but threw their small catches into Eller Pond.
“None of us knew the others were doing it,” Oilar said. “We each threw in bluegill, crappie, and small bass. We didn’t know if they would survive in the shallow water.”
But evidently they did. Although the pond has mainly catfish today, people are still catching some bluegill and crappie.
Canoes and small boats can go on the ponds, but not fuel-powered motor boats.
“People can fish off the edge of the road, but all vehicles should be in the parking lot,” Despot said.
Melissa Keown, science teacher at Carroll Jr.-Sr. High School, said the area makes a good outdoor lab, and she plans to take her environmental science students there.
“The students are going to do bug studies, wildlife studies, and keep track of litter and see how it affects the environment,” she said. They’ll also build more wood duck boxes and clean out the bluebird houses for the next arrivals.
Keown added that the Carroll FFA is going to help the Division of Fish & Wildlife maintain the area and “act as their eyes” when the management crew is not there.
Despot said Carroll County is fortunate to have a wetland conservation area.
“People can view wildlife anytime of year, without cost,” he said. He pointed out that the area is a benefit to people and to wildlife.
The Ellers, who live nearby, said they personally enjoy the ducks and the sunsets on the pond. They also enjoy seeing people there.
“We’re glad to see it being used,” Dr. Eller said.