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January 8, 2013 > Christmas in January

Christmas in January

Bass, sunfish and bluegill enjoyed a belated Christmas celebration as volunteers, under the guidance of East Bay Regional Parks (EBRP) Fisheries Program Manager Pete Alexander, positioned 798 unsold trees in Horseshoe Lake at Quarry Lakes Regional Park on a brisk Saturday morning last weekend. In an ongoing annual program that previously focused on Rainbow Lake in the same park (850 trees in 2012), trees were chained and submerged by about 35 hardy volunteers to create a viable habitat and safe haven - "artificial reefs" - for maturing fish. Mother Nature appeared to approve of the effort as cloudy skies remained overhead without falling rain to hamper efforts.

The unsold Christmas trees are a good multipurpose fit in manmade reservoirs that may otherwise provide little respite for growing fish. Without their help, says Alexander, the bottom of the quarry lakes would be an uninteresting place to visit and pretty boring for the fish too. In addition to adding a multi-dimensional landscape with places to hide at the bottom of the lake, the trees slowly decay for up to ten years, providing a food source for the fish and other wildlife that live in and around the lakes. Although the needles quickly fall off, tree branches encourage algae growth that attracts insect life. Small fish are drawn to the area and where small fish go, large fish are sure to follow. Alexander sums it up, "Algae grow on the tree trunks, insects live on the algae, fish of all sizes live on the insects and... anglers and birds catch the fish."

The East Bay Regional Park District, Black Bass Action Committee, Boy Scouts of America, and Walton's Pond sponsor the collection and placement of the unused trees. Alexander stresses that only trees donated directly from retailers without any chemical treatment are used to avoid detrimental effects to the environment. He notes that research indicates that the game fish species in EBRP lakes prefer the trees to leaf bed habitats along the shoreline. "So, how do you know its Christmas, says Alexander, "Well, at the East Bay Regional Park District, they get a really big present... a new home made of Christmas Trees."

For more information about East Bay Regional Parks and fishing opportunities at these parks, visit www.ebparks.org.

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