Volunteers exercise their holiday spirit By building Pisces pyramids at Canyon Lake

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December 19th, 2007

Volunteers exercise their holiday spirit
By building Pisces pyramids at Canyon Lake
More than 200 volunteer helpers exercised their holiday spirit by helping Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists build Pisces pyramids at Canyon Lake the past several weekends when most others were busy shopping or watching ball games.

Most of the work was completed on Dec. 15-16. The finishing touch for these artificial fish habitats will come later this month when the City of Tempe donates thousands of discarded Christmas trees to adorn the structures. Ted Mitchell Trees in Scottsdale is also donating Christmas trees, as well as hauling them to the lake. The work is set for Dec. 29-30.  If you can help, please call either Aaron Kern (480) 324-3592 or Diana Rogers at (480) 324-3544.

The artificial fish habitats have been built in the exposed lake bed at Canyon Lake while Salt River Project has the lake level down 50 feet for routine maintenance on the dam. This aging lake has little in the way of natural fish habitat remaining, except for rock structures. These artificial habitats will provide hiding and ambush cover for future fish.

The cost of this project? Not much, at least not in budgeted dollars. The 4,500 cement blocks were purchased at a significantly reduced price. Most materials, including the 1,200 wooden pallets, were donated.

For the dedicated volunteers who toiled long hours, it was an investment of sweat equity in the fishing future of this popular lake along the Apache Trail about an 80-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.

The Canyon Lake work is all part of a much grander design to improve the fisheries at Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake and Apache Lake along the Salt River. All three fisheries have been impacted by golden alga blooms the past several years. Biologists and volunteers are hoping to give these fisheries a helpful nudge down the comeback trail.

Game and Fish Department biologists have a four-tiered effort aimed at not just improving these fisheries, but simultaneously conducting research to determine if stocking bass is a worthwhile management alternative for the future. The two-year project is estimated to cost $2 million.

The project entails:

1. Stocking the lakes to give sport-fish populations a boost.
2. Conducting fish population, water quality, and angler creel studies to determine the effectiveness of those stockings.
3. Implementing research to better understand golden alga and to assess whether stocking fish will benefit the fishery.
4. Conducting outreach and education.

On Nov. 27, biologists and volunteers used boats to distribute 10,000 largemouth bass into the three lakes. The bass were obtained from Arkansas and fitted with tags so they can be identified in the future by creel clerks.

Previously, the department and volunteers stocked smallmouth bass at Apache and Canyon lakes. The smallmouth bass population at Apache was devastated by golden algae.

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