West Valley cities provide fish for recreation, environment

[16th May, 2014] Fishing is a popular urban sport in the West Valley and cities pay to provide fish for anglers, but some fish are put in lakes to keep ecosystems healthy. Anglers fishing for sport and relaxation in urban lakes in the West Valley are able to do so largely because cities throughout the region pay to stock those lakes with fish…

But the fish aren’t always put there simply for recreation — some provide specific functions for the health of the ecosystem, from treating water to controlling algae.

This month in Avondale, city workers released 5,000 pounds of tilapia into a series of man-made wetland cells designed to carry water downstream to recharge basins that hold the water, which then percolates into the ground and replenishes the drinking-water aquifer.

The 21 lakes that make up the Crystal Garden Wetlands are how Avondale receives and moves water from the Salt River Project and the Central Arizona Project. The fish are vital to keeping the ecosystem in balance as the water comes through, said Avondale Water Resources Manager Frank Milam.

“In lieu of having a conventional treatment facility like a lot of neighboring cities have to have, this is an affordable, gravity-fed system that provides treatment,” Milam said. “It also provides a community amenity. It provides urban fishing and provides riparian habitat.”

Avondale’s drinking water comes from groundwater and, under state law, the citycan’ttake out more water than it puts into the aquifer. So, the water that comes from SRP and CAP canals flows through Avondale’s wetlands to the city water-recharge basins.

“These wetlands were designed to reduce that nitrate level … using the fish, vegetation and microbial activity,” Milam said.

There are 72 acres of treatment cells that receive about 5 million gallons of water per day. The cells are lined so they don’t lose water.

Within those cells, where recreational fishers attempt to hook a prize, Avondale uses different fish — including tilapia, catfish, koi and others — to do different jobs. Anglers must release the fish back into the lakes.

“The tilapia are the real workhorses because whenever you have these open bodies of water, and with photosynthesis, you’re going to get a lot of algae,” Milam said. “The tilapia are prolific algae consumers. They can consume one and a half times their weight in algae everyday”

The city also has stocked the wetlands with 1,500 pounds of catfish. The catfish are bottom feeders and clean up the detritus, which is organic material that breaks down and sinks to the bottom of the lakes.

Koi are put in the lakes to feed off the top of the water and eat algae, mosquitoes and larvae, while white amur are prolific weed and algae eaters, Milam said.

Bass and blue gill in the lakes were not stocked by the city. Milam assumes they came into the lakes through the canals. The city doesn’t count on them for any environmental benefit.

Some cities buy the fish to stock their wetlands and lakes, while others participate in the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Community Fishing Program,in which the cities pay the department to stock the urban lakes.

Avondale, which stocks its own fish, has an annual fish budget of $22,500.

Residents who use the lakes say they appreciate the cities stocking the lakes and giving anglers a place to fish near their homes.

Taylor Quintanilla, 32, of Avondale, was fishing at the wetlands in early May. He said he frequently fishes after he drops his 5-year-old daughter off at school.

“It (fishing) is real relaxing for me,” Quintanilla said. “It’s a hobby that I enjoy. I have a good time and make friends out here.”

Some communities in the West Valley put fish in the lakes largely for recreation.

Litchfield Park stocks the 3-acre Tierra Verde Lake with trout in January as part of the Winter Trout Fishing Derby.

“We stock 700 pounds of trout that range in size from 6 inches to 17 inches long,” Litchfield Park Assistant City Manager Sonny Culbreth said.

That is about 1,000 trout, costing around $3,500. The price tag varies depending on the cost of fuel to transport the fish, but the Kiwanis Club of Litchfield sponsors the fishing derby and contributes $3,000, so the city pays only about $500.

Fishing is permitted year-round with a Litchfield Park fishing permit from the city’s recreation department. Children age 12 and older and adults are required to purchase a fishing permit. Residents are charged $1 per year and non-residents pay $5 per day or $20 per year.

Other types of fish in the lake include tilapia, bass, sunfish and catfish, but they are not stocked annually, Culbreth said. Anglers can keep the fish they catch in Litchfield Park.

In Surprise, the state Game and Fish Department stocks the lake at Community Park almost every two weeks except when the weather is too hot. The schedule varies based on the seasons, climatic conditions and fish availability, said Christine Frederickson, senior financial analyst with Surprise Community and Recreation Services.

The program costs the city about $5,000 a year, and the Game and Fish Department stocks about 7,225 pounds of fish annually.

“The stocking of the fish is primarily for recreational purposes, but the ecosystem component is also equally as important for maintaining the quality of the lake,” Frederickson said.

From November to March, the lake is stocked every two weeks with trout. From March to November, except from mid-June to mid-September, the lake is stocked with channel catfish. Sunfish are stocked once a year. Large-mouth bass and white amur are stocked when their numbers need to be replenished.

In Peoria, Rio Vista and Pioneer lakes are also part of the state Community Fishing Program.

It costs the city about $6,800 annually to stock its lakes, and the schedule is nearly the same as in Surprise.

Game and Fish monitors the water quality to determine if lake conditions are suitable for fish stocking. The department provides periodic reports to Peoria about lake conditions, and it notifies the city if there are any public-health or safety concerns, Peoria spokesman Bo Larsen said.

In Glendale, Game and Fish stock one urban fishing lake at Bonsall Park South five times a year.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s statewide Community Fishing Program stocks 25 lakes in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Nick Walter, a public-information officer with Game and Fish, said most the urban lakes in the Community Fishing Program have catch-and-release policies.




David Madrid, The Republic, azcentral.com

View original article at: West Valley cities provide fish for recreation, environment

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