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Lake groups gearing up for ‘Christmas for the Fishes’

Christmas for the fishes 2014Christmas for the fishes 2014By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

Now that you’ve enjoyed your live Christmas tree for a couple of weeks, it’s time to take it down and let Claytor Lake’s fish population put it to use.

Several lake groups are gearing up for the third annual “Christmas for the Fishes” recycling program that turns discarded live Christmas trees into reefs that support fish habitats. Trees will be collected Tuesday, Jan. 21, this year, weather permitting.

Jeff Caldwell, executive director of Friends of Claytor Lake (FOCL), said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries developed the program with assistance from FOCL, Claytor Lake State Park and American Electric Power.

Those wishing to recycle their trees can either take them to a designated area at the Claytor Lake State Park boat launch or contact FOCL, info@focl.org or 395-3625, to have the tree picked up. Caldwell said he will be picking up trees in the Radford area, but the group will try to pick up trees in Dublin and Pulaski as well.

Once the trees are collected, volunteers tie concrete blocks to them and sink them at three locations adjacent to the state park along with long-lasting fish attracting structures called “spider blocks.” This creates deepwater reef habitats that improve fishing opportunities.

According to FOCL, species such as largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, bluegill, black crappie, and flathead and channel catfish are attracted to these habitats, thus allowing anglers to increase their catch rates in these areas.

The reefs are marked with “fish reef” buoys to attract fishing enthusiasts and to alert boaters to potential navigational issues.

Caldwell said volunteers also are needed to help attach blocks to the trees and carry them to boats for deployment. Those wishing to help are asked to be at the Claytor Lake State Park boat ramp between 9:30 and 10 a.m.