Baldwin City With PVC pipes and buckets as their building blocks, members of Free State Fly Fishers are helping to build a thriving underwater city at Douglas County State Lake.
"We've basically taken what amounts to a bunch of trash and turned it into aquatic habitat for the fishery," club president Jeff Frye said Saturday from the lake's shore. "This is a huge enhancement. It makes it a better fishery."
Club members constructed "trees" made of PVC pipes cemented into plant buckets. On Saturday, they took boat rides across the lake, dropping the trees in selected areas.
The lake and its inhabitants will take up the effort from there.
"Plant life will stick to those plastic branches," Frye said. "That'll attract the smaller microorganisms, which will attract the smaller fish. Small fish will attract big fish, so you'll have the whole food chain right there."
The move is the latest step in the lake's three-year renovation. The lake was drained in 2005 for repairs to the dam and water-control equipment.
Since then, it's been on the rebound. The lake has been restocked with fathead minnows, bluegill, redear sunfish, channel catfish and largemouth bass. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks also has enhanced the underwater habitat by adding rock mounds and brush piles to the basin. Fish feeders are set up on the lake to help grow the populations.
The agency is happy to have assistance from such groups as Free State Fly Fishers, said Richard Sanders, district fisheries biologist with Wildlife and Parks.
"We welcome these volunteer groups that are interested in helping out with a fish habitat project like this," he said.
The Fly Fishers recycled the materials originally used at Sunrise Garden Center, 1501 Learnard Ave. They constructed about 70 "trees" that they dropped in three different areas in the lake.
Mike Grose, the group's vice president of conservation, said fish will quickly discover the trees' appeal.
"It's like an oasis," he said. "They're immediately going to be drawn to it. Fish are going to use it for protection."
The lake is closed to fishing, but it may open as soon as Jan. 1, 2009, if the conditions and populations were right, Sanders said. Early signs indicate the underwater city is on the upswing.
"We've been doing some sampling, and the fish populations are starting to look pretty good," Sanders said.