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Rainbow Brigade : MacArthur Park Lake Stocked With Trout to Encourage Urban Anglers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

MacArthur Park’s lake, which in recent years has evolved from a noxious, waste-filled watering hole to a construction site, became a neighborhood fishing pond Wednesday when about 200 pounds of rainbow trout were released by state officials.

The planting of the 600 trout is part of a plan by the state Department of Fish and Game to encourage fishing by urban residents.

It also marked the end of a four-year project in which the lake, just west of Downtown, was drained and restored so the Metro Rail subway could be tunneled underneath.

The 14-foot-deep lake now has a concrete walkway surrounding it with catch basins that transport runoff and waste around the lake to storm drains, said Gary Schussolin, a civil engineer with the state Department of Recreation and Parks. The lake also has a pipe running along the bottom that pumps oxygen into the water to help sustain aquatic life. The improvements were part of the federally funded, $8-million Metro Rail project to run the subway below the lake.

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The lake’s center fountain shoots water 100 feet into the air, which circulates the water and also aerates it, Schussolin said.

Enrique Garcia brought his 2-year-old daughter, Lucy, to the park Wednesday to take advantage of the sunshine and watched the fish being unloaded. He said he did not believe that residents would feel comfortable coming to fish at a park that has a reputation as a hangout for the homeless and drug addicts.

“It’s cleaner now but look around you,” Garcia said, pointing to an unkempt man lying on a bench. “People know that there are still a lot of bad characters that hang around here.”

MacArthur Park is one of several urban lakes that are part of the state’s urban fishery program that plants fish to encourage the sport of fishing. The program is a result, Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Moore said, of state studies that show that people are more apt to fish at their local watering holes.

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“The main reason people don’t fish is because the fishing waters are so far away,” Moore said. “Most anglers aren’t willing to travel more than 50 miles for a day of fishing.”

So on Wednesday the trout were taken from a Fillmore hatchery to their new home that had been diligently monitored by department biologists who conducted tests for temperature, oxygen and ammonia levels.

“Trout are considered cold weather fish and cannot survive in water where the temperature is more than 72 degrees Fahrenheit,” biologist John S. Sunada said. “Right now the temperatures are running in the mid-60s.”

In the summer months, lakes are stocked with catfish, Sunada said.

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The trout, which weigh 1 to 2 pounds, joined a flock of ducks and several schools of mosquito fish that already live in MacArthur Park Lake. This is unfortunate for the mosquito fish, who are smaller than the nine-inch trout and will probably end up as the trout’s dinner.

“Trout are pretty indiscriminate eaters,” Sunada said.

Park Supt. George Stigile hopes that the program at MacArthur Park is as successful as it has been at Echo Park Lake.

“We started a couple years ago with stocking Echo Lake with trout and catfish and thousands of people turned out,” Stigile said.

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As the fish were dropped into the lake, a small crowd gathered to watch them wiggle and get adjusted to their new home. Silver Lake resident Darryl Unic stood on the water’s edge and gently pushed a few of the fish who managed to flop up on an incline as they were being released.

“The lake is beautiful,” Unic said. “A lot of people have to travel all the way to Santa Monica just to fish.”

Unic said he would come to the lake to fish.

“It helps the environment,” he said. “It just puts everything in harmony.”

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