It looks like this is a great time to go fishing in East Bay Regional Park District lakes, and here's why: the park district has just planted more rainbow trout than ever before.

In December. the district added a total of 23,000 pounds of rainbow to five of its lakes: Del Valle, south of Livermore, Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton, Quarry Lakes in Fremont, Lake Chabot in Castro Valley and Lake Temescal in Oakland. Of this total, 17,000 pounds of fish were provided by the district and another 6,000 pounds by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. They must be swimming fin-to-fin out there.

In order to fish at district lakes, anglers age 16 or older must possess a state fishing license. These are generally available at sporting goods stores. You must also purchase a $5 daily park district fishing access permit. These are sold at park kiosks and marinas. Anglers age 15 and younger do not need a state license or park district permit and can fish for free. And all ages can fish for free from piers on San Francisco Bay -- it's a state law. Piers where you can fish for free on the Bay include those at Pt. Pinole in Richmond and Carquinez Shoreline between Crockett and Martinez. The usual limits still apply. All proceeds from sale of fishing access permits are used to help pay for planting more fish.

Anglers should be aware of a temporary situation at Contra Loma Reservoir in Antioch. Contra Costa Water District has lowered the reservoir for vegetation management and gauge installation. The reservoir is being lowered to 188 feet from its maximum elevation of nearly 205 feet. Tule and other vegetation will be controlled, and the gauge will be installed near the dam. Completion of this work is expected by the end of January, and the reservoir level will be restored. Until the water level rises again, it won't be possible to plant game fish at Contra Loma. For further information contact Gina Oltman at Contra Costa Water District, 925-688-8010.

For full information on park district fishing regulations, fish plant schedules and reports on where the fish are biting, check the district's Anglers' Edge newsletter online at www.ebparks.org. You can also call 888-327-2757.

MLK DAY ACTIVITIES: Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the late civil rights leader. In observance of the holiday, the park district plans its fourth annual Day of Service at King Shoreline in Oakland. The theme is to continue King's vision to improve lives, bridge social barriers and build community.

From 8:30 a.m. to noon, volunteers will assist park district staff in habitat restoration work and removal of trash and invasive plants from the shoreline. Volunteers will meet at the Oak Port athletic field, 5737 Oakport St., Oakland. Wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothes and closed-toed shoes. Bring your own refillable water bottle. Heavy rain cancels. Registration is required. To register, call 888-327-2757. For more information and online registration, visit the park district website at www.ebparks.org and click on "Martin Luther King Day of Service 2013" on the right side of the home page.

TILDEN: The natural world has inspired some supernatural tales. Naturalist James Wilson will tell some of them -- stories of gnomes, lake monsters and fairies -- during a short hike from 10:30 a.m. to noon Sunday at the Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley.

And ferns will be the focus of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. the same day, hosted by naturalist aide Morgan Rani Evans. Morgan will discuss the various kinds of ferns that grow in the nature area and show how to identify them. Both programs are free of charge and start at the Environmental Education Center, located at the north end of Tilden's Central Park Drive. For more information, call 510-544-2233.

Work by members of the local Guild of Natural Science Illustrators is on exhibit from now through Sunday, Feb. 28 at the center, featuring flowers and animals of the regional parks and beyond. You can meet the artists themselves during a reception at the center from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Light refreshments will be served. The center's hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and it is closed Mondays and holidays.

BRIONES: The Over-the-Hills Gang will take on Briones Regional Park during a steep hike to some newt ponds from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, led by supervising naturalist Dave Zuckermann. The gang is informal, comprising hikers 55 and older interested in natural history and fitness. For the Briones hike, meet Dave at the park's entrance on Bear Creek Road about five miles east of San Pablo Dam Road in Orinda Village. For information, call 510-544-2233.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MS. SNAKE: There's an unusual birthday party planned from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. It's for Ronda, the park's rattlesnake in residence, who has been part of the natural history programs there for 22 years.

Nobody knows exactly how old Ronda is, but she was found on the park's Chaparral Loop Trail in January 1991, and she's been on staff ever since, giving park visitors a close-up view of her species.

The program is for ages 8 and older, and the emcee is naturalist Bob Kanagaki. He'll show off Ronda at Black Diamond Mines' uppermost parking lot. It's at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4. There's a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended.

TARANTULAS: Tarantulas, those furry and unjustifiably frightening arachnids, will be the stars of a program from 1 to 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County, hosted by Adrian Anthony, interpretive student aide.

Adrian will talk about the spiders' secluded life cycle and annual autumn venture in search of mates. The program includes fun crafting. It's free, but registration is required. To register, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 1168.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.