Creating Fish holding habitat

Article and images by Bill Byrd, Jr.

Each year I always enjoy getting the perfect LIVE Christmas tree, bringing it home, cutting the base, trimming the lower branches, levelling it in the base, and decorating that beautiful tree until it is just so! We have so many ornaments with so many special memories attached to them.

This year's tree was a marvel. We bought it the first week of December and it never starting dropping needles. I actually removed it from its stand on January 14th. I decided to let my finny friends enjoy it for two or three years by sinking it in a favorite lake.

Each year when Christmas has come and gone I think about improving the fish holding cover in the lakes where I fish. Unless a lake is just full of natural cover to hide fish fry, growing but small fingerlings, and the small fish trying to become BIG fish, a body of water can benefit from adding various configurations of tree cover. Most lakes are devoid of good, fish protecting cover.

The very day I began writing this article I fished from 12:30PM to 4:15PM at Enchanted Lake, a prviate lake owned by a dear friend. While fishing I probed all the woody cover VERY thoroughly. With a water temp of 49F to 53.5F fish action was NOT HOT, but I found fish relating to breaklines and especially to woody cover! On one tree I caught 4 big bluegills and two bass in five minutes with a small heavily weighted streamer. There was a fish or more in each sparse collection of woody cover.

In addition to trees you may sink wooden pallets and tires, but tires being dropped into a lake will usually be considered more like garbage being dropped into the lake. Clean rubber tires do make good small fish and forage food hiding places.

Personally I dislike pallets because they tend to catch flies and snap rodtips off if you have a short mental lapse while retrieving your fly. Breaking a $500.00 fly rod to save a $2.50 fly is not good economics! Waiting for the rod repair is a true inconvenience.

So this year -- yes I was late starting -- I went drove over in mid January to the Fire Station to get the last trees dropped for recycling. What you see is the first load of trees (image right). The total was 12 trees from the Fire station and my own tree made 13. I have enough to make a difference.

While I was driving there I remembered all those Christmas tree lots and nurseries that still had trees left after Christmas tree buying was over this year -- but I didn't go and ask for some trees right after Christmas. Next year I'll take my pickup and trailer and I bet I can get good trees for the price of just hauling them off.

An assortment of trees is a good idea. Get some tall and some short ones. It gives you options when planning placement. If the trees still have tree lights and ornaments are still attached, take them off and chunk them. We only need tree structure here. Then some concrete blocks, some long lasting rope, and some imagination, and we're ready to plan where to sink them in our favorite ponds or lakes.

In shallow waters try laying the trees down horizontally. In deeper waters try sinking tree bundles vertically.

For more information on pond management please click on: Georgia DNR Management website.

For more very useful information on building fish attractors and habitat please click on: UGA Forestry Website.