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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

March 9, 2015DNR gives Upstate fish attractors a 'structure' makeover to enhance fishing experience

As the wake of the 2015 Bassmaster Classic settles on Lake Hartwell, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' work to enhance fish habitat continues. If you watched any of the Bassmaster Classic coverage from Lake Hartwell recently, you definitely heard commentators Dave Mercer and Mark Zona repeatedly emphasize the importance pro anglers place on underwater structure and habitat.

Daily coverage centered on storylines of Takahiri Omori fishing the "edge" of deep timber or brush piles, and Mike Iaconelli focusing on man-made bamboo piles, and numerous similar story lines. Fish love cover. Unfortunately, woody structure is often sparse in Upstate reservoirs, since most reservoirs were cleared and grubbed of woody vegetation during reservoir construction.

To combat this habitat deficiency, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Freshwater Fisheries Section has maintained fish concentration sites (or attractors) in reservoirs for decades, according to Mike Wilson, DNR Upstate fisheries technician. The attractors enhance the recreational fishing experience for South Carolina anglers by concentrating fish. Fish attractors are often created using discarded Christmas trees. These "brush piles" or other structures also provide suitable habitat and surface area for aquatic insects and other organisms (zooplankton, algae, and other plant life) that attach to the attractor material and serve as food for fish.

“The major challenges with attractors made of Christmas trees have been the difficulty in getting trees to stand upright along with the relatively fast deterioration rate, requiring annual refurbishment,” Wilson said. DNR has also experimented with various PVC structures over the years, which tend to be much more expensive. Follow-up dive observations by DNR staff indicate that while very durable, these more permanent plastic structures may not be as effective at concentrating fish as natural woody attractors.

Beginning in 2014, Wilson, Joey Hazel, and other Upstate fisheries technicians began experimenting with the use of bamboo structures for fish attractors in several Upstate lakes including Greenwood, Hartwell, Secession and Edwin Johnson. Bamboo is strong and resilient, which means it will last longer than recycled Christmas trees.

"We estimate the bamboo structures will likely provide good habitat for five to 10 years or more before having to be refurbished,” Wilson said. "Bamboo also has hollow internodal regions, which means the top of the sunken fish attractors float or stand in an upright position.” This property of bamboo maximizes the structural complexity of the created fish habitat.

Upstate fisheries technicians just completed the construction and deployment of 186 bamboo fish attractors in four Upstate lakes. Future plans are to incorporate more bamboo attractors on other lakes. Large bamboo structures are also being incorporated into the large-scale Lake Hartwell Fish Habitat Enhancement project.

All DNR fish attractor sites are marked with a distinct yellow buoy with the silhouette of a fish. GPS coordinates and maps of DNR fish attractor sites can be found on the DNR's website.

Whether you are a Bassmaster pro chasing a $300,000 payday or merely a crappie angler with a bucket full of minnows, anticipating fried fillets for supper, DNR fish attractors are a great place to wet a line. The newly constructed bamboo attractors in Upstate lakes should make fishing a DNR fish concentration area all the more fruitful.

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