Fish Attractor (Habitat Enhancement) Program
As East Tennessee's reservoirs age, they slowly lose the natural woody debris that serves as refuge and spawning habitat for fish. Some of our reservoirs, like Norris, are more than 70 years old and have lost all their woody debris. Other reservoirs, such as Tellico, still contain a significant amount of underwater structure. The TWRA established a fish attractor program in the 1980s to introduce artificial and natural structures back into these aging reservoirs.
A wide variety of fish attractors have been used over the years. Brush piles that are anchored to the ground and made of cedar and hardwood trees are the most commonly installed and are used by a wide variety of game fish. Stake beds have been constructed to provide habitat for crappie, and spawning benches have been built to create nursery habitat for smallmouth bass. These wooden structures work well for a few years, but must continually be refurbished to retain their effectiveness.
Live plantings with bald cypress and black willow trees have been established in draw-down areas to create additional, long lasting habitat. The possibility of growing button bush in nurseries and transplanting into reservoirs is being examined.
Shoreline seeding of grasses during the winter draw-down has the potential of creating spawning habitat and cover for young fish. Seeding has been successful in some areas, but inconsistent water levels have rendered most shoreline seeding projects impractical. Many of our reservoirs fluctuate 30-40 feet between summer full pool and the winter draw-down. This presents a serious challenge to the establishment of vegetation.
Following are pictures of fish attractors that have been established in local reservoirs. This is very labor intensive work and Region IV has only two individuals assigned to the program. Volunteers are encouraged to contact Russell Young at (423) 587-7037 or (800) 332-0900, extension 250, for the current work schedule.
Region IV's Fish Habitat Personnel work with Girl Scouts:
TWRA's East Tennessee Fish Habitat Enhancement Crew worked with a troop of Girl Scouts during a four week period in June and July of 2007. Together they constructed an impressive 320 structures within eight days! Eighty units were placed in Tellico, Fort Loudoun, Melton Hill, and Fort Patrick Henry Reservoirs.
The "fish attractors" were constructed out of 4- and 8-inch corrugated drain tile, formed into a "stump-like" structures, and anchored down with cement blocks. The habitat is designed to create spawning habitat for adult fish species such as bass and crappie and will later serve as a refuge for their young against predators.