The cold days of winter may lead to some hot fishing for crappie at many Oklahoma lakes this year, thanks to habitat improvement efforts by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Fisheries Division.
Cliff Sager, chairman of the Department’s Fish Habitat Committee and south central region fisheries biologist, said the Department manages fish attractor sites in more than 100 lakes throughout Oklahoma.
“The goal of this program is to improve angling success by creating man-made fish shelters for anglers to use,” Sager said. “When water temperatures drop, crappie tend to be less active and hold tight to the brush. Wintertime crappie fishing can be hot around standing timber and sunken brush piles.”
Fish tend to gather around the attractors during colder weather, and by fishing near these attractors, anglers are likely to improve their odds of success.
Sager said the Department constructs and refurbishes underwater fish attractors using various materials including trees, rocks, pallets, plastics or a combination of items. The Eastern red cedar tree, an invasive species in Oklahoma, is generally unwanted by landowners and is readily available. It is common for Department personnel to cut down these trees and use them at fish attractor sites.
The Department also uses artificial bush-like structures called spider blocks as fish attractors. Spider blocks are concrete blocks with eight to 10 black polyethylene pipes arrayed upward from the top, which makes them resemble a spider.
“These structures hold fish, don’t break down over time, and are virtually impossible to get a lure stuck on,” Sager said. For those reasons, spider blocks generally hold favor with fishermen and biologists alike.
During 2012, personnel with the Department’s Fisheries Division rebuilt or added underwater fish attractors in several state lakes:
- Lake Thunderbird (Oklahoma City Region): About 100 trees were placed around fish attractor sites near the dam and in the Hog Creek arm.
- Lake Elmer (Northwest Region): About 200 brush piles were installed in addition to spider blocks and larger versions called tarantula blocks.
- Lookout Lake (North Central Region): Cedar tree brush piles were placed in three locations in this 20-acre lake in Osage Hills State Park.
- Birch Lake (North Central Region): Spider blocks were placed at Twin Point East, Twin Point West and Birch Cove Ramp.
- Skiatook Lake (North Central Region): Ten brush shelters were refurbished.
- Healdton City Lake (South Central Region): All three brush pile locations were refurbished with new trees, a new brush pile was established, and all four sites were marked with buoys. The Department worked cooperatively with the Healdton Industrial Authority, which provided the trees.
- Broken Bow (Southeast Region): All 16 brush pile sites were refurbished with new trees. Eastern red cedars were removed from nearby wildlife management areas and hauled to the lake to create fish attractors. This was a win-win scenario for fish and wildlife. Also, about 160 spider blocks were added to existing attractor sites.
- Pine Creek (Southeast Region): Three sites were selected in Pine Creek Cove, and 100 spider blocks were divided among them and placed near the river channel. All three sites were marked with buoys.
- Hugo (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock north of the marina.
- Raymond Gary (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock.
- Crooked Branch Lake (Southeast Region): Spider blocks and cedar trees were added around the fishing dock.
- McAlester City Lake (Southeast Region): One brush pile was added near the campground area on the south side of the lake. The site is marked with a buoy, and anglers should be able to fish the site from boat or shore. Also, cedar trees were placed around the fishing dock.
- Clayton (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock.
- Nanih Waiya (Southeast Region): All four brush pile sites were refurbished.
- Wister (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were placed around the handicapped accessible fishing dock on Quarry Island. A cooperative project with Lake Wister State Park and Wister Public Schools will add about 200 more spider blocks to the lake this spring.
- New Spiro (Southeast Region): Two brush piles were added and marked with buoys.
- Old Spiro-Ward (Southeast Region): Spider blocks were added around the fishing dock.
- Fort Cobb (Southwest Region): Four additional vegetation enclosures were built at Fort Cobb to help establish native aquatic vegetation. This work is being conducted in three coves and covers more than an acre. Cages are built of coated steel mesh topped with wire to prevent fish and wildlife from eating the plants. This past summer, the water level dropped below the cages, but good plant recovery is anticipated.
To see a list of all state lakes where fish attractors are installed and to download GPS coordinates for those attractor sites, go online to wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/wheretofish.htm.
Fisheries personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have been working to enhance angling by disbursing spider blocks in state lakes to create fish attractor sites.
Fisheries personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation use the Fish Habitat Barge to haul cut cedar trees to refurbish a fish attractor site in one of the state’s many lakes.
Image courtesy Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation