ABILENE - Christmas came early for â€śBig Countryâ€ť anglers this year as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries staff and the local Friends of Reservoirs organization, the Still Waters Bass Club, partnered up to place 150 donated Christmas trees as fish attractors Jan. 28 in the Stamford Reservoir near Abilene.
Recycled Christmas trees are often used as fish attractors because the small spaces between the limbs provide cover for small prey fish, which attracts larger sport fish like largemouth bass and crappie. Anglers use the locations of these fish attractors to find the best concentrations of sport fish in their lake.
â€śThe goal is to give our anglers the opportunity to catch more fish,â€ť said TPWD Inland Fisheries (Abilene District) Assistant Biologist Natalie Goldstrohm. â€śAnd itâ€™s really great because if youâ€™re new to town or new to the lake and youâ€™re looking for an opportunity to go fishing and youâ€™re not quite sure where to go, if you look at the TPWD web site you will find places around the reservoir that you know are good spots.â€ť
While natural and artificial fish attractors can benefit a variety of Texas fisheries, Goldstrohm said recent drought and a golden algae fish kill made Stamford Reservoir a special case in need of assistance.
â€śWhen the lake was so low, we saw that there wasnâ€™t a ton of habitat in some of the lower water depths,â€ť Goldstrohm said. â€śSo it was really important to us to focus on Stamford Reservoir, not only to rebuild the fishery and to make sure that we stock fish back into the reservoir, but to also add a little bit of habitat so if it did get down five to ten feet again that there would be some places that our anglers could go and still be able to fish some brush piles.â€ť
After the holiday season, TPWD staff and the bass club sourced the trees from local vendors, who donated what they didnâ€™t sell after Christmas. Members of the bass club also worked with local businesses to gather enough cinder blocks to help sink the Christmas trees in the marked locations and help them stay put.
Before dropping trees in the lake, TPWD staff first surveyed the best locations for the brush piles by identifying 15 spots with the ideal depth of between 13-23 feet; gentle slope to avoid the trees moving from their specified locations; limited natural habitat; and safe locations on the lake that will benefit tournament and recreational anglers.
Tying 150 Christmas trees to 75 cinder blocks and delivering them to 15 locations on the lake by boat was no easy task, and the bass club helped provide the vitally important manpower necessary to get the job done.
â€śWeâ€™ve partnered with the Still Waters Bass Club for the last three years doing habitat enhancement projects,â€ť Goldstrohm said. â€śOur partnership is growing every year, and it is really important because itâ€™s difficult for us to do these large scale projects by ourselves, and because it gives us extra opportunities and connections that we might not normally have otherwise.â€ť
Still Waters Bass Club President Eric Seaton said giving back is part of their mission to improve local fisheries and give people the opportunity to have great places to fish.
â€śWe have done several efforts like this with TPWD over the years,â€ť Seaton said. â€śOur guys enjoy doing these projects, they enjoy giving back to the fisheries, and they want to take care of the environment and be responsible stewards of it."
GPS marked locations for the fish attractors on Stamford Reservoir will be updated within two weeks. These fish attractor locations and others in Texas lakes can be found at http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/recreational/lakes/fish_attractors.phtml, or to learn more about Friends of Reservoirs visit www.waterhabitatlife.org .
To watch video of the project on Youtube, visit: https://youtu.be/neA0awn5iPU.