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Posted 4/1/2013

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By Keving Wright, Carr Creek Lake

During January and February, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife biologists and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rangers were busy with habitat enhancement projects at lakes across Kentucky. Although these two months are typically the coldest of the year they are also prime months for these kinds of projects because the lakes have been drawn down to winter pool levels making the shoreline that is normally under water at summer pool more accessible.

Each year, Carr Creek Lake, Sassafras, Ky., hosts a drop-off point for Christmas trees in the back parking lot of the marina. Rather than having their Christmas trees hauled away or burned, local residents can donate their expired Christmas trees to be used as fish attractors, benefiting the fish populations in the lake.

These fish attractors serve several important purposes. First, they provide suitable habitat for important fish species such as largemouth bass, white and black crappie, bluegill, redear and catfish. Second, the fish attractor sites will concentrate fish in one location for increased angler success.

Last, but certainly not least, these fish attractor sites increase efficiency of electrofishing by Fish and Wildlife biologists. Electrofishing uses electricity in water to capture fish and is a commonly used method to sample and evaluate fish populations. Carr Creek Lake is one of four Kentucky lakes involved in a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife study using electrofishing to determine the impacts of stocking the lakes with white crappie. By concentrating fish around attractor sites, Fish and Wildlife biologists and technicians can greatly reduce staffing hours required to conduct sampling.

The construction of these Christmas tree fish attractors usually consists of one or more trees tied together and attached to concrete blocks, placed in areas devoid of suitable habitat. Ideal sites for placing deep water fish attractors include sloping points, near creek channel drop-offs, and on deeper flats. Along with these deep water sites, shallow water fish attractor and spawning sites are installed. Shallow fish attractor sites are usually located along exposed mud flats that will provide anywhere from two to five feet of water once the lake reaches summer pool elevations in late spring/early summer.

This year, Kentucky Fisheries Biologist Kevin Frey and his staff along with Corps Ranger Dakota Kendall used 102 donated Christmas trees to refurbish seven existing fish attractors and created two new attractors at Carr Creek Lake. A large amount of effort goes into these habitat enhancement projects, all with the goal to increase angler catch rates and provide suitable spawning habitat for sport fish.

For any fishermen interested in the locations of fish attractors at Carr Creek Lake or another lake you can find the information at http://fw.ky.gov/navigation.aspx?cid=1027&navpath=C110

Originally appeared in Falls City Engineer, March/April 2013