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Make a habitat complex for easy fishing success
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The life of a fish is more complicated than most people realize. It needs places to hide from predators, ambush prey, spawn and guard young fish, and just loaf and relax.
These needs will constantly change throughout the fish’s life. To make it more confusing, each species may have completely different needs. Actually, it’s much simpler than it appears, as long as you remember one simple truth. It is not about the fish; it is about you.
Design fish habitats with your preferences in mind. We use habitats to attract and concentrate fish into a known area so that we can catch them. With this basic truth in mind, we can begin to understand how to plan habitats for fishing.
First, the habitat should be accessible to the angler. Bank and pier anglers appreciate habitats within casting distance. Placing habitat structures under and within casting distance of piers is a good way to improve catch rates.
Use gravel bedding areas to attract adult bream during the spawning season. Usually, beds are placed in frames of bricks or treated lumber in water 3-5 feet deep. Spread pea-sized gravel at a thickness of at least 3 inches. Feeders placed near these beds further attract fish, making for an enjoyable and successful angling experience.
Place fish attractors in strategic areas further offshore, such as near humps, creek channels or drop offs. Placing several structures in one spot is better than spreading out individual structures. Be creative. Use rock piles, tree tops and artificial fish attractors to create a playground for fish. Christmas trees are not the best choice because they decompose rapidly and can make fishing difficult. However, heavy-branched hardwoods can be very effective. Commercially available artificial habitats are relatively snagproof, and most people believe they are as effective at attracting fish as a natural habitat.
Well-placed, complex fish habitats bring fish together so that they are easier to locate. Creating a complex habitat by placing multiple structures together can be very effective in enticing fish. This approach can concentrate a lot of fish in a very small area.
A common mistake is to leave too much habitat, namely trees, stumps and brush, in a pond or lake basin during construction. If excellent habitat is everywhere, the fish spread throughout the lake and become hard to find. Creating a complex habitat by placing multiple structures together can entice fish to move in, concentrating a lot of fish in a very small area.
In a 10-acre lake, consider making five really good, complex habitat areas that cover about 1 acre in total. Each area would have a combination of three or more rock piles, brush piles and artificial fish attractors placed in water from 5-10 feet deep, with close access to shallower and deeper waters. Points, where two bodies of water meet, or other bottom contour would be ideal in or near creek channels.
The great part about not having too much habitat is that it makes deciding where to fish a whole lot easier. I would not have to stress about where to fish because I could easily fish all five of my “lunker bunkers” in a day’s excursion. Because they are few and far between, at least one is bound to hold fish.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.