Restoring habitat with Fish Attractors and Brush Piles


With our reservoirs aging and the depletion of cover, whether is from yearly water level changes, decay or erosion as anglers we can help.  Before you say it, I’ve heard all the excuses not to build brush piles or fish attractors and not one of them hold water.  The best excuses include: Billy Bob with the four Humminbird 1199 super HD/SI units will find my brushpile…this from the guy who had the same tricked out boat plus an underwater camera! Next best excuse was:  That’s the job of the fisheries guys…with limited workers they can only do so much and lakes get by-passed.   Several Bass Clubs and small groups of anglers have already joined with federal, state and local officials to restore and improve our lakes with great success.    I submit to you that we all help in order to ensure future generations of anglers can enjoy our lakes as we have.

Bass, Crappie, Sunfish and many more will use brush piles throughout the year and will not only increase your chances of a good stringer of fish, but will improve the overall health of your fishery.   First, I recommend you get help…placing brush piles is a lot of work.   Talk to three or four friends or better yet make it a yearly club event on your home lake.   Second, do your research and/or coordinate efforts will local wildlife resource agencies, dock owners and property owners.  A great example is the tree cutting and habitat project which Big Shanty Bassmasters partnered with the Corp of Engineers and GADNR on Altoona Lake located in North Georgia completes each year, which not only provides good habitat but helps stop bank erosion as well.

Ensure attractors under docks are secured in place and do not cause hazards Use multiple types of materials (Christams trees and Hardwood) when building attractors

What makes a good brush pile? Foremost is location, brush piles do not manufacture fish, the best locations have an existing population of fish in the area.  Docks, just outside spawning areas, creek channel bends and channel ledges are some good starting places. Depth of water is another consideration; I suggest placing brush pile at several depths in the same area ranging from couple of feet down to 25 or 30 foot of water. Second is material, it’s a good practice to use several different materials in the same “Brushpile”.  A good example would be two Christmas trees with hardwood between them or a PVC attractor such as the porcupine fish attractors.   If using Christmas Trees, prune several of the limbs out of them leaving room for a fish to get between the branches, providing an ambush position.  Furthermore, most people believe Christmas tree should be vertical in position, however I personally like to mix it up and will place a few lying flat sided.

Before sinking/placing a tree think about getting hung up in it. Trim all the twigs and smaller limbs. The more forks it has the better. Point the treetop towards where you’ll be fishing from.  Use plenty of anchor weight, tie several concrete block to the underside of the trunk/tree to keep it up off the bottom.  When securing the tree/brush please use a heavy gauge wire and tie it tight.

Lastly, Stack beds such as those found on Kentucky Lake, Percy Priest, Tims Ford Lake and many other have been a great success.  They provide cover and spawning areas for all types of game fish as well as food sources such as shad and crawfish. Stack beds are mainly made of 2×2 material driven in to the bottom of the lake.  These are spaced 6 to 8 inches apart and average 2 to 4 foot in height once driven in.  If the lake bottom prevents driving the stacks build them with cross members at the bottom and use a concrete block to hold it in place.

Here is some general guidelines which almost every fisheries biologist I talked to provided:

  1. Contact your local fisheries biologist for advice and assistance
  2. Use different types of material in the same brushpile.
  3. Never use treated or painted lumber
  4. Ensure your brushpile is secure and will not float or move around
  5. When placing brush around docks, take other water activities in to consideration. Place the brush well under the dock or well outside swim areas
  6. When using Christmas Trees, prune a few limbs from the center
  7. Place brush piles at several depths, this will help keep fish in the area
  8. Never place brush piles by yourself…have a buddy with you accidents happen

The next time you or your local bass/crappie club are looking for a community project, may I submit that you get with your local fisheries agencies and put a plan together for some lake restoration projects.

Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed professional fishing guide on Lake Guntersville and Tim’s Ford Lake; to reserve your “Day on the Lake” visit or call/email 615-613-2382,