Creating Habitat Is A Good Off Season Practice

Upstate Outdoors
January 25, 2019 - 2:41 pm

Phillip Gentry

In the eyes of fishermen, the tradition of sinking the holiday Christmas tree in a location that will create habitat for fish is second only to the celebration of the Holidays themselves. Now is the time of year when decorations come down and the family Christmas tree is relegated to the curb for disposal. Rather than crowd the landfill, area residents can benefit fish and wildlife, and themselves, by using discarded Christmas trees or fallen limbs from recent storms to provide habitat for fish and other wildlife.

Many anglers make it a regular winter routine when fishing slows down to start creating habitat that will hold fish when the weather and waters start to warm back up. The benefit of creating aquatic habitat is that you know where to go find them when you want to catch them most any time of year, but it also benefits the fish too.

While most dock owners will obviously place structure around their own docks, anglers who want to consistently catch fish off of planted structure all 12 months of the year need to understand seasonal movements of the fish they’re after.

If you regularly fish big impoundment lakes like Hartwell, Keowee, and Clarks Hill, the two primary species that you’re most likely to attract with planted structure are black bass and crappie.

Bass and crappie, both members of the sunfish family, are more structure oriented than other species. These two fish migrate on a seasonal basis so it makes sense to plant structure in deep, shallow and intermediate depths if you intend to target them year round.

During seasonal migrations, sunfish favor specific routes when moving from deep water to shallow. These routes may be channel edges, ditches, or break lines, any changes in bottom contour that lead in and out of depth changes. Placing planted structure along one of these routes, for instance the edge of a creek channel that leads from the main lake to a spawning flat in the back of the creek, can be an instant hot spot, especially if the area is lacking or there is limited other cover in the vicinity.

Planted structure generally falls within three categories, brush tops, stakes, or commercially produced structure. Brush tops are any form of naturally occurring woody cover, like Christmas trees, and also includes fallen or cut tree limbs or small trees.

Wooden stakes or poles are driven into the bottom in a bed pattern or stakes can be attached to a wooden frame before sinking. Straight, wooden stakes won’t cause as many hang-ups when fished compared to tangled woody cover.

Commercially made attractors range from homemade PVC pipe structures to intricate tree imitations made from materials that will probably outlast the angler who placed it there.

Regulations regarding the placing of structure are pretty common sense. Game wardens don’t want you creating a boating hazard so make sure there’s enough water to cover the structure to keep from impeding boat traffic.

The cutting of live trees from adjacent land, including Corps land, is illegal. If you’re out for a day of making brush piles, it’s best if you provide your own brush. Regardless, best to check with local authorities to make sure your activities aren’t breaking the law.


Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM or online at This week, the show will be broadcast live from the Upstate SC Boat Show at the Greenville Convention Center.


Photo Caption – Creating aquatic habitat insures better fishing spots during the spring and into the future. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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