Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
From Trash to Fish Habitat: Carterville Staff Helps with the 2013 Brush Pile Drop at Crab Orchard Lake
Midwest Region, March 25, 2013
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This past February staff from the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) took part in the annual brush pile drop at Crab Orchard Lake. At 7,000 acres, Crab Orchard Lake is the largest of three reservoirs located within the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in southern Illinois. The lake is popular with local anglers for its healthy populations of sport fish; bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass are the most commonly targeted species.

The benefit of dropping brush piles in Crab Orchard Lakes is twofold. The brush piles provide needed underwater structure, which fish utilize as feeding grounds and as shelter to avoid predators. Without sufficient structure in a lake, fish can be difficult to locate, leading to poor fishing. The placements of brush piles provide more fish habitat which can help strengthen the Crab Orchard fishery. They also help to concentrate fish, making it easier for anglers to locate and catch fish. Aside from enhancing fish habitat, the annual brush pile drop also provides an outlet to recycle discarded Christmas trees. Each year the Illinois DNR accepts old trees from the public (as well as unsold trees donated by local retailers) and helps to keep out of area landfills by turning them into fish habitat.

Carterville FWCO staff teamed up with the Illinois DNR, as well as with local volunteers, to construct brush piles by attaching cinder blocks to bundles of discarded trees with wire. After being loaded on to boats, the brush piles were dropped at predetermined locations throughout the lake. While these fish attracting structures can be easily found by boaters with depth/fish finders, the Illinois DNR maintains maps which are updated annually. Pinpointing the brush pile locations, these maps are provided to the public free of charge. Shore anglers were also considered, as many brush piles were placed within casting distance of accessible shore fishing spots. The annual brush pile drop at Crab Orchard Lake is great example of the re-purposing of items otherwise destined for the dump, giving a second life to discarded trees as cost-effective habitat enhancement and structure for fish. The annual event also highlights how federal and state resource agencies can join forces with the public to enhance our natural resources.

Contact Info: Jose Rivera, 618-997-6869, jose_rivera@fws.gov
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