Outdoors

Discarded Christmas trees make excellent cover for all types of fish in any lake.

Charles Johnson/The Anniston Star

There are options anglers can take to add or improve cover in any lake. Sure, there is some effort involved along with a little planning. However, the benefits are worth it. And knowing exactly where the structure has been planted can help improve the odds of catching fish.

Fish prefer some type of cover. Bass, crappie bream and catfish all feel at home around cover. This cover or structure is usually a log, brush stump or weeds. But, what if the cover in your lake has succumbed to Father Time?

For years, anglers have sunk brush into lakes and rivers. Usually, it is a Christmas tree recycled into a fish attractor anchored to the lake bottom. In recent years, sinking old trees for making fish attractors has become common. There are volunteers with Alabama Power Company who collect discarded Christmas trees and place them in reservoirs around the state.

Start off simple

Many lakeside residents will take their tree and sink it near their pier or shoreline for a fish attractor. A concrete block or a few bricks are tied around the tree base and released in the lake. The weight of the block causes the tree to sink to the bottom.

In some lakes it may only be a matter of hours before minnows and fish call the new cover home. Usually after a few days, fish will locate and take up residence in the tree. However, there are other methods of using one or more old Christmas trees for making fish attractors.

“We would tie the trees to the posts on our dock,” said Terry Scott of Eastaboga. “The trees would be tied vertically, usually on the corner posts of the dock.”

Scott said they would fish the trees by dropping a minnow of other bait vertically next to the tree. An advantage of the trees tied to the pier support is they won’t drift off with current. Also, other anglers fishing from a boat would not be able to pull the trees away from the dock.

Most Christmas trees are some type of evergreen tree. Spruce, cedar, pine and others are common and work fine as fish attractors. These trees are generally around six feet high. For use as fish attractors the trees can be cut or trimmed to a shorter length. This allows for easier handling and less weight required to sink them to the bottom.

Another simple method for making fish attractors with trees is using hardwood tree limbs. Oak and hickory lose their leaves in the winter. The bare branches can be placed through the openings of a concrete block and easily dropped into the lake.

“Oak trees will last longer,” said Jeff Carpenter of Wedowee. “We will place three of four trees together off the end of a point.”

The tree trunk is inserted through the block allowing the tree to rest about 12 to 18  inches off the lake bottom. Anglers may want the limbs or small trees to be vertical once in place on the bottom.

One method to help the tree stand vertically is to place the tree trunk or large limb into the block and nail or screw a board on the back of the block to hold the tree to the block. When the block and tree is dropped into the lake the block will sit on the bottom with the tree vertically.

Trees more than a few feet tall may require two or more blocks or other types of weights to hold them down on the bottom. Some anglers may tie an empty two-liter soft drink bottle to the tree tip to help hold the tree vertical.

Building materials

Another popular fish attractor uses PVC water pipe placed in a five-gallon plastic bucket with concrete. The PVC pipe is cut in various lengths from around three to five feet. As many as 10 or more pieces of pipe are used to make a “bushy” type attractor.

An alternate method, using PVC pipe for construction, consists of a 3- inch diameter pipe about 5- feet in length. One-inch diameter holes are drilled in the main pipe at 90- degree angles. The smaller diameter plastic pipe fingers around two to three feet are inserted through the holes and glued in place.

An advantage of either of these PVC trees, besides attracting fish, is they are almost impossible to hang up with a lure. Jigs and crankbaits will bounce off the PVC making a tick or thump to trigger a strike.

Wooden pallets can be easily transformed into a fish attractor. One method uses small trees or limbs that are nailed or screwed to the pallet. Starting on the corners, add the small tees. Continue to add limb and branches to the center portion of the pallet. A couple of large concrete blocks in the center should send the pallet to the bottom.

Scott mentions on lakes with winter drawdown, pallets can be placed out away from piers and docks. Also, they can be anchored out on points or long flats. When the water level returns to normal pool, the fish attractors will already be in place.

“We place about three or four tree tops or brush piles several feet apart in the same area around the lake,” Scott said.

Location

In lakes that are void of any type of submerged cover, fish attractors will work just about anywhere. However, there are some specific areas that will help the fish structure be more effective.

“Points near deeper water has worked for us,” Carpenter said. “We try to place them where it is difficult for other fishermen to find them.”

Barren flats are another top choice for placing fish attractors. Fish are looking for something to hide or relate to in open water. Also, areas where you have caught fish in the past, but now has limited cover are good areas to place fish attractors.

While most anglers will place attractors in water 10 feet or less, deeper pockets or creeks can benefit. When the hot days of summer invade the lake, attractors in the 15- to 20-foot range will harbor several species of fish. You will want to avoid areas with strong current. The attractors will slide or move around in the current if they are not weighted down heavily enough.

There is some planning and a little work involved in setting out fish brush tops and trees to make attractors. But, overall, old Christmas trees and brush tops will give all types of fish a new home in the lake.

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at  charjohn@cableone.net.