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Local Lakes Get Home Makeover

by Chris Smith
Senior Fisheries Biologist
April, 2006

Long ago anglers realized the benefits of adding brush piles to lakes. Brush piles turn good fishing spots into great fishing spots. It's like adding butter to bread, honey to tea, or tartar sauce to fish. Similar to marine artificial reefs, freshwater artificial habitats increase habitat and increase angler catch rates. Species such as largemouth bass, black crappies, sunfish and catfish benefit from the added cover provided by a strategically placed evergreen tree. Unfortunately, anglers secretly deploy many artificial habitats in early morning hours or at night to keep their spots a secret.

The introduction of artificial habitats into a waterbody is a proven method for increasing favorable fish habitat and increasing angler catch rates. The Division of Fish and Wildlife has cooperatively worked with local-fishing organizations to enhance the habitat in many of New Jersey's lakes, ponds, and reservoirs for many years.

This cooperative effort has greatly enhanced fishing opportunities and fishing success at many public lakes throughout the state. The locations of artificial habitats are public information and have been mapped with GPS coordinates.

Christmas trees are delivered at Lake Assunpink
Christmas trees are delivered at Lake Assunpink
Click to enlarge

Recent projects have been completed at Union Lake, DOD Lake, Parvin State Park, Spruce Run Reservoir, and Lake Hopatcong. Though many anglers reap the benefits of these artificial habitat projects few truly understand what is involved in completing such a project. The Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries recently completed three habitat projects at Assunpink Lake, Stone Tavern Lake, and Mercer Lake working in collaboration with local fishing clubs and municipal and county agencies.

Assunpink Lake

The Rising Sun Bassmasters worked with the Township of Hamilton in collecting and delivering over 100 Christmas trees to the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area. The members of Rising Sun Bassmasters recognized and thanked Mayor Glen Gilmore and public works director Richard Bowgowan for their contributions and assistance with the habitat project.
Rising Sun Bassmasters volunteers prepare trees
Rising Sun Bassmasters volunteers prepare trees
Click to enlarge

On Saturday, March 11, about 15 members of the Rising Sun Bassmasters with the assistance of two members of the Five Alive Bassmasters completed a habitat project at Assunpink Lake.

The bass anglers prepared and deployed over 100 Christmas trees in Assunpink Lake. Habitat structures were placed in seven locations in the deeper section of the lake close to the creek channel. A list of GPS coordinates is provided in the table below.

Assunpink Lake
Site # Habitat Coordinates
1 40o 13' 2.52" N 74o 30' 47.16" W
2 40o 13' 4.14" N 74o 31' 14.58" W
3 40o 13' 2.28" N 74o 31' 13.32" W
4 40o 13' 1.14" N 74o 31' 13.80" W
5 40o 13' 0.84" N 74o 30' 47.40" W
6 40o 13' 10.74" N 74o 30' 12.90" W
7 40o 13' 0.54" N 74o 31' 5.22" W
Deploying tree in Assunpink Lake
Click to enlarge

Stone Tavern Lake

The Bucketmouth Brigade Bassin' Team was on board for another artificial habitat project with the Division on the weekend of March 11 and 12. This club has assisted numerous times in the past with projects at Parvin Lake, Cooper River Lake, DOD Lake and Rainbow Lake. This time around, Club President Tim Roach, said his club really wanted to get involved with more habitat projects. And get involved they did. Bucketmouth Brigade completed not only one but two habitat projects at Stone Tavern Lake and Mercer Lake.

A total of 45 trees were collected by members of the club and stored at the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area. Five members of the club deployed these trees in Stone Tavern Lake, on Saturday, March 11. Trees were placed in four locations in proximity to deeper water near drop-offs. Coordinates are listed below.
Stone Tavern Lake
Site # Habitat Coordinates
1 40o 11' 48.0" N 74o 29' 01.6" W
2 40o 11' 50.0" N 74o 29' 04.7" W
3 40o 12' 03.0" N 74o 29' 06.7" W
4 40o 11' 51.1" N 74o 29' 09.6" W
Bucketmouth Brigade volunteer deploys trees
Bucketmouth Brigade volunteer deploys trees
Click to enlarge

Mercer Lake

The Mercer County Parks Department in early 2005 initiated the Mercer Lake habitat project with a letter of interest to the Division of Fish and Wildlife. This project came to fruition on the weekend of March 11 and 12 when the Bucketmouth Brigade in cooperation with the Division of Fish and Wildlife deployed over 250 Christmas trees in Mercer Lake. All trees were collected and transported through the Mercer County Park Department.

Bucketmouth Brigade started working on the afternoon of March 11 and finished in the rain on March 12. Seven dedicated members of the club were present to prepare and deploy all the trees in Mercer Lake. The habitat devices were scattered among six predetermined locations. Locations were selected based on seasonal migrations of warmwater fish and the fixed crew-rowing course.

One member of Bucketmouth Brigade Club supplied and delivered over 350 concrete blocks to the Assunpink WMA and Mercer Lake. Concrete blocks were used as weights to keep the trees on the bottom. GPS coordinates are provided in the table below.
Mercer Lake
Site # Habitat Coordinates
1 40o 16' 07.7" N 74o 38' 46.3" W
2 40o 16' 07.9" N 74o 38' 31.1" W
3 40o 16' 10.0" N 74o 39' 09.7" W
4 40o 16' 02.9" N 74o 39' 15.1" W
5 40o 15' 56.7" N 74o 39' 28.7" W
6 40o 16' 09.7" N 74o 38' 54.6" W

*For maps of all three locations, please send a self addressed stamped envelope to:

NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries
220 Blue Anchor Rd.
Sicklerville, NJ 08081


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Last Updated: April 12, 2006