Christmas for the Fishes
On January 14, Region 3 Wildlife Resources Bureau aquatic resources staff participated in the annual “Christmas for the Fishes” Habitat Project with Claytor Lake State Park staff, local nonprofit Friends of Claytor Lake, the New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program, and Appalachian Power Company at Claytor Lake State Park. Over 250 donated Christmas trees were tied to concrete blocks and sunk at 3 deepwater fish reef sites in Claytor Lake adjacent to the state park. Claytor Lake State Park coordinates Christmas tree donations and hauls donated cull concrete block from Chandler Concrete Company in Dublin.
The annual project has become an event, with hot coffee and bowls of warm chili handed out at lunchtime by Friends of Claytor Lake. In addition to Christmas trees, the 3 deepwater reef sites have multiple fish attraction structures, including long-lasting structures called “spider blocks”. These fish reef sites are used by anglers to catch largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, bluegill, black crappie, and flathead and channel catfish, allowing them to increase their catch rates when fishing near Claytor Lake State Park. The habitat project is done with the agreement of Appalachian Power Company and under a Nationwide permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The 2015 Christmas for the fishes had another successful year! This year, without any weather delays, VDGIF, FOCL, VDCR, AEP, New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program, Rockhouse Marina, Americorps volunteers from Hungry Mother State Park, and local bass anglers successfully created more fish habitat in Claytor Lake using over 90 recycled Christmas Trees.
Special thanks to John Copeland, Chris Doss, Brody Havens, Cliff Kirk, Jeff Arnold, Forrest Atwood, Dan Camden, Brian Kern, Ed Clayton, Bruce Shepherd, Mike Burchett, Larry Bandolin, Laura Walters, Mark McGlothlin, Dale Davis, Eddie LaRue, Jacob Olayvar, Scott Quillen, Ryan Stubblebine, Kaitlyn Malyszko, Chris Woodyard, Ian Dacey, Kenneth Goode, Megan Gray, Bailey McDade, and Shanique Wilson
“It’s the thought that counts” holds true for the 2013 Christmas for the Fishes project by VDGIF, VDCR, FOCL, and other agencies. Two weather related delays pushed the normally January held event to a Valentine’s Day send off for over 160 recycled Christmas trees that were fastened and sunk off the shores of Claytor Lake to help build reef habitats for the lakes fish in 3 designated reef sites around Claytor Lake State Park.
Claytor Lake State Park manager Chris Doss, along with Matt Wright, brought a formidable team including Brody Havens, Eddie LaRue, John Jackson, Keith Rutledge, Coy Smith, Regenia Walls, Jessie Whittaker, and Chris Woodyard.
Special thanks to Patrick Lloyd from Chandler Concrete Products in Christiansburg provided cull block for this project.
“Christmas for the Fishes” Habitat Project, Claytor Lake State Park, January 20, 2012
Wildlife Resources Bureau aquatic resources biologists organized the annual “Christmas for the Fishes” Habitat Project with state park staff, local nonprofit Friends of Claytor Lake, and local volunteers at Claytor Lake State Park. During this annual work project, donated Christmas trees are tied to concrete blocks then sunk at 3 deepwater fish reef sites in Claytor Lake adjacent to the state park. With coordination of tree collection and concrete block donations by Claytor Lake State Park, this annual project has become an event, with hot coffee and bowls of warm chili handed out at lunchtime by Friends of Claytor Lake.
In addition to annual additions of Christmas trees, the 3 deepwater reef sites have multiple fish attraction structures, including long-lasting structures called “spider blocks”. The fish reef sites are used by multiple anglers to catch species like largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, bluegill, black crappie, and flathead and channel catfish, allowing them to increase their catch rates when fishing adjacent to Claytor Lake State Park. This habitat project is done under a permit agreement with Appalachian Power Company, with additional permit coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Each reef site is marked with a “Fish Reef” buoy to avoid navigational concerns and attract anglers.
More information on Claytor Lake fish reef locations
Our Christmas for the Fishes habitat project has become a successful event through the cooperation of many parties. We deployed approximately 150 trees at 2 fish reef sites in a safe and efficient manner. Given the volume of trees we received this year.
George Palmer played a critical role in keeping things running smoothly yesterday, capably operating his vessel, suggesting and implementing a needed “innovation” in the process, resulting in efficiency in deployment and saving us from potential loading injuries by tying trees to blocks on board each boat. He also provided calm and reassuring public relations in the face of one disgruntled angler who complained about us “blocking the ramp” even though we had 2 lanes open. Our project will be modified in the future by working off the state park’s alternate docking location to one side of the boat ramp to avoid potential constituent impacts.
Impressive preparations made by Brody Havens and the Claytor Lake State Park staff. They had trees, block, and rope ready to go, making our work flow more efficient. Brody gladly operated the boat I provided, allowing me to monitor work flow and work safety. A total of 7 state park staff participated, including Brody Havens, Eddie LaRue, John Jackson, Cecil Ring, Tim Lundy, Gary Harris, and Kirk Rutledge. As always, I was impressed with their work ethic and enthusiasm. They are a credit to Claytor Lake State Park and work in best tradition of public servants in the employment of the Commonwealth.
Laura Walters and Jeff Arnold not only provided wonderful refreshments and a hot chili lunch, they were active participants, dragging trees and setting up block.
In addition, we had participation from VDGIF fisheries intern and VT fisheries student, Morgan (Mo) Brizendine, VT fisheries student Dylan Hann, New River Valley Master Naturalist Vice-President Becky Rader, local angler Eddie Quesenberry, loyal VDGIF volunteer and good friend Larry Bandolin, and my good friend and hunting buddy Bill Sevebeck.
Two additional thanks are:
1. Matt Wright, Chief Ranger for Interpretative Programs at Claytor Lake State Park prepared the attached announcement of this event and did radio advertisements on WPSK radio.
2. Patrick Lloyd from Chandler Concrete Products in Christiansburg provided cull block for this project. My thanks to him for his continued participation.