Fish getting a new home in Mountain Island Lake

by Andrew Batten

N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission biologist Asif Mandvi with one of the honey hole attractors that will be dropped in Mountain Island Lake.

Mountain Island Lake fish will soon get some new places to hang out and anglers some new places to catch them when the Mountain Island Lake Wildlife Stewards sink 34 fish attractors to the lake’s bottom.

Tim Stewart and Randy Miller, Stewards, will place the attractors, known as honey holes, in three locations to increase habitat diversity and provide cover and refuge for a variety of fishes.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission bought the attractors from the N.C. Wildlife Federation, who in turn provided them to the Wildlife Stewards.

“This is a wonderful cooperative project that will benefit local anglers and help get people outdoors and connected to nature,” Tim Gestwicki, executive director of the Wildlife Federation, said.

The attractors aren’t the lake’s first artificial habitats. Last year, the wildlife stewards sank a different type of attractor, known as porcupines, but the fish have largely ignored those, Stewart said.

The new attractors are plastic cones about 3 feet tall with plastic branches and a weight that holds them upright and in place. The attractors’ hollow cones include large openings that allow smaller baitfish to swim inside them. That attracts the large game fish that local fisherman are after.

“We think these will not only show up on a sonar unit better than the old attractors, but will give fish something to relate to better as well,” Stewart said.

The attractors give anglers a better chance of catching some fish, but it doesn’t mean the fish will be jumping into the boat.

“This doesn’t mean if you know where they are, a boat can pull up and just load up on fish,” Stewart said. “It’s not that easy because you still have to have the right lure or bait the fish want and many of the attractors won’t hold fish all year long due to the depth. An angler still has to pick the right time to fish there as well.”

Stewart and Miller will place most of them at three new locations. The first spot is near the Riverbend boat ramp to the west side of the N.C. 16 bridge, the second is near the Neck Road boat ramp near the entrance to a side cove and the third is in Nance Cove near the point where the cove’s two branches converge.

The exact number of attractors per spot has not been decided. Some will be used to augment existing locations where the porcupine attractors were placed in the Gar Creek cove.

Stewart and Miller selected the three locations after studying areas that fish like, including sharp drop-offs where fish congregate, so they can change depths according to time of day or barometric changes.

“We also chose them to help the fishermen by placing them close to launches,” Stewart said. “This helps non-motorized craft, too, and are more likely to be utilized by everyone, more than spots at the extreme ends of the lake. We also chose to place them all away from the main channel so as not to have anyone fishing them be in the way of traveling boats.”

The Neck Road and Nance Cove locations are in no-wake zones, which is “safer for all boaters and even easier to fish when your boat is not being rocked by big wakes,” Stewart said.

Stewart and Miller will place the attractors at depths of at least 16 feet to keep them from being navigational hazards.

“This makes them better crappie attractors than anything, but fish of all kinds will relate to them mostly when they are deep in winter and summer or stop at them when they are transitioning as the seasons change.”

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