Artificial habitats give fish more places to mingle in Claytor Lake

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PULASKI CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Fish at Claytor Lake now have a new place to call home. Groups from across Virginia are installing habitats that act as an alternative to plants in the lake.

"This project is to encourage fish habitat and fish growth and spawning on Claytor Lake," said Laura Walters with the Friends of Claytor Lake. "There's not as much cover for fish on Claytor be it vegetation or artificial structures."

They're Mossback Fish Habitat structures with grooves and spaces perfect for a fish to hang out, similar to plants fish use for hiding.

The Friends of Claytor Lake, or FOCL, partnered with the B.A.S.S. Nation of Virginia and several other organizations to make this nearly $10,000 project happen.

"We all agreed that we needed to do something to improve the fisheries here and the anglers had been complaining about the fish," said Joan Blankenship with the B.A.S.S. Nation of Virginia.

Once those structures reach the bottom of the lake, they'll be a permanent home for fish, acting as an alternative to the invasive hydrilla plant that FOCL has worked to cut out of the lake.

"Aquatic vegetation is good habitat but hydrilla was not the best habitat because it choked everything else out and topped out on top of the water so you couldn't even fish through it if you were standing on the bank," John Copeland a fisheries biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

He says the shoreline around Claytor Lake State Park is desolate. Putting the habitats in those spots brings more fish to the places anglers like to cast.

Students from all over Virginia are helping to make that happen.

"It's so satisfying to see that you've created something that can help other creatures and it feels like we're really making a difference," said Brooke Crouch who is part of the Virginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps.

This week they're putting more of those habitats together by hand and dropping them throughout the lake one by one.