A different kind of structure for bank anglers already is proving successful at Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM).
These fish attracters, known as stake beds, were placed as part of a project between the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) Division of Parks and Watercraft (DPW). The two agencies held a meeting during the spring to see how they could make fishing better for people staying at the state parks in Wildlife District 5, which encompasses 17 counties, according to DOW fish biologist Justin Walters.
“In particular we looked at bank fishing with kids and mobile impaired people. We helped with a handicap fishing pier on Rocky Fork lake this year as well and added underwater lighting to it and several different fish attracters,” Walters said.
These stake beds have been used with great success by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife on several lakes in that state. They have been “unofficially used by locals for years on GLSM with success,” Walters said.
They are easily constructed. Each stake bed has between 50 and 300 wooden stakes driven into the lake bed, providing cover for panfish, crappie and largemouth bass. Each fish attracter area is marked by a white post with a cap and numbered sign. Ten stake beds were built around the lake and are accessible to anglers from shore and boats.
“There currently are no plans to add more to the lake. Rather we will maintain these areas into the future to provide quality fishing. We manage many lakes in the 17 counties that make up District 5, so we need to spread out our efforts,” Walters explained.
So why stake beds?
“Many things attract the fish.” Walters said. “First off is woody structure. Something GLSM has very little of especially where they were placed. Second, they grow algae on them which attracts zooplankton, then baitfish which attracts game fish.”
Hardwoods, mainly ash, white and red oak, hickory and sycamore were chosen because of their longevity. The DOW hopes these beds last 10 years with maintenance (wood additions) from time to time. During this winter, the poles will be cut so about 6 inches will remain out of the water so anglers can still see them.
When properly fished, anglers should not get snagged on the beds. Fishing these beds is similar to tight-lining for crappies in brush piles in a river and making soft plastics weedless to fish them. Long rods or a cane pole can be used to do this from shore.
“Crappie fisherman love them and know how to fish them. Most are close to the bank so you can vertical fish them without casting. Those who don’t know how to fish them will still have thousands of acres of open water to fish,” Walters said.
There are no plans to expand the 10 locations on GLSM. The DOW will maintain the 10 areas into the future to provide quality fishing, Walters said.
As for using these on other bodies of water in District 5, Walters said the wildlife agency may look at that potential, but that it has other ways of attracting fish..
“We utilize many different fish attracter styles across the district. Each lake is different and this is just a small part of our job as fisheries managers such as stocking, sampling, access maintenance and development to just name a few,” he said.
Partnering on the GLSM project with the DOW and DPW were: Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Mercer County Sportsman association, Log Dogs, The Outdoorsman (St. Marys), GLSM Recreation Club, South Shore Sportsman Club, Grand Lake Rec Club, Persunette Lumber Company, in Camden, Ohio Hunter Trapper Education Instructor Association.
To find the locations of fish attracters at Grand Lake St. Marys and any other lake across Ohio, visit the interactive map at https://gis.ohiodnr.gov/MapViewer/?config=Fishinglakes.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL