Saturday, July 2, 2016

Outdoor Club Does Fish Habitat Work

King George Outdoor Club Helps Build Fish Habitat for Chandler’s Mill Pond
Mark Fike

Scott Herrmann, fisheries biologist for Region 1 (Tidewater) of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), rolled into the parking lot of Chandler’s Mill Pond last Tuesday towing a boat behind a pickup truck. With 76 acres of dry pond bed lurking in the background, passersby might have wondered why there was a boat in the parking lot. The answer is that both the boat and the truck were loaded down with construction supplies.
Herrmann has been a solid source of fisheries information for your columnist for many years. Herrmann also has been an avid supporter of the King George Outdoor Club over the years. One year not long ago, the youth were able to observe as he and fisheries biologist Matt Blommel electroshocked Chandler’s. The youth assisted in measuring and weighing the fish. Herrmann took the time to explain his work, why it was important and he answered questions that the kids had on that trip. Afterwards, the kids were talking about the experience for weeks.
On this trip Herrmann’s goal was to create some fish habitat and attractors and emplace them within casting range of the shoreline for anglers. Taking advantage of the empty pond was paramount to the attractors being put where he wanted them. 

Once Herrmann gave an overview of the plan, the youth began offloading PVC pipe, tubing, tools and old buckets, and coolers. Herrmann showed the youth some of his previous designs, explained why the fish would be attracted to them and how the attractors would cause minimal loss of anglers’ lures when fishing around them. Concrete mix was dumped in an old tub, water added, and shovels began mixing while other youth began cutting the pipe to various lengths and assembling the odd looking structures.
The rain spattered on us off and on but held off from a downpour. However, the sun eventually burned through creating a steamy late morning. It was hot and the kids put down some water and Powerade to keep hydrated. As each fish attractor was completed, the youth carried the project to the pond’s edge where Herrmann would lead them out on 2 X 10 planks and plywood to emplace them in a line. When I viewed the lines of attractors at the end of the work, I was struck by the idea that the fish attractors were set up like a colony and undoubtedly the fish density would be numerous in that area when the pond refilled.
Herrmann shared several designs with the youth and encouraged them to come up with their own designs. He took old coolers and recycled them into catfish lairs where hopefully some channel cats would spawn in the overturned coolers which were staked down with pipe in the pond bed, further held down by buckets of concrete on either side and situated near other fish attractors where small prey fish would be available. 

The youth were not bashful with the event. They were eager to get dirty and cut pipe. They had no issues mixing the concrete or hauling the heavy items. In fact, one of our club members JT said, “I feel bad standing around. I want to do some work!” and he did. He, his brother Matt and John did a lot of heavy lifting, mixed concrete and chipped in with a variety of other tasks.
The young women quickly cut up the PVC piping for Herrmann and were sure to point out that they cut twice as much pipe as the boys did. The girls were not bashful about getting dirty either. In fact, not long into the project, Skylar fell into the mud and promptly “invited” Kenzie in with her. Before long the entire outdoor club work party was covered in mud and not bothered by the fact they needed a pressure washer to get clean again. I feel like I owe the parents a box of Tide detergent for the manner in which the youth arrived back home. They worked hard and played hard until it was time to go.
When the mud stopped flying, there were ten new fish attractors sitting in the pond bed. Thanks to the work of the youth in the outdoor club and certainly the direction of Scott Herrmann from VDGIF, anglers will be able to enjoy some good fishing opportunities near the dock in the future. Hopefully the pond will be refilled sometime this fall.
Thanks to Scott Herrmann for including the King George Outdoor Club in this project and thanks to the parents for being understanding of the dirt the kids brought home with them last week! The outdoor club members that participated in this event were Skylar, Kenzie, KD, Kristy, Faith, John, Matt and JT. Good job!

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