Staying Alive! Why You Need Fish Structure

September 30, 2020

By Joey Berg
Aquatic Field Biologist, Fisheries Specialist

From the Great Barrier Reef to your classic “Up-North” lake, to your backyard pond, one overlooked component to a waterbody is structure for fish. First and foremost, a great number of lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and other waterbodies lack natural features for fish to thrive or survive. There are many reasons why you would need a fish structure.

First, I want to pose a few questions.

“Why do my baitfish, gamefish, or minnows get eaten so fast”?

“Why do I have to stock fish so often”?

“What do I do to help fish if my waterbody is clear or if there are few weeds”?

“Why does it look like my bass or other predatory fish cruise the shallows looking for food”?

There are many similar questions that can be attributed to a common theme or factor….STRUCTURE!! No, adding more structures will not solve all of your pond needs or make a poor fishery perfect overnight. However, adding structures to a lake or pond can get the waterbody on the right track to being able to support the fishery you’ve always wanted!

Why Your Lake or Pond May Not Have Adequate Structure

Although there are many reasons why your waterbody may lack structure, let’s cover a few. First, many artificial or man-made waterbodies tend to lack structure. They often lack the substrate or pond bottom to create healthy vegetation growth. In some waterbodies like a reservoir, lack of structure can be related to water level fluctuation, unnatural or “young” lake bottom, or the removal of many of the old terrestrial features to allow for safe boating.  Maybe a lake or pond is being managed to prevent vegetation growth. Another reason for lack of structure is related to invasive species. Perhaps an invasive species out-competes or eliminates native vegetation.  An invasive species can also hinder native plants by preying on them or changing environmental conditions that allow some species to thrive. In any of these cases (or the many more that exist), you may have to find alternative methods (from native vegetation) to provide your fishery with adequate structure.

Benefits/Importance of Fish Structures

Spawning Structure

Fish and other aquatic organisms require structure to reproduce. We may think of a log just as a fallen tree, but many fish (like a Largemouth Bass) may think of that same log as another means of protection when selecting its spawning area. Structure offers protection when spawning to those fish in addition to increasing the likelihood their young can be protected after they hatch. Many fish species also require their eggs to be attached to weeds or other structure when spawning (rather than a pond/lake/river bottom).

Predator Protection

From the time they can swim, a fish will be food for something else! Without natural protection offered by some waterbodies, they would be easily eaten! Providing fish structure gives them a chance to grow and survive long enough that they may reproduce or grow to a size that maybe won’t be eaten. When the waterbody lacks adequate structure, clearer water may also lead to easier feeding for predator fish on prey. This is important when planning a fishery while also wanted to accommodate other goals like swimming.

Hiding Spots for Predators

Yes, even predatory fish need a place to hide. There is always a bigger fish. Even if that “fish” isn’t an actual fish (it could be a human or an eagle), there will be a predator for nearly every fish. In addition to protection, a predator often needs structure to provide a location to ambush prey. Imagine a haunted house that you could see everyone that would be trying to scare you from a distance. You wouldn’t be nearly as scared as when you open a door or turn a corner in a tight, dark hallway and someone is right there! Fish higher on the totem pole often use the same concept to eat. The element of surprise allows them to survive and eat properly.

Types of Structures

The type of structures you use will depend on your waterbody and goals. For example, if you want a natural lake, then hopefully you have enough weed cover. If not, you may think about natural tree cuttings around the edge or weighing trees down and sinking them. If you are on a public waterbody, you will likely have some sort of permitting process so be aware and research before you attempt to add anything to your lake. If you want a waterbody clear and to swim without any weed growth, then you may want to look at “plastic’ or synthetic artificial habitat. Possible types of structures include tree cuttings, pallets, plastic/synthetic structures, log cribs, rock piles, and more. Each type of structure has its purpose (as well as positives and negatives) and you should think about your main uses for the waterbody when selecting structures.

Benefits of Artificial Structure

Artificial types of structure (often made of plastics/composite materials are a broad range of structures that help a broad range of lake and pond owners. These types of structures are easily accessible, tend to be relatively easy to install, they are mobile (which is a large consideration if you expect a lot of travel), they are made to sink, they do not break down over time, are often made snag-proof, and fish tend to love them! Structures come in many shapes, styles, and sizes. We offer Honey Hole artificial fish habitat by Pond King.

Please Contact Us if you are interested in learning more about your pond, its current habitat, how artificial structure can help you, structure planning, and quotes for installation. Like I said, adding structures to your lake or pond is not a cure-all for all waterbodies. However, you would be providing fish the best opportunity to eat, survive, and reproduce!