Aquatic vegetation is abundant in Florida waters, but it doesn’t provide the only cover for bass and other freshwater fish. In fact, more than 150 attractors have been placed in fisheries around the state by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
And now the FWC is trying to determine which types of attractors are the most effective. So far, plastic is winning.
“Preliminary results, from the first year of a three-year study indicate the plastic attractors typically are yielding more bass than brush structures,” said FWC’s Bob Wattendorf. “So, despite the additional material cost, they may be the wave of the future, especially if they prove as durable as hoped, because brush attractors need to be frequently refurbished.”
According to angler surveys, the four attractors with the highest catch rates were plastic. Additionally, fishermen took the most bass near plastic in four of six sample areas. Overall, anglers caught more fish around plastic than brush during 15 of the 22 weeks sampled.
- 78 percent of the 197 bass caught were taken on crankbaits.
- 99 lures were lost in the attractors, but only 10 percent of those were in plastic.
- Brush attractors with 50 trees had catch rates similar to those with 100, suggesting that more smaller ones might be preferred, at a cost and effort similar to what’s needed for fewer large ones.
Electrofishing results, meanwhile, revealed that bass and black crappie abundance was similar at plastic and brush.
“Therefore, plastic and natural trees may concentrate similar numbers of bass, but the bass near plastic attractors may be more vulnerable to angling,” Wattendorf said.
Whether brush or plastic, attractors are marked with white or yellow buoys, and he cautioned that anglers should not anchor too near. “This is to prevent damage to the attractor by the anchor and to prevent brush or attractor panels from being dragged away from the main attractor site, reducing effectiveness.”
Both materials work by providing surfaces for algae growth. That draws in insects and other invertebrates, which supply forage for small fish. In turn, minnows and small sunfish attract larger bass and other predator species.
As FWC assesses the effectiveness of brush and plastic, it also continues to create gravel and shell attractors to provide spawning substrate for bass, bluegill, and crappie.
“These are especially effective at concentrating fish during spring in areas that otherwise have mostly muddy bottoms,” Wattendorf said.
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)