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Fish cribs in local lakes make a difference

By Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer

Due to an issue with algae bloom, the native vegetation in area lakes can be on the decrease, losing out on sunshine because of the cloudiness of the water. The fish in the lakes haven’t the places of refuge or habitat with less plant life in the water and local fishermen become concerned. There is an option that provides safe places for the fish, giving local lake residents and community members a way to help by offering a fish cribs.

A fish crib, also referred to as a fish shelter, is a six foot by six foot structure that is three and a half feet tall. It is composed of scrap logs from local woods and attached by rebar in the corners. In order to keep it from floating, two by fours are added inside with concrete blocks slid onto them. The final weight of the cribs is close to 800 pounds.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires paperwork to gain the permits to place fish cribs within a body of water. The DNR takes the information from the application and determines how many of the units will be acceptable and where each will be set.

Several of the units have been appreciated in Long Lake, south of Colon, MI since 2015. Fisherman Pat West was pleased to see the cribs being placed in Palmer Lake, also located in Colon, as he is a property owner and likes to fish on the lake.

“I have been looking forward to this day,” West said. “The reports from Long Lake said that they (cribs) have really helped the fishing.”

A volunteer group met at the boat launch on Palmer Lake to place 27 of the 48 units in the water with the other 21 being set in 2018. 

They also set six more in Long Lake that day. The GPS coordinates had been established by the DNR and buoys were set with the new cribs being moved by a barge. The cribs were placed at approximately 10-11 feet down in low traffic areas. In the future, the GPS coordinates will be made public allowing for fishing in the proximity.

“These will be used more for refuge,” Volunteer Ed Bell said. “They are too far out for spawning or the laying of eggs. They will be far enough out in the lake for cover for the fish.”

Everything was donated from the time to organize and fill out the paperwork to the building of the cribs to the actual moving of the units by people from the Colon area.

While the Colon lakes received their units during the summer months, other lakes have looked at different times of the year to set their fish shelters up. A neighboring lake, Matteson Lake, north of Bronson, MI, has been discussing their plans to drop the cribs in the winter months while the water is frozen. Then during the spring thaw, the units will settle into place when the lake begins to melt.

Both are viable options for those who are concerned about the fish and other living creatures in the lakes. It will not totally remove the problem but it can certainly make a difference.