Totally tubular: Man-made tubes are wrapped in cubes to act as lake’s brush

VIDEO: Creating a plastic fish habitat in Kansas

Biologists are placing about 300 plastic fish cubes in Kansas waters, hoping to create good fish habitat for decades. (Michael Pearce/The Wichita Eagle)
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Biologists are placing about 300 plastic fish cubes in Kansas waters, hoping to create good fish habitat for decades. (Michael Pearce/The Wichita Eagle)

EL DORADO RESERVOIR – Every biologist knows discarding plastic into the environment is especially bad because it probably won’t break down for years, maybe decades.

Craig Johnson was counting on that as he headed a boat across El Dorado Reservoir, to dump the bow to stern cargo of plastic pipe and tubing into the lake.

“The thinking is that these should last a lot longer than the old style of brush piles, like cedar and hedge,” said Johnson, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist for the lake. “We’ll probably put out about 30 of these cubes (on El Dorado). We’re putting them on places like ledges or humps that are already attracting fish.”

Four feet square and three feet deep, the PVC fish cube frames are laced with about 100 feet of plastic tubing. The denseness of the cubes should attract little fish for decades, especially after algae grows on the plastic. They’re also made in a way that makes them easy for about any boat to deposit them in a promising place.

“It’s not like these have a bunch of No. 9 wire and concrete blocks that nobody would put in a nice bass boat,” said Doug Nygren, Wildlife and Parks fisheries chief. “About anybody can put these in their boat easily, not scratch anything up and put them out for us. We’ve had good success having bass clubs volunteer to help with the project.”

For weight, the lower pipes on the fish cubes are filled with gravel and sand.

Nygren said he got the idea for fish cubes in Kansas after reading research other states had done about sinking the cubes. In Georgia, where the cubes were designed, some research showed they attracted and held fish as well as brush piles made from downed trees.

David Breth, Wildlife and Parks fisheries program specialist, said the agency is planning on dropping around 300 cubes this year, in about 30 impoundments that range from state fishing lakes to major reservoirs. He has gotten reports of anglers already catching fish off the cubes in some of those places.

Nygren said the department is using inmate labor at the El Dorado Correctional Facility to help cut costs. The cost is about $100 per cube. The program is expected to continue next year. This fall he’s hoping biologists, like Johnson, can use some high definition electronics to see how many fish, and what species, are using the cubes.

Also later, Breth said biologists will be providing GPS coordinates so anglers can find the exact location of the submerged fish cubes. Though none are listed yet, he said they’ll eventually be on the Wildlife and Parks website. “Fish attractor GPS” typed in the search box should eventually take anglers to the information.

“So far everything seems to be pretty positive,” Nygren said. “Our field staff seems to be embracing the concept. We haven’t had any problems getting people (like bass clubs) to put out cubes for us in their waters. I think they’re really going to be a nice thing for our anglers in Kansas.”

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