Sunday, April 1, 2007

Ask any bass or crappie fisherman — for that matter, even certain saltwater anglers — what helps them locate the fish they’re after and you soon will hear something about brush piles, sunken cedar trees or discarded slabs of concrete.

It’s all about creating fish magnets, some of them man-made, others provided by nature. The idea is to find a previously barren water area and drop some kind of structure into the water. Before you know it, the fish in the vicinity will flock to it to seek a hiding place or food or lie in ambush for unsuspecting smaller species.

Among the saltwater fishermen of the Gulf of Mexico who are after red snappers, sea trout or amberjacks, it is quite common to secure permits so they can tow entire junked school buses (engines removed) to certain locations, sink them and create a virtual fish factory only they know about. Well, for a while anyway; other anglers soon catch on.

Underwater structure also can be used to help propagate fish. A case in point is the Coastal Conservation Association’s Southern Maryland Chapter.

These folks are involved in helping out the much beleaguered yellow perch that have not done well in some Chesapeake Bay feeder rivers. Some of it is blamed on mindless commercial netting of the fish, some on poor spawning in tidal streams loaded with blockages. The lazy perch will not try to climb over, under or around them. In the process, entire annual classes of yellow perch can be lost.

The Southern Maryland CCAers visited a stretch of the upper Mattawoman Creek (upstream of the Route 225 bridge) last month and sunk 20 discarded Christmas trees. The object was to get the female perch to deposit their ribbon-like eggs onto the submerged trees, where they could be fertilized by the males’ milt. Soon there would be perch fry flitting about, the location of their hatchings genetically imprinted in their little heads, and in years to come they would be sure to return to continue the spawning ritual.

There you have it. Builders of fish attractors are found in every facet of fishing.

Some of them probably would have loved to know about a new kind of device that can do a great job and not make you work like a mule. It’s a spiny-looking critter known as the Bill Dance Porcupine Fish Attractor, and it works wonders, especially in quiet bodies of water like private lakes and ponds. You could even deposit a few of them into certain deep-water coves of local reservoirs by taking the rectangular box it is shipped in by boat, then go to a favorite area, quickly assemble the attractor and drop it. You would be the only one who knows about it.

The Porcupine Fish Attractor comes in three sizes: 2-, 4-, and 5-foot diameter structures. I recently assembled three of them in less than 30 minutes and deposited them into a farm pond that needed something the bass and crappies could flock to and wait in ambush for nosy little minnows that surely will happen by.

The concept of the Porcupine is so simple it irks me that I didn’t think of it years ago. It consists of a central sphere with holes that act as receptacles for narrow diameter PCV pipes. The spheres can hold up to 26 pipes to create an instant attractor. Best of all, the pipes will not snag a lure like a tree branch can. Lures simply slide off.

The green plastic pipes can be trimmed or designed to specific lengths. Because they’re hollow, they will fill with water and sink. The manufacturer recommends you tie a couple of bricks or a concrete block to it to hold in place, although I doubt you would need that in a small, quiet pond. I do not think, however, that it would stay in place in strong-flow tidal creeks and rivers like the ones we have in the D.C. area.

The smaller diameter Porcupines work best in waters of less than six feet deep; the larger models are suited for deeper layers. Once they have settled and begin to collect algae, the baitfish will visit, and you already know what will follow: minnows, shiners, crayfish and frogs.

Porcupine Fish Attractors can be ordered online at This Web site also has some video clips made by popular cable TV fishing show host Bill Dance. The small model costs $24.95; the mid-sized version is $29.95; and the large 5-footer costs $34.95, which I believe is a little high but worth it once the fish show up. Locally, Bass Pro Shops in the Arundel Mills shopping center in Hanover, Md., has the Porcupines.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail:

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