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Saturday, May 26, 2018

From The Mailbox "How Do I Find Fish Cribs?"

I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the questions I get about the underwater environments I visit, the fish I see, the structure fish are attracted to, and other observations I make when I’m photographing fish underwater.  (If you have any questions, fire away, and I’ll do my best to answer them.)

Today’s email comes from George Mycroff of Antioch, IL. who writes: 

”Hi Eric.  I've been looking for a source for 'marked' crib location maps for various lakes I fish in Northern Wisconsin.   Very hard to come by!  While the 'primary' purpose of fish cribs is to promote the growth and proliferation of fish species in a lake,  the secondary purpose is that it's an excellent spot to find fish....The reasoning goes, 'find the cribs, you'll find the fish'!  So my question is how do I find 'fish cribs', marked on a DNR 'topo' map or 'GPS' coordinates?  If the DNR installs them don't they use permits and note the location for later study? So wouldn't they be 'public record' anyone should be able to obtain?  WHERE? I've checked with the DNR, they say since 'fish cribs' don't last over years, they may not have records, or the locations move from year to year. I’ve checked the internet, but have not had much luck finding 'marked' fish crib maps for, the lakes I'm interested in.  Any comments or suggestions or recommendations from you would be greatly appreciated!” 

George, Just to be accurate. Fish cribs DO NOT promote growth and proliferation of fish. This has been studied extensively, and fish cribs do not lead to more fish in the lake. If anything, they decrease over-all abundance because fish tend to be concentrated and can be over exploited. I don't spend a great deal of time around fish cribs myself.  When I'm taking pictures, I prefer more natural backgrounds like plants or sunken trees.  It just looks prettier in photos than a big cube of wood. Also, many cribs are poorly constructed or deployed in bad locations. Therefore, finding cribs doesn't at all mean that you'll also find fish.  I'd go as far to say that most of the cribs I've seen hold few if any fish. It depends on where they were placed and how they were constructed. 

Here's what I've noticed with marked fish crib maps.  Usually, those cribs were placed decades ago and have fallen apart.  Meaning, the wood is still on the lake floor, but the structure no longer has any vertical height and consequently no longer attract fish.  The cribs I occasionally visit aren't on any maps I've seen.  So I wouldn't put too much stock into the credibility or integrity of maps.  The best info comes from fisherman who know where the cribs are. They can usually direct you to the most active ones.  They share this info readily with me, but perhaps are more tight-lipped with fellow fisherman. 

The DNR topo maps that you refer to are a notoriously unreliable resource for finding any structure that was placed. So many of these maps were drawn in the 50s and 60s.  I think if I were you, I'd just spend some time slowly motoring around the lakes in the 10-20 foot depths and looking at your electronics.  I know this can be a tedious way to locate cribs, but if you're looking for a short cut, the DNR maps aren't going to help you.  Another trick is take a drive around the areas lakes before the ice goes out. You'll be able to spot any new cribs sitting on the ice and note the location.  But I don't expect you'll see many these days.  They aren't as popular as they once were.

Wisconsin DNR has never marked GPS coordinates of the cribs and made them public. Other states do this religiously.  WDNR is now of the opinion that fish cribs are detrimental to fish populations, and no longer deploy them. They now favor fish sticks, which actually do help to grow fish.  All the reasons the DNR gave you for why they can't help you are valid in my estimation. Cribs do disintegrate and move, and they didn't have GPS back when they were building and placing them.  Thanks very much for your question George. 

I love talking about the lakes, fish and of course underwater photography. If you have a question, feel free to email me.

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