ALFFR Episode 152 - Fish Habitat
Posted by Texas Hunter Products on 21st Mar 2023
From our friends at Alabama Freshwater Fishing Report - Listen to the entire podcast here.
We talk a lot on this show about creating habitat. We’ve talked with Norman, with Southeastern Pond Management a ton about it. We’ve also talked with a lot of our anglers about it and we’ve got some guys like Tony Adam. I mean Tony spends tons of time creating habitat and so that he can catch fish the whole year long. The problem is that when you create this habitat, you have to do it over and over and over. And it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of time and a lot of money to do that.
And what I’m excited about in this segment is that we’ve now got products out there that you can put out one time and they last a lifetime. They last forever as far as creating that habitat. So welcome to the show from Texas Hunter, Chris Blood. What’s going on, Chris?
Chris Blood: Hey, Brian. How are you doing, sir?
Brian Senn: I’m doing good, man. I hope I segued that right. I said it lasts for a lifetime. I’m assuming that I’m correct on that.
Chris Blood: It is. Everything is made out of eco-friendly material, similar to like what you’d see on a floating dock or a kayak, things that are made to be in the water all the time. And so, all the products that we make are eco-friendly and they do last forever. They are built to place out there where you want to them and you don’t have to worry about them degrading like you do a natural material.
Brian Senn: Right. And so, let’s back up before I get ahead of myself here. So I think probably most of our listeners are going to be familiar with Texas Hunter and your products that you make for the hunting industry. I don’t know that a lot of people are aware that you guys also have an angler plan and I think that’s under the – it’s under Texas Hunter but I think it’s under the Texas Angler, is kind of what you all rebranded that site, correct?
Chris Blood: That’s right. Texas Angler Products is a brand under Texas Hunter and that’s what we’ve developed the artificial fish habitat product line under. And on the Texas Hunter side, we also are known for our fish feeder, our automatic directional fish feeders that are patented and available in three different capacities. And we were looking for a way to expand into our fish feeder customer base and had a lot of questions about habitat and feeding fish and growing big fish whether it’s big bluegill or big bass and other species.
And so, we developed this line over a couple of years, working with Auburn University, their design and the fishery schools there, and came up with a line of fish habitat that we put under the Texas Angler brand.
Brian Senn: Well, that’s really cool that you guys work with Auburn on that. I’m an Auburn guy so War Eagle. And what a great program they have there. So even though you guys are out of Texas, all that stuff was – you partnered with some people here in Alabama so that’s really cool that these ideas are coming from our state. I know they were awesome to work with.
Chris Blood: Yes.
Brian Senn: A couple of weeks ago, we had one of our guys on and he is a crappie guy. And man, this guy works really hard in the winter months and puts out tons and tons of structure. And through talking with him, he has made a comment on here before, he says, “Man, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of energy, but I can write – with our electronics are so good now that I can put something out and it’s standing up into the water column.” And then two years later, it has all fallen down on itself. So you get about two year out of that and then it’s gone and you have to replenish that which obviously is more time and more effort and more work.
So let’s talk about that product to start with as far as structure that you might put out to hold big fish or crappie or whatever it might be.
Chris Blood: Sure. Well, a couple of products for that. One of them is our Fish Pyramid. And that does a lot of different things. It’s made out of an HDPE material and it has some what we call shade blades that pass through it. It’s a pyramid shape with openings that we developed for forage fish to be able to access and hide in and take refuge in from the predators. And so, it gives them a chance to grow bigger and it provides shade for the fish and bass and other crappie and other species.
And so, you can float these out under the surface in that oxygen-rich water column which is really like below the surface, down to about 8 feet deep in the summer time, above that thermocline where the fish are and the oxygen is. And so you can suspend them out there by just anchoring them with a cinder block and a cable and rope comes with the product and/or you can anchor them with that same cable with a cinder block to the bottom of the lake. And either way, they provide refuge for forage fish and give those little guys a chance to grow bigger.
And we place them on either side of our fish feeder. Our fish feeder has a pattern, that big, broad pattern that blows the feed out into the water. And so we usually put a couple, one on each side of that pattern so that the fish can come out and eat and get back in there and it gives them a chance to grow larger. And so that’s the Fish Pyramid product.
And then we also make what we call Fish Grass, and that product, you can place out into the water and it’s aquatic. It’s essentially an artificial vegetation and it’s an attractant for the fish and it gives them a place to hide and it’s made out of a polymer material where it’s not susceptible to being snagged by a fishing lure. And so between the Fish Pyramid attracting fish out there in the area and the Fish Grass that you can drop into place and have immediate vegetation, those are two great products that work well for fishing and attracting fish and enhancing that fishing experience.
Brian Senn: How tall is the grass?
Chris Blood: It comes in two sizes, 2-foot and 4-foot length. And they come in 6 packs. And so you buy a 6-pack and you attach them to a paver, a paved stone paver, just straps on with Velcro that’s included. And we don’t ship the pavers. You just buy those at your local hardware store. So you’re not paying to ship those, the weight of it, but you open the 6-pack, get your 6 pavers, strap them on and just drop those grass products in right where you want some vegetation, along the shoreline or wherever you like.
And it can also be custom-length. So if you have a 3-foot area and you want to have it real close to the surface, you can get a 4-foot 6-pack and just trim it down to what you like.
Brian Senn: That’s what I was going to ask you is what the dimension of that was, how they came.
Chris Blood: Yes. The platforms that the grass attaches to are 18 inches square and then there’s 4 grass strands for each platform that goes along the edge. So there are a total of 24 12-inch wide grass strands. And so with the 6-pack, you can cover a lot of area with some vegetation.
And the beauty of an artificial vegetation is that it’s not going to overtake a pond or a lake. You don’t have to go in there and spray it with herbicides like a lot of the vegetation does that kind of starts taking over. It’s not snaggy if you will with a lure. You can drag a lure right through it. You’re not going to snag your lure up on it like you do with a lot of other natural vegetation. So there are a lot of advantages to it.
Brian Senn: Plus, you don’t do that back in the winter time.
Chris Blood: That’s right. It’s there. It’s there all the time. So like you were talking about want to fish year round, that product is out there year round and those fish are hanging out around it too all the time.
Brian Senn: Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s really cool. And I’m going to go back up to the Fish Pyramid for a second. I love being able to suspend that at the right depth. That’s a great idea that you guys have come up with there, because a lot of times especially in the summer time, let’s just go back to crappie fishing again, summer time, crappie fishing or you might be fishing in some pretty deep water but in order to get – if you’ve got a cement block or 5-gallon bucket that you put limbs in or where there’s crape myrtle cuttings or cane or whatever it might be to try to create your own, in order to get that structure to the right height, you got to have some really tall long branches to get it up in the water column as high as you need to which that takes a tremendous amount of effort.
So with this product, you can actually go, “OK, I’m in 20-foot of water but the fish are going to be at 12 to 15 feet. That’s where we want to be fishing.” So you can actually cut your rope or your line or whatever you put out, attach it to the cinder block and it floats to the right height.
Chris Blood: That’s exactly right.
Brian Senn: That’s really cool.
Chris Blood: Yes. That’s what people love about that product because you can – even on – we have some customers who have deeper water, even like right up on the edge just because of the nature of the way the lake was made, and so you can take the Pyramid even in 12 feet of water. You can have it floating there a couple of feet under the surface and right there exactly where you want it. And the Pyramid itself, we make two sizes. One is about 3 feet high and again, it’s 4-sided pyramid. It takes up quite a bit of space with those shade blades that pass through it as well that creates shade. And when you suspend it, you’re getting that entire structure. You’re creating shade up underneath that as well.
Brian Senn: Yup.
Chris Blood: And then we make it larger. We call it an XL, Pyramid XL, and those are 4 and 1/2 feet tall, those panels. And so, that’s a huge structure for larger lakes that you can put out there. Protect a lot of fish. Attract a lot of fish. And again, you can suspend those out in the water column and you can also anchor them on the bottom.
Now, what a lot of guys are doing is also stacking the product. So while that Fish Pyramid floats, we are seeing them put like a 4-foot grass out there on the bottom. And so, you got about 7, 8, 12-foot of water, whatever it is, putting a 4-foot grass out there on the bottom and then floating above that they Pyramid so you’re creating – now, you’re creating 7 feet of a structure in an area there and the fish love that. So they’ve got the grass down below. They have the Pyramid up above. And even on top of that, the surface, we make a floating – what we call Lily Pads and Fishing Lilies, and that float on the surface. So it creates additional shade. So we are seeing customers stack all these different products in a package.
Brian Senn: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to do that really because there’s just more habitat in that same area and more shade and that’s an important thing.
So the Pyramid is a 4-foot tall. How wide is it?
Chris Blood: They’re 4-foot wide panels. So there are four 4-foot wide panels that are attached together. They snapped together. No tools or anything are ever required to put any of this stuff together. It snaps together. It goes right into water. So the Pyramid panels are 4 feet wide and 4 and 1/2 feet tall, 55 inches tall.
Brian Senn: Nice.
Chris Blood: That’s on the XL. It takes up 146 square feet. And so it’s a nice big product that you can put out there and protect a lot of those little fish to give them a chance to grow to a bigger size.
Brian Senn: Now, is this something that’s really easy to put together? So I’m just envisioning. I’m trying to envision. Do you put it together like on the shore or is this something that most people, it’s easy enough where they take it to the spot and put it together right there on the boat and then drop it over?
Chris Blood: Yes, both. You can assemble it. They’re four quarter inch thick panels and they have prongs on one side and a slot on the other so they actually snap together with these prongs. And so, you snap the four pieces together to form the structure and you can do that either on the deck of the boat or on a pier or a dock or on the side of the – on the shoreline. And then you press the wave braces, the shade blades as we call them, through their slots in the Pyramid that the wave braces pass through.
So you pass those through. They stick out on either side to create shade. They also serve a purpose of preventing predator fish and cormorant and other predators that eat the forage fish, which by the way, cormorant, they can eat up to 8 pounds of fish a day. So that keeps them from being able to get into the main structure by blocking them off the top and the bottom with these shade blades, these wave braces.
And so, once you put pass those through, it’s completely assembled and you can clip on the cable. It comes with carabiner clips that you just clip on to the holes on the bottom of the Pyramid, tie it to a cinder block, and drop it out into place, off the edge of the boat and lower it to where you want it or off the edge of the pier or weight it out into the water. Place it out there where you want it.
Brian Senn: That’s great. And I love the fact that because the material it’s made out of is kind of snag-resistant too I guess is a good word to use for it. I didn’t lose but AJ was fishing yesterday, crappie fishing yesterday so how you add – you add that up, it will pay for itself pretty quick.
Chris Blood: You’re right.
Brian Senn: It’s the lures that you saved.
Chris Blood: Yes, exactly. That HDPE material is solid. It’s what they make the decks on boat setup and those like jet ski parking, those jet ski floating jet ski and it’s a marine board is what it is. So it’s made to be in the water, in the sand all the time and it has a built-in UV too. But it’s hard. So when you pass the lure through there, it’s not going to snag that hook. And when they’re suspended, even if you overcast and you’re dragging your lure right by it, it tends to pivot. It’s suspended so it’s floating out there under the water surface and it will turn as you drag your lures through it. So that’s another beauty of it. It’s fish attractant and you’re not going to snag your lures up on it.
Brian Senn: Yeah, it’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. Well, I know that we talked about the grass, the Lily Pads, which I love the lily pads too. And I mean you can get those in different sizes as well and that just creates more shoreline, vegetation shade, just fishability. Just adds fishability for your pond or your lake. But I mean hey, the fish – I mean it’s getting warm. The water is getting warm right here. Fish are starting to move up. They’re starting to go into bed. So this time of year, we talk a lot about spawning because it is getting that time of year.
You also make a product that’s kind of designed around spawn, right?
Chris Blood: That’s right. We call it the Spawning Colony. And it’s a round, about a 3-foot round device that goes on to the bottom. You want to place those in about 2 to 3 feet of water depth ideally. And you can just pour gravel in there that the fish will spawn on. And what’s unique about ours, it’s raised up off the bottom by about 7 inches or so and there are slots on the side so that what happens is a lot of times when the fish start to hatch, those fry start to hatch, the predator fish come and poach them right off the spawning bed. And these spawning colonies have slots on the side in an area up underneath so that the fry can escape and get right in there when they hatch. Again, designed for conservation method, to give them a chance to grow a little bit.
We see a lot of customers, and again, these are sold in 6 packs so you can place 6 of the Spawning Colonies out there in your pond or lake, pour a little gravel in there and they’re good to go. It’s very instant. A lot of these ponds and lakes have a lot of muck on the bottom and sludge and so forth. So it’s hard for those bluegill and other forage fish and fish to spawn out there. And so this gives them a chance and it raises it up off the water, creates that spawning bed up, elevate it off that muck and that sludge.
Brian Senn: Is there any studies, I mean when you were working with Auburn on this, is there any studies out there with like survival rate of natural setting for fry that have just coming off the bed? And I guess that would be – and that’s a very broad question because it would really just depend on what condition your lake was in.
Chris Blood: You’re right.
Brian Senn: If it was a bass-crowded lake, it’s going to be a lot different than one that’s not a bass-crowded lake.
Chris Blood: That’s right. And it depends on the structure around where they have some protection. We have customers placing that Fish Grass right around the spawning area. So they can also get into that. And then of course, the Pyramids are ideal for protecting fish. And so, they work together.
But in natural environments with rock piles and other natural habitat, those are good too to have around. And so, depending on the lake and everyone is different, would depend on the survival rates I think on the forage and the fry that come of these spawning beds.
Brian Senn: Yeah, I would agree. But I know with talking with Norman with Southeastern Pond Management, one of the things that he talks about a tremendous is – and it’s probably – honestly, it’s probably one of the biggest challenges of owning a lake is that if you don’t take enough bass out every year, over time, it will get bass-crowded, too many bass.
Chris Blood: Yeah.
Brian Senn: And what happens is when your lake gets to that condition, your bluegill, bream, forage fish, they go on the bed, they hatch, and then the bass eat it like popcorn. And then the rest of the year, they starve to death because there’s not a very high survival rate of the new – the little ones. So this product is something that can definitely help. It’s obvious to see how it could help with survival rate and getting those fish to a bigger size to where they can continue to thrive.
Chris Blood: That’s exactly right. It gives the customer the ability to create a spawning area in an area where if they just pour some gravel out there over the years, it’s going to get covered up and silt and so forth. And so it provides – it’s a product that you can put out there for that. But also, creates that escape habitat built into it which is great.
And talking about the forage and growing to a certain size, those oval slots that we designed into the Fish Pyramid, those aren’t just arbitrary size. We designed those to allow for the bluegill and other forage fish to get in there and take refuge. But at a certain point, they can’t get in to that slot. So they get to a point where they’re actually an ideal meal size for a bass.
And so for those customers who want to grow trophy bass in a lake, those Fish Pyramids enable a customer to put those out there and grow those forage to the size that a bass can have a good size bluegill as a meal and they’re not expending a lot of energy chasing 5 or 6 or 8 or 10 bluegill around the lake all day and using up that energy. They could conserve that we can deliver a larger bluegill for those trophy bass so that they are not expending as much energy to feed on. So it assists with the food chain and that’s also a feature of that Fish Pyramid that customers love.
Brian Senn: Yeah. I say that all the time. I live – my driveway is really steep and really long and it’s an effort to walk back up from the mailbox sometimes but I always use the example, it’s like what I want – if I have to run to the bottom of the hill to eat one slice of pizza and then run back up to the hill and then run back down to get another one, I’m burning so many calories that I’m not going to gain any size, right? But if I can run down the hill and eat the whole pizza and then run back up then I’m growing.
Chris Blood: That’s a great analogy.
Brian Senn: Which I don’t want to grow so I need to just eat that one slice. I’m big enough. But it is a good picture of what the difference in having the right size forage fish compared to really small forage.
Chris Blood: Yes, that’s exactly right.
Brian Senn: Yeah, that’s good stuff. Good stuff. Well, do you got anything? Any new products you’re working on going to be coming out or are we just trying to just grow what we got for now? I know you’re always thinking and working.
Chris Blood: Yes, sir. Well, we have a lot of fisheries and other habitat designs with Auburn and we actually ended up with their design students there in two different semesters, came up with about 168 different designs. And we started with this first line. But we do have some other products that we are working on in addition to that, some accessories to go with these products.
For example, we are working on this year, this spring and summer to release a 2-inch wide fish grass strands that attached to the outer edge of the top edge of the spawning disc. So in addition to having the spawning bed there, customers will be able to add a grass feature around the edge to create additional protection and cover for the fish. And that also can be attached – those grass strands can also be attached to the top of the Pyramids.
So if you end up putting the Fish Pyramid on the bottom of the lake then you will be able to add grass to the top and float above like a 4-foot strands or 2-foot strands of grass above the Pyramid so it creates an additional habitat and attraction environment some cover. So we are working on some releases of that this year.
Brian Senn: That’s interesting too. I can see where that would be a value. Sitting here thinking about it, you don’t have to own – I mean there are people that own their ponds, their own lakes, whether it’s 3 acres or 15 or 20 or 30 acres. And obviously, there is value in these products for that. But I mean there are a lot of people who own lake houses around here. I mean tons of people in Alabama either live on Lake Martin or Lay Lake or Logan Martin or have a camp house there and have a pier or a dock that they like to fish off of.
And in that same token, they put out Christmas trees or they put out whatever it may be. But they’ve also got their kids or grandkids swimming in that area and you never know what your dad had done and with limbs and branches and stuff.
Chris Blood: Right.
Brian Senn: I think it would be an excellent product to also have around your docks if you live on one of the big lakes around here, not just a private pond.
Chris Blood: Yes. No, for sure. We have a lot of customers placing that grass, that& Fish Grass around docks and it just – docks are natural attractant and create shade and people – you’re fishing around the post up under the dock. And adding Fish Grass up under there just is a big plus because vegetation typically grow up under there as much because of all the shade so you can create this artificial grass structure up underneath the docks and that’s a big plus and a big attractant.
Brian Senn: Yeah, that would be huge right there if you put some of that 4-foot grass up under the dock where there’s already shade and structure created. In fact, if anybody does that, would you please contact me and tell me, send me a GPS location of where you do that so I can come and shoot the dock with a jig and catch some of your crawfish.
Chris Blood: There you go. That’s right.
Brian Senn: That would be excellent.
Chris Blood: That’s a great way to attract fish to your dock from your neighbor’s dock.
Brian Senn: Exactly. Exactly. Chris, you all got some great products and I know they’re doing well and they’re just – you’re all going to continue that line and continue to do well with it as more and more people find out about the products. And man, hats off to what you all have been able to accomplish with Auburn University.
Chris Blood: Thank you, Brian. Well, we appreciate it. We had a lot of fun and we love the fishing industry and being in this market with our feeders and with the habitat line now. So we really – we are having a lot of fun with it and to all our customers.
Brian Senn: That’s awesome.
Chris Blood: And our friends at Southeastern Pond, I wanted to mention, as far as availability goes, they’re the go-to for the fish habitat, the Texas Angler Fish Habitat. So, reach out to your local Southeastern Pond Management Office and talk to those guys about what you need and what would be ideal for your particular pond or lake and they can definitely help.
Brian Senn: Well, that’s the next question I was going to ask you is, these are products that do people need to go to your website? Do they need to go to Southeastern or both options available?
Chris Blood: Both options are available. And we really encourage customer to talk to their local lake management company about what would be ideal because every lake is different. It depends on what type of fish, what their goals are for the fishery. And so involving your local lake manager is ideal because they will be able to really help and guide you on creating some areas that would be ideal for the structure based on depth and species and your overall goals of what you’re trying to accomplish.
And then we do sell the products on our website, in TexasHunter.com and TexasAnglerProducts.com. We’ve got videos there that show the products. And so, depending on where you are in the country, if you don’t have a lake manager and you’re looking for somebody to guide you on this, then give us a call and we can help you with finding a local lake manager that we work with that’s close to you whether it’s for placement of vegetation or buying fish or water quality, they handle all of that. So those both options are available.
Brian Senn: That’s good stuff, man. Well, Chris, appreciate your time, man. I love having you on here. And guys, reach out on the website. Reach out to Norman or any of the other Southeastern Pond Management guys to get more information and more insight on these products. Man, good luck in the future with it, Chris. And we’re anxious to get some response from some of our listeners and see how they are using it.
Chris Blood: Yes, for sure. Well, thank you, Brian. Appreciate your time. And good fishing. Talk to you soon.
Brian Senn: Same to you, Chris. Take care, buddy. And we’ll talk to you again soon.
Chris Blood: Thank you.