A short dive under the surface of a rocky lake taught Jamie Hueston a valuable lesson about how to make fish more welcome to your dock.
While snorkeling in Winona Lake, near Haliburton, he saw very few fish, until he swam near a spot where a beaver had stockpiled a collection of branches.
“The number of fish around it was astounding,” Hueston says. “It was like a coral reef. I saw bass, perch and minnows, but there was nothing else around.”
A light bulb went off.
For 30 years, Hueston had worked as a wildlife and fish habitat technician with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, then the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. What he witnessed in Winona Lake reinforced his understanding of what makes fish thrive and how lakeside property owners can help.
“If you have a dock in front of your cottage, you want to add tree branches underneath to give small fish a place to hide and large fish a place to feed. It’s the chain of life.”
He suggests collecting branches of native plants from shore then securing them to the dock moorings with wire or zip ties.
“You have to look at the lake as the fish’s house,” Hueston advises. “The shelter within the branches is their living room and the kitchen is where they feed.”
This method works best in rocky lakes in the Canadian Shield, such as Stoney Lake or those north of there. Weedy lakes like Pigeon already have adequate vegetation. His approach doesn’t interfere with people swimming or boating.
At the end of the season, simply remove the branches with the dock. If your dock stays in year-round, simply leave the branches there for the next season.
Hueston reminds property owners that shoreline work, like installing new docks, may require approval by MNRF, Parks Canada or the local conservation authority, depending on which waterway you face. However, adding branches after installation does not.
By Lois Tuffin