Fish Sticks: Improving Lake Habitat

What are Fish Sticks?

The following information is excerpted from the WI DNR website regarding the Fish Sticks Program.

“Trees have been dropping naturally into Wisconsin lakes since the glaciers receded.  Fallen trees provide shelter and feeding areas for a diversity of fish species and many also provide nesting and sunning areas for birds, turtles, and other animals above the water.  Nearly all fish species use woody habitat for at least a portion of their life cycles.

“Fish Sticks” projects are intended to restore woody habitat in lakes by adding trees to the near-shore area.  They are large woody habitat structures that use either single trees or trees grouped.  Fish sticks structures are anchored to the shore and are partially or fully submerged near the shoreline for a lake.  Fish sticks projects are completed to provide additional fish habitat, as well as to expand fishing opportunities by anglers and provide protection to shorelines.”

Fish sticks on ice cr

The Fish Sticks Program in Manitowish Waters

In Manitowish Waters, a collaboration between Walleyes for Tomorrow and the Manitowish Waters Lakes Association has resulted in the placement of woody habitat in multiple lakes.  Initially the reintroduction of woody habitat was done using fish cribs.  Fish cribs are structures constructed of 8’ logs of about 6” diameter stacked in a “Lincoln Log” configuration, 4’ tall, allowing fish to swim in and out of crib.  The cribs were hauled out on to the ice in winter, weighted, and sunk when the ice melted in the spring.

Fish sticks however are now favored as fish sticks provide more diverse habitat. 

  • Single trees may be used, but generally groups of three to five trees are tied together and fully or partially submerged using sand bags.
  • Whole trees are used with branches intact. Some of the branches may extend into water 10’ to 20’ in depth.
  • Along private property the trees are placed with owners’ consent. Placement is done in accordance with guidelines from the Department of Natural Resources.

This collaboration for the placement of “Fish Sticks” will continue, providing additional suitable habitat for fish and improving the vitality of the fisheries of Manitowish Waters.

Click the button below to view the Healthy Lakes, Healthy Rivers Fact Sheet regarding “Fish Sticks”.