Discarded orange barrels get new life as fish shelters - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Discarded orange barrels get new life as fish shelters

RUSSELLVILLE – Those familiar plastic orange traffic barrels are everywhere along Arkansas roads. What happens to them then they are broken or damaged?
Instead of going to landfills, a good many of them are seeing second use on the bottom of lakes.
Bob Limbird, a veteran fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, has added orange barrels to the stock of discarded and donated materials refurbished as fish structures for his area's waters.
The battered barrels come to Limbird and assistant Frank Leone from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. Some have been hit by vehicles and cracked or bent. Limbird, Leone and occasional volunteers use a hole saw to cut openings in the sides of the barrels. They insert pieces of plastic pipe, some bent into curves, in these holes. A bit of concrete weighs down the barrels, and they are dropped into lakes in spots where they will be well below boat depths.
Fish structures of many types are growing in use all over Arkansas. Discarded Christmas trees, real ones and not plastic, have been used for years.
In the water, these structures provide cover for many species of fish. Anglers like them because they provide a readily accessible spot where catches are apt to be made.
Limbird and his crew work with a variety of recycled items in addition to the traffic barrels. Plastic pipe, rigid like PVC and also flexible types, are cut into lengths handy to serve as branches of these man-made underwater trees.
Plastic buckets, also with a bit of concrete in the bottoms for weights, are fitted with pipe uprights then dropped into selected spots in lakes. Plastic garden planters in 3-gallon and 5-gallon sizes are used. A large plastic drain pipe can be cut with holes, one end capped and weight added.
The plastic pipe comes from a variety of sources. Some are broken on the end and not usable for original purposes. Some are leftovers from construction projects.
Once example of the fish structures in use, Limbird said, was at Blue Mountain Lake in western Arkansas where a major drawdown was made a couple of years back. "When the water was down, we put a lot of fish structures in. Fishermen put even more. They drove a lot of stakes into the bed of the lake for fish shelters," he said.
The recycling for fish structures comes at modest costs – some bags of cement, some coated screw to hold the components in place, some fuel to go after the materials and to put the structures in place in lakes.
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