Conservation Project 8: Old Hickory and Fish Attractors


“So, how do you age a goose by it’s poop?” was the first phrase uttered out of Ranger Earhart’s mouth. We began our conservation day at Old Hickory Lake with a smile and a giggle. Today we constructed fish attractors with old palates and Christmas trees with Rangers Allen Earhart and Cody Flatt. We fastened three pallets together in a triangle, wired them shut, and attached a small Christmas tree to the top. There are also three to four larger Christmas trees (tinsel still clinging amidst the branches) cabled together at the trunks. All are weighted by makeshift anchors from plastic, concrete-filled planter pots with a cable passing through PVC piping in the middle. The Christmas trees have to be completely dried out before placed in the lake otherwise they spread toxins throughout the water, killing fish rather than attracting them. This contraption eventually provides habitat due to the concentration of algae that grows on the Christmas trees drawing small fish, which in turn are consumed by larger fish. This gives local fisherman a whopping chance to reel in some igloo teamers, a goal sought by Army Corps Rangers. Involvement in community outreach projects such as this draw in more people to recreation sites and are a highlight of a Ranger’s position.

Clearly, one of the disadvantages of the job is the heat paired with humidity, so we all proceeded to a projection room at the Old Hickory Visitor Center to enjoy our lunches in the confines of sweet AC. After lunch, Allen was given the green light to take us on a boat tour to Old Hickory Lock and Dam. We were all ecstatic at this news since our first boat tour was stolen by a Timber Rattlesnake researcher and the second sabotaged by a faulty, sinking pontoon. We took the tour in threes and were informed that Old Hickory Lock and Dam is a lower-constructed dam, not built for flood control, but more for hydro-electric power. Old Hickory Dam operates not only power for itself, but for Cheatham and J. Percy Priest dams as well.

It is always a great time conversing with Rangers and each has different knowledge about recreation areas and their surrounding culture keeping us thoroughly entertained with their witticisms and situations they have encountered. So, it turns out you cannot age a goose by it’s poop, but we spent the entire morning avoiding the land mines surrounding Hunter’s Point boat ramp.

Written by Lindsey McKnight