LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Officials in Lake County want to bring more fisherman to the area, but first they plan to bring in more fish with fish attractors.
The new fish attractors were installed on Sunday in Leesburg's Lake Griffin. The fish attractors look somewhat like plastic Christmas trees that are weighed down in the water with a cinderblock. The goal is the for the attractors to eventually become a habitat that will attract fish.
Many fishmerman already call Lake Griffin, on the Harris chain of lakes, an angler's paradise.
"They come from all over to fish in our lakes," Bill Connelly, with Hawthorne Fishing Club, said.
Connelly said he's excited about the fish attractors, which could also potentially bring more fishing tournaments to the area. He and other club members helped Florida Fish and Wildlife crews assemble the plastic trees into what's essentially an artificial underwater reef.
The idea is to get the fish to congregate in one area, creating fishing hot spots for people like Connelly.
"It will hold little organisms the smaller fish will eat, and the bigger fish will eat them and eventually it works it's way up to bass," Connelly said.
But Lake Griffin hasn't always been a fishing haven. Until around 2000, it was considered one of the most polluted lakes in the state, plagued by decades of phosphorous run-off from nearby farms. After years of clean up, fishing on Lake Griffin has come back and the Department of Health said the fish are safe to eat.
Fish and Wildlife has used wood fish attractors in the past, but this is the first large scale effort using plastic. Fisherman believe they will last longer and are less likely to snag their lines.
Officials are hoping the big benefit of the attractors is bringing more people to fish in Lake County.
"To help the fishermen here locally and also tourists come in, that's big money for Florida," Connelly said.
More fish attractors will be installed in Lake Griffin next week. In 2015, officials plan to put the attractors in nearby Lake Harris.