They may look like large, spiky wheels for medieval torture machinery, but mossback habitats provide life to fisheries and offer broad benefits to lake ecosystems.
Park rangers at the Youghiogheny River Lake assembled 23 mossback habitats with the help of the Confluence and Rockwood Boy Scout troops Feb. 25. Mossback habitats mimic submerged trees but are made from recycled PVC pipe – an advantage compared to structures made with natural materials because they do not deteriorate over time.
“It’s important for the Boy Scouts to recognize the full circle effect that their efforts contributed towards this project,” said Karen Osler, a park ranger at Youghiogheny.
Each structure is made of a hollow-center pipe with “V” shaped holes that allow multiple ‘branches’ to attach, sticking out in all different directions.
The “V” shape of the branches offers multiple benefits. The shape is resistant to fishing hooks from getting caught, which lake anglers can appreciate. Additionally, the branches accumulate detritus, allowing vegetation to sprout and provide a habitat for fish and aquatic insects, contributing to a broader healthy ecosystem.
The habitats contribute to the fish population’s growth, allowing bald eagles and other wildlife that rely on fish for food to become more prevalent in the area.
The fish species that will benefit most from their upscaled neighborhood are smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye, perch, bluegill, and the minnows they prey upon in the coming months.
Anglers will also reap the rewards of their population growth for years.
Once the team decides on the locations, they will sink the habitats on the lake. Then, they will gather GPS coordinates for each habitat to help the rangers locate and monitor the structures later.
Many Boy Scouts who volunteered to help with the project are avid anglers passionate about helping wildlife. Their service work at Youghiogheny will also help them earn their fish and wildlife management badges. In addition, their volunteer hours will also count towards their community service goals and help them increase in rank.
“The Confluence and Rockwood Boy Scouts are a great group of young fellows,” said Osler. “They are fun to work with because they have a strong work ethic and truly care about the environment.”