Old citrus trees anchored to the bottom of Lake Apopka to attract fish

More fish will soon be swimming in Lake Apopka. It’s all part of a new environmental project that will make many anglers happy.

The lake was once the bass fishing capital of the world, but for decades, environmentalists said it suffered from harmful farming practices coming from nearby citrus groves.

Now environmentalists are taking trees from some of those same groves and sinking them to the bottom of the lake to bring new life back to the fish population.

"The stories for many years were about how polluted Lake Apopka was and today Lake Apopka is in the middle of a world-class comeback story," said Joe Kilsheimer, president of the Friends of Lake Apopka.

Water quality is improving and the game fish population is rebounding.

"Back in 2016 – 2017, we stocked over 1.4 million fish fingerling bass," said Scott Bisping, FWC Fisheries Resource Biologist. "They’re about three to four years old now – definitely tangible size – could be up to 20 inches in length."

But Florida Fish and Wildlife said Florida’s fourth-largest lake is still very underutilized.

"We know that the fish are here, but the anglers aren’t using it," Bisping said.

So Bisping had an idea when he saw old citrus trees being torn out from a grove in Montverde on the banks of Lake Apopka.

Those trees would make for great fish attractors in the lake.

With many partners in on the project, an excavator lifted more than 100 trees from the shore and onto a barge where concrete blocks were tied to the roots and dropped into the water to sink to the bottom.

"The citrus trees on the bottom of the lake are very similar in nature to how a coral reef works because it provides habitat for smaller fish right and bigger fish are attracted to smaller fish," Kilsheimer said.

Those trees are now anchored into 17 locations throughout the 30,000-acre lake and will provide an ideal location for anglers to hook fish.

While environmentalists said it will still take many years to restore the lake to its prime, it has come a long way.

Officials added that bringing a boost to bass fishing will also benefit the Central Florida economy.

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