KINGSTON TWP. — Ron Keiner watched with a skilled eye as members of the Nanticoke Conservation Club and Boy Scout Troop 241 assembled fish habitat structures with precision.
The groups joined the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at Frances Slocum State Park on Wednesday to build 30 porcupine cribs that were deposited around the lake. The structures provide habitat for panfish, a benefit that can last for decades.
Keiner, who has been a member of the Nanticoke club for 50 years, has quite a bit of experience with the habitat structures. The club has been doing habitat work at the lake since 1999, building everything from the porcupine cribs to platforms that afford turtles a place to bask in the sun.
“We’ve put a lot of habitat in this lake over the years,” Keiner said. “There’s a lot of structure in here.”
This year, because of the high turnout of volunteers, the PFBC planned for 30 porcupine cribs to be built and deposited into the lake. The pyramid-shaped cribs are 4 feet high and constructed with 2-inch strips of hemlock. Concrete block donated by Riverview Block, Inc., of Berwick, are used to keep the structures anchored to the bottom.
Keith Beamer, habitat biologist for Fish and Boat, said the cribs will last for 30 to 40 years and are submerged in eight to 24 feet of water. The location of each crib — as is the case with all structures that have been put into the lake — are mapped on the PFBC website so anglers can find them.
“These are excellent for ice fishing. If anglers look them up on the map, come out here and find them, I bet they can catch a limit of 50 panfish,” Beamer said.
Typically, the club builds around a dozen habitat structures for the lake each year. Being tasked with 30 was something they could handle, said member Phil Levandoski.
“The guys know what they’re doing. We’ve built over 100 of these through the years,” he said.
A helping hand from the scouts also aided in getting 30 cribs built in less than two hours.
Assistant Scout Master Ted Wren said the scouts from Troop 241, which is based in Lehman, were eager to help when it comes to a project that benefits the environment.
“It’s good to get the kids outdoors and away from the electronics and things like that,” he said. “Having them work together with the conservation club makes this project a perfect fit.”
Wren’s son Nathaniel, 14, who is in Troop 241, said the firsthand experience of building the cribs and learning about what they do makes him want to come to Frances Slocum for a fishing trip in the future.
But on Wednesday, he was content to help nail the hemlock strips together and watch the cribs go into the water.
“It’s a good thing for the fish. They can swim through the openings and even live inside of them. I don’t mind doing things that help the environment like this,” Nathaniel said.
According to Beamer, habitat work will continue at Frances Slocum for another six years. That means the fish habitat will continue to improve and so, too, will the fishing.
The results have already been seen when the Nanticoke club holds its annual ice fishing derby at the lake. Club president Gary Gronkowski said some anglers know to fish near the structures and they’re catching more bass and pickerel as a result. Those species, he said, hang around the structures because the smaller fish that use them are a food source.
It’s a multi-faceted benefit that will continue for decades.
“I’ve come out here with a fish finder and you see all the structures, even years later,” said club member Ron Boone as he took a break from nailing boards together. “We’ve helped with all kinds of things, including turtle basking platforms and floating islands. It’s neat to come back and see it all.”
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky