Reef Innovations

Use of Reef Balls in Rivers

Reef Balls have been used around the world in various way along rivers and lakes. The Reef Ball is ideal as a breakwater for fresh and salt water, its hydrodynamic characteristics are unique and provide many assets to the ecosystem. From fish habitat, to wave attenuation Reef Balls have been proven successful over and over again since the 1990’s and we challenge you to find a new way to use Reef Balls for your project.

Below are some links to river projects using Reef Balls:

Reef Ball – Cherokee Lake

Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency places a reef ball in Cherokee Lake as part of a larger partnership with TVA to provide habitat and support aquatic biodiversity in areas of need. About 30 balls will be placed in Cherokee and Douglas lakes this year. TVA and TWRA will monitor activity to track successful adoption by the “underwater locals.”



Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency


Fish Attractor (Habitat Enhancement) Program

Cherokee Reservoir Fish Attractor

As East Tennessee’s reservoirs age, they slowly lose the natural woody debris that serves as refuge and spawning habitat for fish. Some of our reservoirs, like Norris, are more than 70 years old and have lost all their woody debris. Other reservoirs, such as Tellico, still contain a significant amount of underwater structure. The TWRA established a fish attractor program in the 1980s to introduce artificial and natural structures back into these aging reservoirs.

A wide variety of fish attractors have been used over the years. Brush piles that are anchored to the ground and made of cedar and hardwood trees are the most commonly installed and are used by a wide variety of game fish. Stake beds have been constructed to provide habitat for crappie, and spawning benches have been built to create nursery habitat for smallmouth bass. These wooden structures work well for a few years, but must continually be refurbished to retain their effectiveness.

Live plantings with bald cypress and black willow trees have been established in draw-down areas to create additional, long lasting habitat. The possibility of growing button bush in nurseries and transplanting into reservoirs is being examined.

Shoreline seeding of grasses during the winter draw-down has the potential of creating spawning habitat and cover for young fish. Seeding has been successful in some areas, but inconsistent water levels have rendered most shoreline seeding projects impractical. Many of our reservoirs fluctuate 30-40 feet between summer full pool and the winter draw-down. This presents a serious challenge to the establishment of vegetation.

Following are pictures of fish attractors that have been established in local reservoirs. This is very labor intensive work and Region IV has only two individuals assigned to the program. Volunteers are encouraged to contact Russell Young at (423) 587-7037 or (800) 332-0900, extension 250, for the current work schedule.

TVA’s guidelines for fish attractor deployment

Reef Balls
Douglas pallets
Norris smallmouth benches
Christmas trees
Cypress trees


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With over 30 years of combined experience in research, product design, and manufacturing of Reef Balls, Reef Innovations is a leader in innovative design and construction materials for Reef and Breakwater projects.

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