North Carolina Fish Habitat Projects

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Aquatic vegetation was planted in five North Carolina reservoirs during 2014. Completed by North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission staff, the projects were designed to improve fish habitat and provide better fishing opportunities.

Native vegetation, such as pickerelweed, water willow, soft stem bulrush, white water lily, and eelgrass, was planted in W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, Lake Gaston, Lookout Shoals Lake, Lake Townsend and Oak Hollow Lake.

When established, these plants will be beneficial to fish and wildlife, and will provide anglers with a variety of habitat types to fish. In addition to providing excellent habitat for fish, the native plants will protect shorelines from erosion and will filter sediment and pollutants from surface runoff.

To keep the new vegetation from being eaten by turtles, grass carp, muskrats and other herbivores, Commission staff built fenced-in protected areas, called exclosures, in shallow areas and near the shorelines on each lake. They hope that the protected plants will act as founder colonies that will grow and spread throughout the reservoirs over time.

At W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, staff again partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, planting water willow in the 1,475-acre lake. W. Kerr Scott is a relatively young ecosystem and has eroding shorelines with little aquatic vegetation, which can make the lake muddy and degrade water quality over time.

In Lake Gaston, staff partnered with N.C. State University and the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council to extend a re-vegetation research project begun by the USACE in 2006. This year, they surveyed existing sites to determine what vegetation was present, as well as the condition of the vegetation. They repaired existing exclosures, expanded fencing at one site and planted Illinois pondweed.

Establishing colonies of native vegetation in Lake Gaston is especially important to biologists because the lake, which is located along the Virginia border in Halifax, Northampton and Warren counties, is infested with hydrilla, a non-native, invasive plant from Asia.

While hydrilla provides fish habitat, it spreads quickly and can overtake a body of water, causing severe problems for anglers fishermen and boaters alike. To control the spread of hydrilla, the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council has been stocking triploid grass carp in the lake for the past 15 years.

The carp have eaten many acres of hydrilla, and biologists are planting the native vegetation to replace the acres of hydrilla eaten by the carp.

In Lookout Shoals, a 1,305-acre reservoir in Catawba, Alexander and Iredell counties, Commission staff planted native vegetation at eight sites. Agency biologists have documented a substantial decrease in largemouth bass densities in recent years.

In Lake Townsend and Oak Hollow Lake, staff is continuing a 5-year aquatic vegetation establishment research project begun in 2012. The data collected are being used to determine what plants to use in other reservoirs.

The projects were funded through the Sport Fish Restoration Program, which utilizes state fishing license money and federal grant funds derived from federal excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuels.

source: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission