Fish and weeds: Exploring the connection

We know that aquatic vegetation helps attract fish and shelter young fish from predators. But the precise interactions between fish and plants are not well understood. That leaves many questions about how to manage aquatic plants to support fisheries goals. Now the Midwest Gracial Lakes Partnership has awarded a $60,155 grant to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology for research to assess the relationships between fisheries and aquatic vegetation, with the aim to discover keys to improving management of lake habitats.

The project will combine extensive datasets for aquatic plants and fish communities across thousands of lakes in the Upper Midwest’s glaciated areas, aiming to quantitatively link vegetation and its management to recreational fisheries. It will help answer two specific questions that are high priorities for lake managers:

  • What is the importance of aquatic vegetation for walleye recruitment, either as habitat for spawning or for juvenile fish?
  • How can aquatic vegetation management be used to manage and support popular recreational fisheries, including panfish, bass and walleye?

The assessments will be provided to biologists, lake associations, and other stakeholders using workshops, seminars, fact sheets, and data visualization tools, so that managers can evaluate lake performance, identify lakes where habitat management could improve fisheries, and learn what benefits aquatic plants can provide toward meeting lake management goals. This grant is one of five 2022 Lake Conservation Grants totaling $324,238 recently announced by the MGLP. Funds for the grants are provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and will be matched by over $1,597,000 in contributions from partners, for a total of $1,921,000.

In another grant-funded project,  the Stearns County (Minnesota) Soil and Water District will work with property owners to rehabilitate five shorelines to improve fish habitat and water quality. Each project will use natural techniques including native grasses, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, vines and various bio-engineering techniques to expand and protect fish and wildlife habitat and limit sediment and nutrient runoff to the lakes.  Visit the Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership at https://midwestglaciallakes.org/. (Photo credit: Robert Korth, University of Wisconsin Extension Lakes)