Are We Loving Our Lakes to Death?

What is appealing to the eye may be scaring away the fish.

Without a doubt developed shorelines are appealing to the eye, especially to the owners of lakeshore property. It makes sense that improvement of these areas makes access easier and demonstrates pride in proper upkeep, much like the work we put into our lawns and landscaping.

But what effect might it have on the fish in our beloved lakes? Is that development also benefitting the spawning areas for the inhabitants of the fishery? The answer seems to be NO.  

Think about the habitat that tends to hold fish. If you remove those blowdown trees or dredge out the native vegetation, what's left is not conducive to bedding and rearing fry, so fish tend to avoid those areas. As long as there is ample undeveloped shoreline the fish will use that habitat and continue to proliferate. Underwater timber provides a nursery for the young fish and heavy vegetation provides protection.

But if a given lake becomes almost entirely developed, fish populations tend to decline. While sandy bottoms are conducive to private beaches, if they shut out emerging vegetation they tend to prohibit the growth of the fish. Invasive species like eurasion water milfoil also enjoy a greater ability to fill those voids. 

Dr. Hal Schramm examines the Littoral and Riparian Zones and how our treatment of them affects our fish populations. It may change your perception of what a 'nice lake' looks like.

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