If you are noticing more aquatic plants in your favorite lake, don’t be alarmed. Biologists in North Carolina and South Carolina may have planted them to control erosion and improve fisheries.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Santee Cooper utility planted water willow as part of a shoreline stabilization and habitat improvement project at Lake Moultrie’s Hatchery Wildlife Management Area, according to James Henne, acting manager of Bears Bluff National Fish Hatchery in Wadmalaw Island, S.C.
“We value it because it shelters others plants and gamefish,” said Scott Lamprecht, a fisheries biologist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. It’s resilient, self-propagating and isn’t eaten by grass carp, which are sometimes used to control aquatic grass.
Fisheries habitat improvements have been under way for decades in North Carolina, according to biologist Mark Fowlkes of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, but aquatic vegetation in Piedmont reservoirs has become of particular interest recently.
“Establishing vegetation is one tool in fisheries management,” he said.
The Commission has partnered with organizations, lake managers and municipalities to establish aquatic plants in reservoirs, including High Rock and Randleman in the Piedmont and Lake James and W. Kerr Scott in the Mountains. It’s work paid in part by the Sport Fish Restoration Program, which anglers support by purchasing licenses, fishing equipment and boat fuel.
And it’s not just water willow. Plantings have included white water lily, eelgrass and several pond weed species. Biologists match plant needs to reservoir characteristics to ensure success. Some plants are purchased from nurseries and raised at McKinney Lake Fish Hatchery in Hoffman, N.C., Fowlkes said. Others are harvested from the wild. Those are scrutinized to keep invasive species, such as mystery snails, from spreading.