Shorelines and Our Fishery

In the Wisconsin DNR pamphlet, The Water’s Edge, Mike Staggs, a previous DNR Fisheries Director stated, “If you destroy the natural shoreline habitat, then fishing will get worse—and we cannot fix that situation by simply stocking or changing the fishing regulations. If you want great fishing— then you have to protect the fishing habitat.

The pamphlet points out that bass, bluegills, northern pike and other fish spawn near the shoreline in shallow waters. Walleyes use clean gravel near the shoreline swept by waves to spawn. Possibly you have seen muskies spawn along some of the healthy and suitable shorelines of our Manitowish Waters lakes.

The Waters Edge indicates that many species of fish “do best within the tangles of aquatic plants” and the brush found by healthy shorelines. Yellow perch and northern pike lay their eggs on aquatic plants. We should allow native growing aquatic plants to populate our near shore environment and limit any removal.

Research indicates that overdeveloped shorelines can result in bodies of water with less fish, and lakes and rivers with less developed shorelines typically can have both more fish and more species of fish. Along with removing plants and woody debris, another way of stressing a fishery with development is trying to change natural shores into beaches for swimming. Bringing in sand not only covers burrows used by mayflies and the habitat frogs use for laying eggs, but the sand can also cover the natural silt and gravel that fish use for spawning.

Maintaining healthy shorelines promote fish habitat in other ways. Panfish and bass hide out in the shallows, under the shade of down trees and in the plants growing near the water’s edge. Not just the fish, but many of the small aquatic organisms that feed bluegills and other fish do best in the fallen wood along shorelines.

Many of us like to fish. If we want to continue to enjoy fishing and to encourage others who enjoy fishing to come to our lakes and rivers we need a healthy habitat for the fish. Woody debris, down trees, near shore aquatic plants and appropriate shoreline buffers are essential for that healthy habitat. If we want a healthy fishery, we need healthy shorelines—and that is up to us.

(Much of the above information taken from the DNR pamphlet The Water’s Edge. To read the complete pamphlet, please check out the following link:)