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Fish Survival Dependent on Landowner Actions

Fish Survival Dependent on Landowner Actions

Fish survival is tied to habitat, and like most species of wildlife, their habitat condition is often dependent on actions taken by private landowners.

Simply put, fish need food, water, shelter, and favorable conditions to breed and raise their young. A more complex story emerges when you manage habitats for many different fish species, with very different life cycles and needs. Some fish need cold water, others need warm. Some use sandy bottoms, others like to hide under rocks and wood, and on and on.

It’s watershed management, particularly management of the land nearest the stream, that’s most important to fish. Healthy plant life along streams and a steady flow of clean water are critical.

Land development or poor forestry or agricultural practices can cause erosion that results in sediment that can cement stream gravels and smother fish eggs. Streambank erosion can also mean less overhanging vegetation that contributes leaves and twigs that host some of the insects fish eat. While cold water fish such as trout have different habitat needs than warm water fish like sauger, there are some general management tips that fit all streams to improve habitat:

  1. Control upland erosion on fields, pastures, and forests.
  2. Maintain vegetation on streambanks and protect banks from trampling and erosion.
  3. Plant streamside buffers of trees, shrubs, and grasses, preferably using native species.
  4. Install grass filter strips to trap sediments.
  5. Irrigate efficiently, managing water so stream flows are adequate for fish to move up and down stream to their different habitats.
  6. Keep chemicals, manure, and fertilizers out of the water.

In-stream practices. Meandering streams with riffles and pools, undercut banks with overhanging vegetation, and submerged wood are ideal for trout and other fish. Keeping streams free of barriers to fish movement up and downstream and maintaining wetlands and backwaters in floodplains are also important management techniques.

For more information about conservation practices that can improve wildlife habitat on your land, stop at the local NRCS office.

Wildlife Ways

Did you know....
That slime you feel when you handle a fish is a type of mucus secreted from the skin that’s very important to a fish. It’s a coating that provides protection against parasites and diseases, covers wounds to prevent infection, and helps fish move through the water faster.