biologists flexing their green thumbs
It’s not the most glamorous work in the world. Slogging around in
the mud and the muck planting aquatic plants makes for some long,
hard workdays in the summer.
But fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife
Conservation are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. Three
years ago biologists began an effort to restore the aquatic
vegetation around the shores of Lake Thunderbird in central Oklahoma
and biologists believe that their work is beginning to pay off.
“The plants are beginning to spread outside of the areas where we
have planted them and we think these new areas of aquatic vegetation
may have some very positive effects on the survival of young fish,”
said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Wildlife
Department. Wildlife Department personnel built 18 different cages
to help protect the young plants from turtles and other herbivores.
The 25 x 50 foot cages, or enclosures, were built using vinyl-coated
chicken wire and fence posts and were placed at six different sites
around the lake.
“Our primary goal, is to provide hiding places in the summer for
recently hatched fish such as bass, bluegill and minnows,” Gilliland
said. “Natural vegetation is just about the best nursery habitat
available for these young fish.”
Biologists planted nearly ten different types of aquatic plants
including plants that grow in deeper water and plants that can
survive out of the water for a brief time during the dry summer
months. The plants were obtained from a wide variety of sources,
including purchasing them from greenhouses, transplanting them from
local ponds and propagating plants at the Department’s Fishery
Research Laboratory in Norman.
“We wanted to plant a wide variety of plants so that there would be
some stability in the habitat. The more plant diversity that is in
the lake, the more likelihood that at least a portion of the plants
can survive through a range of factors like changes in water levels
or changes in water clarity,” Gilliland said.
Gilliland added that the assistance of many different volunteers
proved invaluable in completing the project.
“Projects like these are relatively cheap, for the return in the
investment. However, they can be quite labor intensive and we
couldn’t have done it with out the help of volunteers,” Gilliland
Similar re-vegetation projects are also ongoing on several lakes
around the state including Eufaula, Texoma, Skiatook, Kaw and Wes
Watkins lakes. Landowners interested in improving aquatic habitats
on their own ponds may want to log on to a habitat consultation Web
site created by the American Fisheries Society. The Web site,
www.sdafs.org/habitat, provides landowners with a list of the
recommended plantings according to their pond description and
For more information about fisheries management in Oklahoma, contact
the Oklahoma Fishery Laboratory at (405) 325-7288.