Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Ottawa NF improves aquatic habitat

MICHIGAN — The Ottawa National Forest recently completed an aquatic habitat improvement project on Long Lake to benefit multiple fish species. Located just outside Sylvania, Michigan, on the western portion of the Watersmeet Ranger District, Long Lake provides a good variety of game fish.

Fish rely on large wood in lakes, rivers and streams for protective cover and spawning. This large wood material also provides fish with a source of food; either directly or indirectly as aquatic insects break down the wood and become a food source for the lurking fish.

At the turn of the 20th century, during the great cutover, most of the large trees along the shores of lakes and banks of rivers were logged off; eliminating the potential for these trees to naturally become fish habitat.

Photo: A lake with trees lying on their sides toward the shore.
Tree drops along the shore of Long Lake on the Watersmeet Ranger District, Ottawa National Forest. The tree drops add aquatic habitat, cover and food. Forest Service photo.

In an effort to mimic and restore habitat type that once existed in lakes and rivers across the Ottawa, wood is being added back via tree drops along the shoreline and banks. Efforts on Long Lake improved habitat for largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, bluegill, yellow perch, black crappie, and forage fish such as minnows. This project, funded in part through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Project, is part of an ongoing effort to increase large, wood structure within lakes and streams in order to enhance and restore cover and habitat. 

Over the past year, the Ottawa National Forest has provided large wood and structural element improvement to 106 acres of lakes and 14.5 miles of rivers and streams.