The Southern Illinois University-Carbondale student subunit of the Illinois chapter of the American Fisheries Society (SIUCAFS) is seeking funding for a project that will place a variety of fish habitat structures throughout Campus Lake in an effort to provide additional habitat for fishes, while enhancing future angling opportunities for Campus Lake users.
According to recent fish population assessments, Campus Lake contains a large proportion of small Largemouth Bass, but few prey fishes (e.g., small Bluegill and Redear Sunfish). Furthermore, the Black Crappie population has shown signs of decline in both abundance and size structure in recent years. The unbalanced predator prey ratio and declines in fish population abundance and size structure may be due to the lack of shallow water fish habitat structures (e.g., downed trees and aquatic vegetation) in Campus Lake. Currently, Campus Lake contains a limited amount of shallow water fish habitat as evidence from the recent water level drawdown for removal of sediment to mitigate toxic algal blooms. Shallow water fish habitat structures are essential for maintaining healthy populations and ratios of predator and prey fish species; prey fishes use shallow water fish habitat for cover and refuge which increases their survival and growth, and in turn, predators benefit from more abundant and larger prey. Therefore, we would like to add artificial fish habitat structures to the lake to enhance the fish population and improve angling opportunities. These artificial fish habitat structures include PVC structures with interstitial spaces that mimic downed trees and vegetation, but will last longer than natural structures that decay.
Through our SIUCAFS outreach with the local community we have acquired some materials to construct these structures and additional donations will help us obtain the rest of the materials needed for construction. We anticipate the artificial fish habitat structures will provide high quality habitat for the fish species present in Campus Lake. More specifically, these structures will provide habitat for prey fishes to increase their abundance, and the additional prey fish available will likely improve the growth and size structure of Largemouth Bass and Black Crappie in Campus Lake. In addition, these fish habitat structures will provide more angling locations for Campus Lake users to fish, as many fish species are structure oriented and use these habitats. Ultimately, this project is concurrent with the overall Campus Lake project goal to rehabilitate and manage the lake for both the ecosystem and local community.
This is also part of a larger habitat improvement project the SIUCAFS is organizing for Campus Lake. We also have submitted an application to the Green Fund to plant vegetation in Campus Lake, which will help the fish community and serve to beautify the lake.