Volunteers Needed for Lake Gaston Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Project

By / Fishing / Monday, 22 June 2015 04:00

OANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. (June 10, 2015) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the Lake Gaston Association are asking for volunteers to help with an aquatic habitat enhancement project on Lake Gaston, June 23-26 and July 20-24.
Volunteers are needed to build fenced-in protected areas, called “exclosures,” and plant native aquatic vegetation in the exclosures. Wildlife Commission biologists are trying to augment the lake’s native vegetation to provide habitat for popular gamefish such as bass, crappie and other sunfish, after implementing measures to reduce hydrilla — a non-native aquatic plant known for its long-term potential to create problems for boaters, anglers and water-supply facilities.
Volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m. each day. Work will be done at different locations around the lake so volunteers will need to pre-register to identify daily meeting locations. The exclosures will be located in shallow areas and near the shorelines. Volunteers will need to wear water shoes that protect feet and toes because they will be working in water that could reach waist high. They also should bring gloves for building the exclosures, and should wear sunscreen or a hat for sun protection. Volunteers and staff will plant spatterdock, white water lily, watershield, eelgrass and a variety of pondweeds in groups, called “founder colonies.” Commission biologists hope the founder colonies will spread to other parts of Lake Gaston, enhancing the lake’s habitat for juvenile and adult fish.
Enhancing the lake’s aquatic habitat with native vegetation is especially important to biologists who for years have used herbicides and triploid grass carp to control the spread of hydrilla, a non-native, highly invasive plant. While hydrilla provides fish habitat, it spreads quickly and can overtake a body of water, causing severe problems for anglers and boaters alike. “While the acres of standing hydrilla has steadily declined, it’s important to get other native vegetation established to help compete with any existing hydrilla,” said Mark Fowlkes, the Piedmont aquatic habitat coordinator for the Commission. “The native vegetation we are adding in Lake Gaston will provide much-needed habitat for popular game fishes that benefit from a lot of underwater vegetation, such as largemouth bass and crappie.”
The Lake Gaston aquatic vegetation enhancement project is part of a multi-year effort to improve fish habitat and provide anglers with better fishing opportunities in Lake Gaston, which is located in Halifax, Northampton and Warren counties, along the Virginia border. The Commission has partnered with Lake Gaston Weed Control Council and N.C. State University to extend a re-vegetation research project begun by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2006. Last year, they surveyed existing sites to determine what vegetation was present, as well as the condition of the vegetation. They repaired existing exclosures, expanded fencing at one site and planted Illinois pondweed.
The project is being funded through the Sport Fish Restoration Program, Lake Gaston Weed Control Council and the N.C. State University Department of Crop Science. The Sport Fish Restoration Program utilizes state fishing license money and federal grant funds derived from federal excise taxes on anglers’ purchases of fishing equipment and motorboat fuels. To pre-register or for more information, contact Wally Sayko with Lake Gaston Association at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call 434-636-5393.

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