Wildlife Commission Funds Aquatic Vegetation Research at Lake Mattamuskeet

By / Fishing / Monday, 14 December 2015 05:00

ENGELHARD, N.C. (Dec. 4, 2015) – In partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has collaborated with researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill to implement a habitat enhancement project on Lake Mattamuskeet beginning in 2016.  The Wildlife Commission will fund the $233,000 project with monies from a Wildlife Restoration Fund grant.
The 3-year research project will focus on maintaining submerged aquatic vegetation in the east basin of the lake and examining the potential to increase coverage of aquatic vegetation in the west basin.  Healthy stands of submerged aquatic vegetation provide food for waterfowl, habitat for other migratory birds, fish and crabs. Submerged aquatic vegetation is very limited in the west basin of Lake Mattamuskeet, and in recent years has steadily declined in the east basin.
As the centerpiece of the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in Hyde County, Lake Mattamuskeet is home to an abundant diversity of wildlife — from the hundreds of thousands of waterfowl that winter on the lake each year to a unique fishery that consists of both freshwater and estuarine species because of the drainage canals that connect the lake to Pamlico Sound.
The habitat enhancement project slated for next year is one of several projects outlined in a Memorandum of Collaboration signed in 2014 by the Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the lake’s aquatic and surrounding habitat, improve water quality and provide better access to the lake. Other projects include conducting waterfowl surveys as well as fisheries research and surveys, managing aquatic plants, and improving and creating access areas.
The Wildlife Commission has been conducting significant fisheries and fishing access-related work at Mattamuskeet over the last few years. So far, staff has:
·         Provided management recommendations to enhance fisheries habitats in the main lake to improve the quantity and quality of sportfish populations at Lake Mattamuskeet.
Conducted annual electrofishing and trap netting surveys in the main lake and surrounding canals to describe abundance, size, condition, and growth of largemouth bass, black crappie, and other sportfish.
 Collected and tagged adult largemouth bass with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to evaluate fish movement within and between lake and canal habitats. Comparison of recapture location and original tagging location using GIS software will be used to examine fish movement at varying lake levels.
Stocked the lake with 45,000 largemouth bass fingerlings in 2014 and 70,000 in 2015 as part of a multi-year largemouth bass enhancement study. Biologists will evaluate the hatchery contribution to the largemouth bass population using genetics techniques that conclusively identify hatchery fish from those spawned in the wild.  
Surveyed anglers multiple times each week at 15 access areas from March 1 to Oct. 31, 2014 and summarized angler effort, catch and harvest of various species of fish as well as blue crab. Anglers and crabbers from more than 50 North Carolina counties as well as 17 different states were intercepted during the angler survey. Blue crab, channel catfish, black crappie, white perch and largemouth bass were the top five species targeted in the angler survey. Many of the crabs and fish caught were also harvested. Biologists provided recommendations on sportfish regulations, improving access areas, and conducting follow-up surveys to gather further angler input regarding their preferences and how their experiences at Lake Mattamuskeet could be enhanced. View the full report.
Renovated two universally accessible boat ramps to increase access to the lake, one at Rose Bay Canal and another near the Lake Mattamuskeet Lodge.
Provided joint funding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the operation of the two USGS gaging stations on the lake that monitor lake level fluctuations and other water quality parameters in real-time.
Other fisheries management plans for 2016 include an additional stocking of 50,000 largemouth bass fingerlings as well as the implementation of a largemouth bass movement project utilizing radio telemetry to track the movements of individual adult fish as they move in and out the canals. Information gleaned from this study will help biologists understand better how fish use main lake and canal habitats at specific water levels. Commission staff also will identify additional shoreline areas that may be improved for fish habitat and angler access.
In addition to the work done by the Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has:
Provided funding of treatment for phragmites, an invasive plant species.
Completed a submerged vegetation survey of the lake.
Provided maintenance dredging of two feeder canals to the Rose Bay canal.
Constructed a new parking lot for the boat ramp at Rose Bay Canal.

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