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December 5, 2007

Volunteers improve fish habitat with plantings at Lake Murray

Fisheries personnel with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources along with volunteers from the Tri-State Bass Club recently planted 2000 water willows at six locations along Lake Murray’s shoreline.

The agency was awarded a $6900 grant from the Fish America Foundation and FLW Outdoors to restore shoreline fisheries habitat in Lake Murray. Extensive development around Lake Murray has resulted in a reduction of natural shoreline vegetation resulting in a need for this effort.

Water willow (Justicia americana) is a native emergent wetland plant that grows in shallow shoreline areas of lakes and rivers. It has been successfully established in other South Carolina reservoirs including, Lakes Marion, Moultrie, and Richard B. Russell, where it has expanded significantly beyond the initial colonies. Such vegetation provides habitat for a host of organisms both aquatic and terrestrial as well as protection against shoreline erosion due to wave action. A number of sportfish, such as largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie, benefit from vegetation that provides cover and harbors food items.  This is particularly important for spawning and recruitment because water willow provides excellent nursery habitat where juvenile fish to grow to sizes that allow them to compete for food in the more open water environments that are typical of Lake Murray.

Water willow is not considered to be an invasive plant and is generally well accepted by a variety of lake users in reservoirs such as Lake Wateree, where it occurs naturally.  Fisherman will like the water willow because it will attract and concentrate game fish thereby making them easier to target.  Lakefront property owners will like water willow because it is an attractive plant that attracts wading birds such as the great blue heron and the green heron.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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