How many times have you thought, “This place would be loaded with fish if only there was some cover in here,” or bemoaned the loss of trees or structures that produced great fishing? Many fishing spots change over time due to the loss or creation of good habitat. Fisheries biologists help situations like this by placing brushpiles and trees in locations where habitat is lacking or needs some improvement.
Most of these habitat projects are aimed at covering one cove, or one small portion of a lake over a couple of months, or even just weeks or days. These types of projects improve angling opportunities tremendously. But what if the biologists had all year, or even five years to improve angling opportunities? The amount of “spots” an angler could fish would increase greatly and more fish could wind up on the end of a line. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), in cooperation with Bass Pro Shops, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is currently working on a five-year project to maintain and enhance fish habitat in Table Rock Lake. This project is part of the National Fish Habitat Initiative (NFHI) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s More Fish Campaign, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Act, and is under the umbrella of the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership. The Table Rock project is serving as a model for this national partnership aimed at improving habitat in reservoirs around the country.
The goals for this project are not just limited to Table Rock Lake. MDC, its partners and private landowners are focusing on the entire Table Rock Lake watershed. The goals include: improve fish habitat within Table Rock Lake, improve the water quality of Table Rock Lake and its tributaries, monitor the effectiveness and longevity of the structures and projects employed, and develop a framework for a broader national program focused on habitat protection and restoration in reservoirs and their watersheds.
Table Rock Habitat
The primary objective for the Table Rock Lake NFHI project is to improve fish habitat within Table Rock Lake. Table Rock Dam was built in the 1950s, and the lake filled to its current level in 1958. This makes Table Rock Lake more than 50 years old. When the lake was first created, much of the Ozark forest in the reservoir basin was flooded, and the trees