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Clear link between littoral lake habitat and fishery quality explainedSubmitted: 02/24/2014

Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com


BOULDER JUNCTION - Most people wouldn't see a connection between trees and fish size.

But a UW-Madison researcher has drawn a pretty clear link.

Dr. Jereme Gaeta studied what's called the littoral zone of Little Rock Lake near Boulder Junction.

That's the area right near the shoreline.

He found warming temperatures lead to more lake evaporation.

Lakes then recede away from trees that would have fallen in the water.

Small fish lose their habitat, and food disappears for larger fish.

"The difference between lots of littoral habitat and no littoral habitat, in this case, is the difference between trophy fisheries, really healthy fisheries, and a population of stunted bass," Gaeta says.

Gaeta found it takes fewer than seven years for bass to reach legal length in lakes with plenty of wood in the water.

In lakes without that habitat, it takes 20 years.

Receding lake levels, and their impact on the littoral zone, are a newer idea for impacts of climate change in the Northwoods.

"Our study adds one little piece to that puzzle that we're trying to put together to understand what's going to happen as we look forward in a changing climate and a changing world," Gaeta says.

Gaeta's study came out of the 30-year split-lake study in Vilas County.

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