Expert: Lake Shelbyville fish habitat disappearing
State and lake officials have told area fishermen and representatives of fishing organizations that a grand undertaking needs to happen to reverse the stark loss of fish habitat in Lake Shelbyville.
Mike Mounce, of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said Lake Shelbyville's fish have high mortality rates and simply stocking the lake with more fish would only be a temporary fix to a growing problem.
The disappearing fish habitat stems from a shoreline that lacks vegetation, according to Mounce, a fisheries biologist. There aren't as many old trees falling into the lake to give fish a place to seek shelter and breed.
Less breeding and shorter lifespans for fish puts fishermen at a disadvantage. Chances are, they end up with fewer and smaller catches.
Volunteers have dropped used Christmas trees into the lake for decades to boost habitat. While they come at no cost, the trees don't make a lasting impact, officials said.
Artificial structures, called "Lake Shelbyville Cubes," have recently been built and placed in the lake. About 50 have been dropped so far, according to a press release. But officials said at the meeting this week that more cubes should be built and that they could be the long-term fix to the habitat problem.
With the backing of area fishermen and fishing groups, they said, there's a good chance that Lake Shelbyville could win a $10,000 to $40,000 grant from the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership.
"I think we'd have better than a 50-50 chance," said Lee Mitchell, a natural resource specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Winning the grant would put thousands of Lake Shelbyville Cubes in the water, speakers said at the meeting.
They said they need community groups and fishermen to support the impending grant application to show how important it is to the community.
"We know there's interest in this," Mitchell said, "But we need to show them that."
Although officials said another meeting should be held before any significant commitments, they asked attendees if they would consider becoming partners in the habitat project. Hands went up and many asked about how to donate.