A primary concern associated with reservoir shoreline residential development is reduction of littoral habitat complexity and diversity. One potential approach to compensate for this is the deployment of artificial-habitat modules under existing piers, but the benefit of this practice has not been demonstrated. To evaluate the effect of pier habitat modifications on fish populations in two Piedmont Carolina reservoirs, we studied 77 piers located on forty-seven, 100-m transects that were modified using plastic "fish hab" modules augmented with brush (brushed habs), hab modules alone (habs), or left unaltered for reference purposes. We sampled fish from all piers and transects during April, July, and October 2001 using a boat-mounted electrofisher. With few exceptions, catch rates were higher at brushed-hab piers and piers with habs than at reference piers during all seasons. Similarly, during spring and summer, fish abundance was generally higher on transects containing natural woody debris, brushed habs, and habs than on reference-developed transects; however, during fall, there were exceptions. Therefore, fish abundance associated with shorelines in these reservoirs appears to be related to the structural complexity of available habitat rather than structure composition. One year after installation, 92% of pier owners responding to a mail survey expressed satisfaction with pier modifications. Supplementing piers with habitat structures is recommended to enhance littoral habitat complexity for fishes in residentially developed reservoirs.
Additional publication details
Fish populations associated with habitat-modified piers and natural woody debris in Piedmont Carolina reservoirs