MORE EEL­GRASS POS­I­TIVES

SA Bass - - Tactics - By TJ Maglio

Edi­tor’s note: TJ Maglio pens FLW’s Bass Sci­ence depart­ment. He has a de­gree in wildlife ecol­ogy and works with some of the top fish­eries man­agers in the coun­try.

Val­lis­ne­ria, or eel­grass, might be new to some Ten­nessee River an­glers, but it’s cer­tainly not new to that re­gion of the coun­try. It is a na­tive aquatic grass, and if any­thing the re­cent spread should be de­scribed as a “resur­gence” rather than an in­tro­duc­tion. There could be many rea­sons for this, and more study needs to be done to un­lock the spe­cific fac­tors in­volved, but it’s likely in some part due to the (rel­a­tively) cleaner and more sta­ble water that flows through the Ten­nessee River to­day as com­pared to 20 and even 40 years ago.

One of the fre­quent goals of con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­ogy is to re­store na­tive species that have seen de­creases. In that respect, the in­creases in the eel­grass preva­lence and abun­dance in the Ten­nessee River sys­tem should be con­sid­ered a very pos­i­tive thing for the health of the sys­tem. The fact that it also im­proves the fish­ing is just a side ben­e­fit.

In ad­di­tion to it be­ing good bass habi­tat and top-notch wa­ter­fowl for­age, eel­grass pro­vides other sys­tem ser­vices that make it a boon to fish­eries. It grows dense root masses, cre­at­ing a “sod” ef­fect in ar­eas with cur­rent, which min­i­mizes bot­tom ero­sion. Eel­grass also de­creases tur­bid­ity and clears the water by trap­ping sed­i­ment. It also pro­vides dense cover, which helps young-of-the-year bass and for­age species, and har­bors tons of aquatic in­ver­te­brates, which are hugely im­por­tant to the whole food chain.

In short, eel­grass is a good thing.

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