Tony Quail: Aquatic Habitat and Access programs can help connect you with nature

Tony Quail
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

The SD Department of Game, Fish and Parks mission statement reads in part to “serve and connect people and families to the outdoors through effective management of state parks, fisheries and wildlife resources”. The Aquatic Habitat and Access (AH&A) program works in several ways to enhance this mission. Objectives of the program include improving urban fisheries, improving and expanding access to waters and instream habitat, lake renovations, and small dam repairs.

Activities of the AH&A program range from permitting and engineering on new projects to general maintenance of existing areas. AH&A staff also assist fisheries staff with spawning and stocking activities. Through collaborations with Parks staff, Terrestrial Habitat staff, and other landowners, many improvements to habitats and fishing opportunities are happening. Installation of fishing piers, placement of fish habitat structures, maintenance of aquatic vegetation and work on the watershed are just a few of the other activities the staff is engaged with.

Aquatic Habitat & Access projects can range greatly in size and scope. Larger projects may require hiring contractors with the heavy equipment needed to do the job. For example, the large boat ramp improvement project at Lynwood Public Water Access on Lake Kampeska, completed this late summer, utilized contractors.

Smaller scale projects can often be completed with inhouse staff and equipment. Projects like small concrete plank ramps, docks, kayak/canoe launches, fishing piers, primitive duck boat access, and cattail removal at waterfowl hunting areas. An additional goal of the program is to add and improve access for ice fishing. Another example is construction of waterfowl access areas by clearing shoreline cattails and firming up the areas with rock to help launch small watercraft or foot traffic in waters.

Looking closer at two areas of focus, GFP works with city and county agencies to develop and maintain urban fisheries and shoreline restoration. Urban fisheries provide excellent opportunities for anglers of all ages and abilities. Many of these areas provide handicap accessible fishing piers and sidewalks. Stocking efforts in these ponds and rivers help to provide fun and active fishing. Urban fishing areas provide an excellent resource to attract new anglers to the sport. A community fishing pier is a great place for a family to spend an afternoon fishing and having a picnic.

Shoreline restorations are an important part of improving water quality and bank stabilization. There are several methods of shoreline restoration and stabilization. The main objective of this program is to help landowners restore their existing manicured lakeshores back to native habitat while maintaining access to the lake. AH&A personnel help with all stages of the project from planning through planting.

For more information on community/urban fisheries, public water access, or shoreline restoration programs, please stop by your local GFP office.

Tony Quail is a Resource Biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.