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2023 Annual Business Meeting

November 3, 2023 @ 8:00 am - November 5, 2023 @ 5:00 pm CDT

The Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership (RFHP) held its 13th Annual Meeting in Morristown, Tennessee. Thanks to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for hosting!

The complete briefing book, business meeting minutes, and meeting photos and videos are available if you are logged in and have access to that membership level.

Videos and Program

November 4

David Bogner
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

As reservoirs age, existing habitat breaks down and ceases to provide benefit to reservoir fishes. Artificial fish habitat such as cubes provide a longer lasting alternative compared to more natural cedar or hardwood brush piles. However, constructing artificial cubes represent a more costly investment than traditional brush piles at a time when many wildlife agencies are faced with tightening budgets making it difficult to purchase and construct cubes at a beneficial scale. Based on success of different NGO’s at engaging the public to help fund habitat improvements across the country, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) fisheries staff developed a plan to fund and build Shelbyville cubes for waterbodies across the state by engaging the public and using a novel funding source. The ability to leverage additional monies through the Sport Fish Restoration Program enabled ODWC to multiply the money available and to benefit multiple water bodies instead of a singular water body as other efforts across the country have done. This in turn is expected to further engage the public across the state and grow support for cube builds in the future.

Michael Homer
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is responsible for managing freshwater fisheries resources in over 1,100 reservoirs and small impoundments in addition to 191,000 miles of streams, creeks, and rivers in the state. Many of these systems have suffered declines in habitat quantity and quality associated with land and water use patterns; and the state’s rapid population growth has led to increased pressure on currently available public access fishing locations. To address current and emerging needs for fish habitat conservation and restoration and the increasing demand for angler access in these systems, TPWD allocated funds generated from freshwater fishing license revenues to develop and support the Habitat and Angler Access Program (HAAP). The HAAP was established to support freshwater fish habitat restoration and enhancement efforts as well as shoreline-based angler access projects. The HAAP was conceptualized with two funding allocation mechanisms: a competitive grant program that supports projects led by external partners and an internal funding stream supporting habitat and access projects proposed by TPWD fisheries biologists. Successful development of the HAAP required establishing a framework that would a) address established fish habitat and angler access priorities, b) be supported among TPWD staff, c) follow protocols congruent with other successful TPWD grant programs to effectively allocate resources, and d) efficiently deliver outcomes (high quality habitat and access) to meet program objectives. A workgroup of TPWD fisheries biologists was tasked to develop the external grant framework that included drafting a request for proposals (RFP), proposal scoring system, project selection process, and regulatory compliance documentation. In addition, the workgroup facilitated a statewide needs assessment to identify thematic funding needs and priority shovel-ready projects for the internal funding stream. This discussion highlights the development of the HAAP framework and its implementation as well as challenges encountered, strategic priorities, projects selected for funding through the initial funding cycle, expected outcomes, and anticipated future steps of the program.

Jeff Jackson
Nebraska Game and Parks

The Aquatic Habitat Program celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2022 and we will discuss how the program has been implemented and the impact it has made on Nebraska’s aquatic resources. Comparisons will be made on projects that have been conducted on both small and larger reservoirs and how these have differed regarding the expected outcomes.

Shane Bush
Missouri Department of Conservation

In 2007, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), in cooperation with Bass Pro Shops, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Table Rock Lake Water Quality Inc. and many other partners began the National Fish Habitat Initiative (NFHI) project to sustain and improve the degrading physical habitat within Table Rock Lake. The project began in October 2007 and continued through December 2013 with funding totaling four million dollars. During this timeframe, a total of 2,024 fish habitat structures were installed in Table Rock Lake. In addition to Table Rock Lake, from 2016-2018, 193 brush piles were installed in Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake utilizing NFHI funding.
In 2022, MDC received a grant from Bass Pro Shops to replenish 645 brushpiles on Table Rock Lake and 35 brushpiles on Bull Shoals Lake to ensure they remain viable as fish attractors for anglers as well as serve as nursery habitats for sportfish recruitment in aging reservoirs where littoral habitat is degrading. This project began in November 2022 and will continue through December 2023. As of May 2023, 371 brushpiles have been rebuilt and 19 new brushpiles have been built in Table Rock Lake and 27 brushpiles have been rebuilt and 6 new brushpiles have been built in Bull Shoals Lake. The GPS locations of these brushpiles can be found on the MDC website at: https://mdc.mo.gov/fishing/where-fish.

In 2021, MDC began evaluating the longevity of brushpiles installed in Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake. Structures were given a ranking of 1-4 based on the amount of deterioration and this ranking system will be used to determine at what age a structure needs to be rebuilt. Preliminary results indicate that both cedar and hardwood structures should be replaced at least every 10 years. Based on the number of structures in each lake, approximately 5% of habitat structures should be rebuilt each year. Fish use evaluation of habitat structures using Garmin Livescope began in 2022 to further evaluate fish use of structures based on their condition. Structures from one to 14 years old are currently being evaluated in Table Rock Lake and seasonal use of brushpiles is being evaluated in Bull Shoals Lake.

This project builds upon a long-standing public/private partnership in southwest Missouri to improve and restore fish habitat and provides an excellent opportunity to proactively maintain and enhance fish habitat in two of the Midwest's most popular sport fisheries. The work that has been and continues to be conducted on these projects has served as a national example of sustaining and improving reservoir sport fish populations through large-scale habitat improvements.

Jordan Lindaman
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Arkansas reservoirs are aging and much of the original habitat is degrading or has been lost. In order to address this issue, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) recently formed the AGFC Reservoir Habitat Team, whose objective is to address habitat degradation within Arkansas Reservoirs by focusing on fish habitat improvements, including building artificial and natural structures, restoring aquatic plant communities, conducting habitat evaluations, and developing stakeholder partnerships . In addition, AGFC recently teamed up with local high schools, volunteers, and businesses to form the Northwest Arkansas Fish Habitat Alliance. The Alliance will focus on improving fish habitat around Northwest Arkansas while also providing educational opportunities to local high school students. High School students will have the opportunity to build and deploy fish habitat structures, construct and maintain aquatic plant nurseries, and attend educational workshops focused on the importance of fish habitat management. With the formation of the AGFC Reservoir Habitat Team and the support from the Northwest Arkansas Fish Habitat Alliance, AGFC strives to combat reservoir habitat degradation head on.

Steven Bardin
Texas Pro Lake Management

HAB's continue to impact both small impoundments and reservoirs. Recent innovations in critical structural resonating frequency appear to have promising implications on mitigating harmful algal blooms of both Cyanobacteria Spp. and Golden Algae (Prymnesium parvum). We explore the laboratory and real life case studies currently underway and how sound frequencies are being used to collapse gas vacuoles of Cyanobacteria and remove flagella from Golden Algae. This renders the algae unable to move within the water column, causing it to sink and die off.

Ted Alfermann
TN Wildlife Resources Agency

Interest in reservoir fish habitat improvement methods and evaluation has increased in recent years. Organizations like Bass Pro Shops and Friends of Reservoirs have made grant funding available to help financially support these projects and to bring awareness to their importance. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency was recently awarded such a grant to help fund a wide scale fish habitat improvement project on Old Hickory Reservoir, located close to Nashville, TN. The project joined together funding from the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Agency and Bass Pro Shops to create 31 new fish habitat sites over a 7 mile stretch of the reservoir. Specifically, 10 sites received 20 "spiders" and 20 "jacks" each and will receive a special Bill Dance Fishing Trail buoy, 10 sites received three experimental structures each called "Tennessee Towers", and 11 sites received 100-150 tons of large (2-4' diameter) rock. Because of depth restrictions, most structures will be evaluated using down imaging sonar, hook and line sampling, and angler reports. Project costs, methods, lessons learned, and early evaluation information will be discussed.

Rebecca Krogman
Iowa Department of Natural Resources

A discussion led by Rebecca Krogman, one of several applicants for a multi-state grant regarding microplastics' association with artificial fish habitat structure.

November 5

Craig Johnson
Kansas Dept of Wildlife and Parks

Abstract: The ageing of Kansas impoundments and resulting habitat deterioration necessitates habitat improvement projects to maintain quality fishing opportunities. Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks (KDWP) fisheries biologists often partner with other agency divisions, sportsman groups, and volunteer groups to complete projects. These partnerships have provided access to heavy equipment that is not currently included in the KDWP Fisheries Division’s inventory. Skid steer loaders with tree saws and grapple buckets greatly increased output of habitat projects involving placement of tree and brush piles. The increased efficiency in tree cutting and loading of habitat barges quicky exposed the next bottleneck. Heavy equipment allowed larger trees to be utilized for habitat, but these larger structures were difficult to safely deploy from the barges. Commercially produced dump barges were explored and skyrocketing boat prices prevented timely acquisition of new equipment. Upgrading of existing habitat barges with hydraulic dump decks was the best option to meet the goals of increased safety, increased capacity, and increased efficiency of habitat structure deployment while operating within current budget allowances. Two KDWP barges have been upgraded in SE Kansas with slightly different designs.

Chevy Roper
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

In 2006, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources received a settlement from Schlumberger Technology Corporation for damages to the Lake Hartwell recreational fisheries due to PCB contamination in the Twelve Mile arm of the reservoir. The $2.8 million settlement is to be used for enhancement of fish habitat within the reservoir. The goal of the Lake Hartwell Fish Habitat Enhancement Project is to improve recreational fishery through enhancing fish habitat features such as shoreline, shallow-water, and deep-water habitat. These enhancements will provide cover, increase spawning and nursery habitat, improve forage for popular gamefish species, act as fish concentration areas, and improve angler success. Since the start of this project in 2014, fifteen sites have been enhanced with over 3,000 pieces of natural and manmade materials being used to construct habitat structures throughout Lake Hartwell.

Jim McFarlane
Reef Innovations / Reef Ball Foundation

Reef Balls are a designed reef module that took shape 30 years ago. The Reef Ball Foundation is a 501.c 3 organization. Larry Beggs has been connected with the Reef Ball Foundation since the 90's. Jim McFarlane saw the Reef Ball as a great artificial reef module to use in Hernando County in 1994 the Hernando County Port Authority initiated its first project. The thirty years of experience within over 80 countries and over 1.6 billion reef balls deployed bring to the table a great source for ideas and best practices for your project. The design of Reef Balls provides a low center of gravity that stays where it is placed. The Reef Ball has been used in high-energy environments for habitat and resilience. Research starting in the 90s has shown great results in wave attenuation and accretion of sands. Reef Balls have been used in offshore projects over 600 ft to living shorelines. In moving water, the design of the Reef Ball creates many micro eddy currents ideal for filter feeders. There have been many successes using Reef Balls in reservoirs.

Rebecca Krogman
Iowa Department of Natural Resources

The use of innovative and traditional data sources combined to assess recreational behavior at renovated locations

Steven Bardin
Black Bass Stewardship Group

Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour anglers compete using a catch weight and immediate release format. Each fish is scored by an onboard official and entered into the ScoreTracker system. Data collected for each individual fish catch includes species, weight, depth, habitat type, time, date, and GPS location. The MLF Fisheries Management Division catalogs all the catch data and provides it to relevant state resource managers. From 2019 through 2023 the BPT anglers have logged a total of 5239 scoreable fish from four Tennessee reservoirs. Using GIS each fish catch has been mapped for Cherokee, Douglas, Watts Bar, and Chickamauga and in depth analysis of trends for habitat and depth have been explored.

Amberle Jones
Arizona Game and Fish Department

Historically, Arizona reservoir aquatic habitat enhancement projects were designed, led, and evaluated by Regional Aquatic Wildlife Programs. These programs typically consisted of two to four biologists, and the habitat projects had to fit in when timing and resources were available. This resulted in long stretches between habitat projects getting done. As of 2022, the Region 6 Aquatic Wildlife program manages six of the the top 15 most fished waters in Arizona. These are all water storage or multiple use reservoirs that are managed primarily as bass fisheries but have a host of other species as well. In the mid 2000s warm water anglers were frustrated with the Department as many of the bass populations were experiencing declines due to multiple issues including drought, aquatic invasive species, and illegal introductions. Despite all these problems, a 2013 statewide angler study found that all six of the main lakes in Region 6 were in the top 10 water bodies fished in the state. Due to the declines in warm water fisheries, in 2013 the Department saw a need to create a Reservoir Fish Habitat Program under the Aquatic Wildlife Branch. The first project of the new program was Roosevelt Lake and included a Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership grant. Since the development of the Reservoir Habitat program, there have been habitat improvement projects at all but one of the lakes, which is slated for this summer. The program has grown, learned, and thrived over the last ten years. This talk will discuss the progression the program has made and its impacts in Region 6 reservoirs over the last decade including lessons learned and what the future may hold.

Earl Conway
Sun Country Outdoors

Noreen Clough awarded me the unofficial "Red Tape Worm" award for getting a permit to do fish habitat work on Elephant Butte Reservoir. It took three years and a final push by a supporter at the Bureau of Reclamation. But I don't think even she could have foreseen how difficult it can be to take a project from grant writing through permitting and closure. This presentation will briefly describe some of the challenges an organization might face from getting permission from the water manager to jumping through the regulatory hoops. Luckily the grant amounts have increased over the years and it can be worth the effort to run the gauntlet, but it isn't getting easier. It has become clear to me that we could do better as a community sharing resources to help each other through the hard parts. We need to figure out what the best role is for volunteers, non-profits, local, state and Federal agencies. Examples will include latest experiences from the projects at Carlsbad, New Mexico and Cochiti Lake, New Mexico, including having to work on tribal lands.


Planned Agenda

Download the complete agenda here: Meeting-Agenda_2023

Schedule at a Glance

  • Thursday – November 2, 2023
    • arrive at hotel
    • limited transportation arrangements can be made via TWRA personnel – car pooling from airport
    • dinner on your own
  • Friday – November 3, 2023
    • workshop – TVA
    • lunch (provided by RFHP)
    • field trip and/or habitat build
    • dinner on your own
  • Saturday – November 4, 2023
    • business meeting AM
    • lunch (provided by RFHP)
    • technical sessions PM
    • banquet
  • Sunday – November 5, 2023
    • technical sessions AM
    • noon – adjourn – lunch on your own

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will be hosting a workshop consisting of their experts in the fields of:

  • River and reservoir operations – operation of dams and water with multiple stakeholders interests in mind.
  • 26 a permitting – requirements and how to of applying for permits, allowing fish habitat to be placed in aquatic environments.
  • Shoreline stabilization – methods and techniques for shoreline stabilization across different types of waterbodies.
  • Aquatic plants – identification, treatment, and solutions for dealing with common non-native, native, and invasive aquatic plants.

Each presenter will be giving information pertaining to their areas of expertise with time for questions and discussion.

Plan on Fishing

A networking event will occur Friday, November 3 after the workshop. Please indicate your interest during your registration, and we will accommodate as many as possible.

Please ensure you have your fishing license for Tennessee.  TWRA offers a 3-day license (as well as others) which can include trout if desired. Purchase your license here: https://gooutdoorstennessee.com/ViewPackage.aspx?pid=17&lrtid=2&annual=0


November 3, 2023 @ 8:00 am CDT
November 5, 2023 @ 5:00 pm CDT
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John Hammonds
Doug Nygren


Cherokee Reservoir