Lake Allatoona Gets Largemouth Habitat

Brendan Smith | February 11, 2021

A combined effort by anglers and agencies is seeking to add shallow-water habitat at lake Allatoona for largemouth bass. The E3 Bassmasters of the Georgia Bass Nation, Allatoona U.S. Army Corps of Engineers volunteers, and the Georgia DNR conducted the final phase of a habitat enhancement project on Lake Allatoona on Feb 6. The project is a result of an effort to help enhance habitat for fish and wildlife at Lake Allatoona.

The E3 Bassmasters have been planting small buttonbush plants on the shores of Lake Allatoona over the past few years.

The buttonbush is a native plant to the area that grows within the marginal area of shorelines and waterways. The placement of these plants allows for sustainable cover and food sources for the lake. An added benefit of the plantings is the stabilization of shoreline soils from wave action erosion. Once established, the plants are capable of reproducing, thereby creating additional plant groupings that will continue to enhance the areas targeted.

Button bushes make great shoreline habitat and help prevent shore erosion caused by waves.

In the spring of 2019, the E3 Bassmasters was awarded a $5,000 grant for habitat enhancement on Allatoona by Forty Creek Distillers. The E3 Bassmasters divided the project into two aspects. One portion of the grant money was reserved for the buttonbush sustainable habitat project. The other monies were dedicated for submersed man-made, fish-habitat structures.

The Phase I buttonbush plant propagation was initiated in early spring of 2019, when dormant wood cuttings were taken and rooted from mature buttonbush plants growing on the shores of Lake Allatoona.

In April 2019, the man-made structure portion of the grant money was used to purchase, assemble and deploy MossBack fish attractors at Lake Allatoona.

MossBack assembly day.

 A Phase II buttonbush follow-up project was conducted at the Georgia DNR Armuchee facility in June 2019 when the E3 Bassmasters and Georgia DNR gathered to pot the buttonbush cuttings into larger containers.

The E3 Bassmasters and Georgia DNR pot cuttings of buttonbush plants.

This project allowed the buttonbush plants to grow and mature through 2019. A decision was made to allow the plants to mature an additional year at the Armuchee facility with a targeted planting time of late fall 2020 or early spring 2021. Jim Hakala and Collin George with WRD Fishereies were instrumental in aiding and overseeing the nursery development of the buttonbush plants from the summer of 2019 through February 2021.

Two-year-old buttonbush plants ready for planting.

The final planting phase was implemented on Feb. 6, 2021, when volunteers from the corps, DNR and E3 Bassmasters met to plant more than 250 button bushes in a protected area of Lake Allatoona. The plants developed over the two-year period from dormant wood cuttings the size of your little finger into vibrant full plants that are 3 and 4 feet tall, well-rooted and multi-branched.

Jackson Sibley is the newly appointed DNR biologist over Lake Allatoona, and he sprang into action upon starting his new position. He was instrumental in helping and offering his professional guidance in the E3 Bassmasters project.

Jackson shared the state’s desire to enhance largemouth bass numbers and quality on Lake Allatoona. He said the lake is ideally suited for spotted bass due to the lake’s current and rocky ledges. On the other hand, the largemouth population struggles to maintain itself due to a lack of suitable seasonal habitat. The continued focus will be to help expand largemouth habitat for both winter and summer seasonal cover needs in order to increase largemouth populations. By providing this habitat and cover, largemouth will have a stronger chance of survival and greater opportunity to reproduce and grow. The buttonbush shoreline cover will be beneficial for the largemouth, panfish and forage fish communities. Future projects of diverse habitat enhancement followed with smart stocking practices are part of the Georgia DNR game plan for Lake Allatoona.

Many thanks to the countless volunteer hours provided by the corps, DNR and the E3 Bassmasters for this exciting endeavor.

A hearty crew of volunteers from the corps, Georgia DNR and the E3 Bassmasters on a cold February 2021 morning.

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