Restoring Fish Habitat

at Lake Shore Marshes

Ducks Unlimited restored 80 acres of Lake Ontario wetlands to improve fish and wildlife habitat and create outdoor recreational opportunities including canoeing, kayaking, sport fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing.


The Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area is located near Lake Ontario in Wayne County, N.Y. The wetlands here provide habitat for a wide variety of wetland and aquatic wildlife species, including snapping turtles, painted turtles, northern leopard frog, and several species of bird listed as threatened or endangered. Several migratory fish species, such as pugnose minnows, northern pike, and largemouth bass, also use these wetlands as spawning sites. The variety of wildlife attracts anglers, hunters, and wildlife viewers. Unfortunately, this diverse ecosystem is currently threatened by the invasion of narrow-leaved cattail: a tall, water-loving, nonnative plant that outcompetes native plants and deprives wildlife of suitable habitat. The cattails grow in dense stands with roots that form thick, impenetrable mats that reduce the connectivity of the wetlands for both water flow and migrating wildlife. Cattail mats have severely reduced both the access to and availability of appropriate spawning sites for migrating fish. Thanks to grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, along with the contributions of several partner organizations, Ducks Unlimited is working to restore spawning habitat and return Lake Shore Marshes to a more natural condition. Working across three wetland areas, crews have excavated 20 oxbows, or potholes, to serve as spawning sites for migratory fish. Crews have also created and widened channels through the cattail mats to increase the connectivity of the wetlands and provide passage for migrating fish. Excavated soils and other organic materials created small mounds that increased the quality and variety of wildlife habitat.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Invasive species
  • Loss of fish spawning habitat
  • Restricted fish migration
  • Altered wetland function
  • Loss of public access


Crews break through dense cattail stands to restore potholes for spawning fish. Photo credit: Ducks Unlimited.

Results and Accomplishments

The project has created and restored 20 potholes that provide fish with spawning habitat, and has created channels through the cattail stands to provide passage to these sites. Eighty acres of wetlands have been restored, including almost 11 acres of spawning sites and 7,600 linear feet of migratory channels. Excavating channels has naturalized the flow of water and improved connectivity through the wetlands, and removing invasive cattails has encouraged the colonization of native plant species. The naturalized wetlands have improved habitat for native species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Naturalizing conditions has also improved opportunities for recreational activities, including canoeing, kayaking, sport fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing.

Invasive cattails in Lake Shore Marshes, New York.

Invasive cattail stands have significantly altered the Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area. Photo credit: Ducks Unlimited.

Crews restored channels to provide migrating fish with access to spawning sites. Photo credit: Ducks Unlimited.