Healthy Wisconsin lakes focus of new children’s book

Fish Hotel shows how submerged trees provide habitat for fish

Contact Lynn Markham, (715)346-3879, lynn.markham@ces.uwex.edu

As the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Lynn Markham travels around the state talking with local government officials, lakes groups and retirees about caring for the state’s lakes, she hears people say they would have done things differently years ago if they’d had the information available today.

“I started to think, how can we reach people earlier so they can put information about caring for lakes to work for 80 years instead of 20,” says Markham, who works as a shoreland and land use education specialist for the Center for Land Use Education based at UW-Stevens Point.

As the mom of two children, Markham has been reading books about lakes with her kids since they were born. “I’ve found many good kids’ book about frogs and fishing, but little to nothing about how to take care of lakes,” she says.

Markham says she thought of writing a children’s book because kids learn quickly, and they influence the adults in their lives with what they learn. “Parents, teachers and grandparents who read to children might also want to learn about lakes.”

Markham developed a new book—Fish Hotel, available from the UW-Extension Lakes online bookstore—that tells the story of two cousins who go snorkeling and find an underwater world where fish dwell in trees submerged in lakes, or “fish hotels.”

When trees fall naturally into the water, they provide food, shelter and breeding areas for all sorts of creatures from small aquatic insects, to fish, turtles, ducks and songbirds, Markham says.

Fish Hotel is based on research from the publication A Second Life for Trees in Lakes (also available from the UW-Extension Lakes bookstore). Studies show that when a tree falls into the lake, it may last another 300–600 years and support fish populations in different ways.

Many fish species spawn on or under submerged fallen trees. A white pine tree in Wisconsin’s Lake Katherine Lake hosted 15 fish species, including black crappies, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, rock bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch and minnows.

“People care about fish,” says Markham. “Whether they like to fish or just enjoy watching them, fish are an important part of our lakes and rivers. Fish Hotel reminds us of some simple things we can do to help keep lakes healthy, like leaving trees in the lake where they fall.”

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