A SILVER lining is likely to be found in all the work and heartache involving lost trees and damaged property due to recent windstorms that knocked out power to tens of thousands of people.

Driving around the world’s largest Chain of Lakes the past two weeks, the scribbler saw some shorelines that were littered with the tops of giant white pines and large-canopy hardwood trees that were either snapped off or uprooted.

There’s no glory in losing the scenic beauty that those trees provided, yet having them fall into the water is going to help an aquatic ecosystem that requires woody debris for maximum health.

Studies show that aquatic insects, plants and the fish that rely on that food chain, from minnows to game fish, are boosted by natural shorelines that include plenty of wood lying in shallow water.

Coarse woody debris can help a shoreline produce 30 times as many aquatic insects, especially where weed growth is absent. 

Those insects, known as macroinvertebrates, help sustain the fishery that property owners, vacationers and the tourism industry are always striving to improve.

I remember some outings on the Three Lakes Chain where, in late June, you could pull a boat right up to the end of a tree and vertical jig with a jig and minnow between the branches.

Imagine the thump of an 18-inch walleye on that rig and trying to hoist a 3-pound walleye over the gunwale — too many branches and leaves in the way to get out a net.

The really good trees hold a variety of panfish and game fish, and they are most often found on steeper shorelines where the trees are lying out to 6 or 7 feet of depth.

Unlike those deep-water fish cribs that concentrate fish for anglers but do little to really help propagate fish or food supplies, wood found in the littoral zone actually improves the lake and its fishery.

According to biologists with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), this shallow-water zone features abundant dissolved oxygen, sunlight, nutrients and quite often, diverse aquatic plants.

In other words, the littoral zone is pretty much the most productive part of a waterbody — supporting natural reproduction, cover for many fish species and abundant food supplies.

From my personal experience, trees lying in 3 to 7 feet of water along a shoreline are a magnet for fish. They create an ecosystem of their own that supports aquatic insects and attracts fish of all sizes.

That’s why a growing contingency of environmentalists, lake associations, fish biologists and anglers are working to educate people about the benefits of natural shoreline debris.

You might want to dwell on the benefits to you and the family, especially the grandkids, before you start removing trees and branches from your shoreline. In truth, the windstorms of August did us some favors.

The science is so solid that the DNR will issue permits for tree drops on many lakes. In fact, the Forest Service has jumped on board with tree drops on steep drop-offs where there was no aquatic vegetation to start, providing new shelter for insects and fish.

Experienced anglers know that every fallen tree doesn’t produce fish in the same way, so you have to try them at different times. Some are great for holding crappies and bluegills while others are more suited to walleyes.

I’m just hoping that property owners on both sides of the Chain realize the importance of this woody habitat in the lake, so they don’t remove it all during a clean-up project.

There was a year on the shores of Little Fork Lake on the Three Lakes Chain that just one big pine tree, laying in water that was 2 to 9 feet in depth on a steep shoreline, produced dozens of walleyes.

It seemed like every time I stopped, regardless of the weather, there was a mixture of walleyes and perch feeding or finding cover around that tree. And once in a while, some nice crappies.

And then it happened. One day in late summer, I drove past to see a sawed-off stump above the waterline. The entire tree had been removed — as opposed to moved down the shoreline or sunk out in deeper water for fish.

The irony of the story came the next summer. There was a stairway on that steep slope and a new pier that held a young angler. The boy looked a little depressed because he was catching zero fish.

Had the property owner figured out a way to install that pier without destroying the best fish and insect habitat on the shoreline, it would have been an entirely different story for that young angler.

Granted, it’s not always possible to keep every tree that drops. And sometimes, riparian owners get frustrated by anglers who park near their piers to fish the fallen trees.

But this issue isn’t just about productive fishing. That coarse woody debris actually improves the food base and the fishery overall, providing habitat in new places. So there’s the trade-off.

That’s my plea today. Leave those fallen trees in the water if you can, along with any branches that might have fallen. It’s good for the lake and everything in it.