The spiny water flea could wreak havoc in Midwest Lakes

The Spiny Water Flea Could Wreak Havoc on the Most Pristine Waters in the Upper Midwest. Boaters and Anglers are the Only Ones Who Can Stop It

The spiny water flea is a tiny invasive species that’s threatening gamefish species as it spreads from the Great Lakes

It seems that the next troublesome invasive species in the Upper Midwest is a tiny one. The spiny water flea has been latching onto fishing equipment, traveling the Great Lakes for decades, but now they are being transported to some of the most pristine waters in the Upper Midwest. The spiny water flea is about half an inch long. It’s a creepy little critter, with a single, distinctive black eyespot at the head of one to four spines. A barbed tail juts out of its backside, making up about 70 percent of its length. The translucent hitchhiker hooks onto watercraft, fishing lines—essentially everything and anything that touches the water—and then gets transported to new waters.

Spiny Water Flea

Spiny Water Flea

“Most water fleas eat algae, but a few of them, like spiny water fleas, also eat other water fleas. It’s kind of like wolves eating coyotes or foxes,” says Dr. Valerie Brady, Aquatic Ecologist at the University of Minnesota.

While they present no danger to humans or domestic animals, spiny water fleas rattle ecosystems that support game fish. Spiny water fleas feed on other smaller, native water fleas, which are a vital food sources for small fish and keep algae in check. When plankton populations crash, that sinks small fish numbers, which in turn decreases game fish numbers.

“It’s not just another addition to the food web, it disrupts the food web and makes it harder for small or young fish to feed. That has potential implications for the whole food web,” Brady says.

The spiny water flea is being studied and monitored in Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. As more new anglers and boaters hit the water last year during COVID—and could be back out this spring—it’s even more critical to get the word out about this invader.

Like most damaging invasive species, spiny water fleas reproduce rapidly. At optimum temperatures, one female can produce 10 genetic replicas every two weeks.

Currently, there are no successful means to eradicate the species. With no natural predators, there’s no stopping water fleas once they land in a lake. Small fish will choke or puncture their organs if they try to consume the flea due to its long, sharp spine.

Spiny water fleas also bring a million-dollar public recreation problem. As the fleas feed on plankton that consume algae, algae blooms begin to sprout up across a lake. Water treatment costs stack up, with municipalities spending millions to return to clearer water, including Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota.

“Two to four million was the estimate of water treatment costs to get the same level of water quality that [Lake Mendota] had before spending water fleas,” says Tim Campbell, aquatic invasive species outreach specialist at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

The spiny water flea was first identified in North American in 1984 in Lake Huron. Native to Russia’s Lake Ladoga, adjacent to the Baltic Sea, it arrived in the Midwest in the early 1980s after ships from European ports discharged ballast water into the St. Laurence River.

In the quarter-century since, the aquatic hitchhikers have spread by the “billions” across all of the Great Lakes. The creatures have begun to invade “our most pristine lakes,” the smaller inland waters of the Midwest and Canada.

“Once they get in, you can’t get rid of them. There’s no way to kill them without killing everything in the lake. That’s why we’re focusing so hard on stopping their spread,” Brady says.

Ecologists are calling on anglers and recreators to halt their spread. The most important step is to completely dry all fishing and boating equipment. The microscopic fleas can cling to fishing lines and survive in lake water at the base of your boat. Running a cloth down your fishing line can eliminate any aquatic hitchhikers reeled in.

“They cannot survive drying, so we urge anglers to get everything completely dry. The guidance is five days between boating trips [to different bodies of water], so if you [boat in spiny flea infested water] on Sunday, wait until the following weekend to go to a different body of water,” Campbell says.

Some have suggested that ducks are the culprits of cross-water spreads, but humans transporting the fleas is the clear issue. If you map out their spread, Brady notes, the majority of the fleas are found in lakes with public access.

Outdoor Life 02-10-2021

Cleaning up the Detroit River

2020 was another good year for habitat restoration and sediment investigation on the Detroit River but water levels created some unexpected issues.  While 2020 was different and unique for many reasons, progress was still made for habitat restoration and sediment investigation on the Detroit River. The Detroit River is one of 27 remaining U.S. Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin. It was a busy year for habitat restoration for Michigan Sea Grant (MISG) and our partners, such as the Friends of the Detroit River (FDR). Although some projects were delayed due to COVID-19 or high water levels, most projects finished the year on schedule: 

Celeron Island

Celeron Island is part of the Detroit River Conservation Crescent near the southern end of Grosse Ile. The Celeron Island habitat restoration project was bid out in the fall of 2018, construction began in the spring of 2019 and was completed in 2020. The project has added nearly 4,000 linear feet of shoals with a sand bar for nesting turtles, snake hibernacula, and common tern nesting areas. The shoals also protect over 100 acres of coastal wetlands with additional spawning habitat to encourage a robust fish population.


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S.S. Carl D. Bradley – “Queen of the Lakes”

ROGERS CITY, MI – The last living survivor from the wreck of the S.S. Carl D. Bradley has died.

The Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan announced Friday the passing of Frank Mays, who was one of two men to survive when the vessel broke in two and sank in northern Lake Michigan during gale-force winds on Nov. 18, 1958.

In total, 33 men were killed, including 23 from Rogers City.  S.S. Carl D. Bradley was built in 1927 by the American Ship Building Company in Lorain, Ohio. She retained the title of “Queen of the Lakes” for 22 years as the longest and largest freighter on the Great Lakes before her tragic sinking about 12 miles southwest of Gull Island in 1958.Bradley- "Queen of the Lakes"

“The Edmund Fitzgerald gets lots of attention, because of the Gordon Lightfoot song and the speculation on what caused it to sink. However, the Bradley sinking claimed more lives, featured an unbelievable night of four men clinging to a small raft and the thrilling rescue attempt,” said Eric Gaertner, a news leader for MLive in Grand Rapids who wrote a book about the wreck called “Torn in Two: The True Story of the Carl D. Bradley Sinking and the Challenges for Those Left Behind.”

 

Hundreds of shipwreck artifacts, worth about $1.5M – Racine Heritage Museum

RACINE — “Captain” Dan Johnson, a shipwreck hunter, was just a diving apprentice in 1978 when he decided to enter the waters of Lake Michigan in Racine in search for the Kate Kelly.

The Kate Kelly was a 126-foot schooner ship that sank in May 1895 off the coast of Wind Point. According to WisconsinShipwrecks.com, the Kate Kelly sank during “a vicious spring storm (that had) exploded across Lake Michigan.”

Three summers after Johnson’s first dive, in 1981, he discovered the Kate Kelly. “It was my first shipwreck I discovered,” said Johnson, 66.

 

Now, Johnson is in talks with the Racine Heritage Museum to donate the Kate Kelly artifacts, along with other artifacts related to shipwrecks in the Racine side of Lake Michigan, totaling up to a value of over $1.5 million.

“We’re very excited,” said Christopher R. Paulson, executive director of the Racine Heritage Museum. “The opportunity to share (the collection) with our constituency is a welcome one.”

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Fish wholesaler gets year for illegal trout

CHARLEVOIX, Mich. (AP) — A fish wholesaler in northern Michigan has been sentenced to a year in custody after pleading guilty to acquiring trout that were illegally caught in the Great Lakes.

Federal Judge Paul Maloney says John Cross III of Charlevoix can serve his sentence in the off-season. He appeared in court Monday, months after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.

The government says Cross and his business, Cross Fisheries, bought about 50,000 pounds of lake trout from a fisherman who was using so-called trap nets. Those fish should have been thrown back into the water.

Separately, Cross’ business pleaded guilty to a felony. The judge will hold another hearing to determine a financial penalty.

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Share your thoughts with the DNR at upcoming meetings

March 21, 2019

Share your thoughts with the DNR at upcoming meetings

The Department of Natural Resources is committed to providing Michigan citizens the opportunity to share input and ideas on policy decisions, programs and other aspects of natural resource management and outdoor recreation opportunities. One important avenue for this input is at meetings of the public bodies that advise the DNR and, in some cases, also set policies for natural resource management

Conversations and Coffee fisheries meetings

In addition, the public is invited to join DNR Fisheries Division staff at Conversations & Coffee events this spring for an informal opportunity to discuss local issues and management activities, and to get specific questions answered. More information is available at www.Michigan.gov/Fishing or by contacting Elyse Walter at 517-284-5839.

  • April 2, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Tahquamenon Area Public Library, Newberry
  • April 4, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Holiday Inn Express Munising-Lakeview, Munising
  • April 8, 6 to 8 p.m., Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center, Mattawan
  • April 9, 2 to 3 p.m., webinar for those interested in southern Lake Huron waters, register online
  • April 9, 6:30 p.m., Bay City State Park Visitor Center, Bay City
  • April 10, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Waterford Fisheries Station, Waterford
  • April 16, 6 p.m., Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie
  • April 23, 6 to 8 p.m. (CDT), Gogebic Community College, Ironwood
  • April 24, 7 to 9 p.m., Ishpeming Township Hall, Ishpeming
  • April 25, 7 to 9 p.m., Portage Lake District Library, Houghton

April meetings

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Michigan Catch and Cook

 DNR Director Keith Creagh, NRC Chairman Tim Nichols, along with radio host Tom Lounsberry, Bill Parker of Michigan Outdoor News, and outdoor columnist Bob Gwizdz, joined “Stray Cat” charter boat captain John Giszczak to catch Yellow Perch on Lake Erie, as part of the state’s new Michigan Catch & Cook program. The fisherman later enjoyed their catch at Trapperz Tavern, in La Salle, Mi. For additional information on MI Catch & Cook, visit http://www.michigancatchandcook.com/

Catch and Cook

Michigan Catch and Cook Program

Catch & Cook allows charter fishing clients who catch fish from Michigan’s Great Lakes an opportunity to take their fresh catch to a participating Michigan restaurant to cook and serve those fish to those clients.

Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan Charter Boat Association, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Restaurant Association are pleased to partner on Catch & Cook – an effort to promote and encourage creative, yet safe, marketing of Michigan Great Lakes sports fish through a partnership with the charter fishing industry and local restaurants.

Dispute sharpens over spearfishing on Lake St. Clair

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. — The international boundary between the United States and Canada cuts a diagonal through the vast 430-square-mile Lake St. Clair, regarded by some as the sixth Great Lake and by many as one of the best muskellunge fisheries in the world.

Many states allow the spearing of rough fish, but Michigan is unique, one of the few places that permits taking gamefish with a spear. There are reams of exclusions protecting primarily trout waters and boundary waters, but for the most part Michigan allows northern pike and muskellunge to be speared through the ice from Dec. 1 to March 15 on many of its waters.

Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, the Detroit River, and Lake Erie are closed to spearing muskies but open for the same period to spear pike and yellow perch.Muskie Lake Erie

A proposal to consider taking Lake St. Clair off the muskie spearing sanctuary list is bouncing around inside the Michigan Natural Resources Commission and has been fodder for intense debate at several recent informal forums on the matter. The commission, appointed by the governor, reviews proposals for changes or additions to the rules that regulate the taking of game and sportfish, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would ultimately carry out those measures.

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Piping plovers return to Lake Erie

Piping plover nests were found on the shores of all five Great Lakes last year for the first time since 1955.

The shore-dwelling bird disappeared from most of the Great Lakes in the 1980s and was listed as endangered in 1986, said Vince Cavalieri, the Great Lakes piping plover recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At one point, up to 600 pairs nested throughout the Great Lakes. In 1990, only 12 pairs remained. Once found on sandy beaches from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, most of the survivors were clustered around the Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan’s northwest shore.

But with the discovery of a nesting pair in Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle State Park last year–the first to take up residence on Lake Erie for 60 years–the winds have changed. Researchers found 76 nesting pairs throughout the Great Lakes region in 2017.Piping Plover

Two projects on the shores of Lake Michigan have already found success developing plover-friendly habitat: one at Wilderness State Park on the northern shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the other on a series of eroded islands in Wisconsin’s Lower Green Bay.

Results came quickly. The park staff started clearing brush and trees from the shore in 2014, DeLoria said. In the summer of 2015, they observed a pair that had nested there. In 2016, that same pair returned to raise three chicks.

Efforts to restore beaches on the Cat Island Chain in the Lower Green Bay have brought similar success, said Reena Bowman, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Minnesota and Wisconsin Great Lakes piping plover lead.

“The species came back like immediately,” she said. “It was kind of a ‘build it and they will come’ kind of thing. And it wasn’t just plovers.”

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Michigan Arctic Grayling habitat research

$117,175 grant from the

Recently completed work supported by this grant addressed two immediate needs for a successful Arctic grayling reintroduction. The first was to collect stream habitat and fish community data in the upper Manistee River. This data collection allowed for both the evaluation of current stream habitat conditions and the development of criteria to determine which other streams may provide suitable habitat for Arctic grayling.Arctic Grayling Fishing

Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative is a statewide partnership effort focused on restoring self-sustaining populations of this native fish and was founded by the DNR and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in June 2016. Interest in this initiative has grown rapidly since 2016, and the partnership now includes more than 40 organizations.

For more information on Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative, visit migrayling.org.