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

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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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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Boating Safety Certificate Advocates urge boaters to ‘Spring Aboard’ this season

Michigan Boating Safety Certificate

Online or classroom

www.boat-ed.com/michigan

www.boaterexam.com/usa/michigan

The reminder is in line with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Spring Aboard – Take a Boating Education Course campaign (March 17-23). Many states require completion of a NASBLA-verified course to rent or operate a powerboat. In Michigan, boaters born after June 30, 1996, must have a boating safety certificate to operate a boat, and boaters born after Dec. 31, 1978, need a boating safety certificate to operate a personal watercraft.

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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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Apply to be a Keeper at Tawas Point Lighthouse

Apply to be a lighthouse keeper at Tawas Point Lighthouse. Get together with one, two or three friends for a service and recreation vacation like no other. 

Tawas Point Lighthouse

Tawas Point Lighthouse

In operation since 1876, Tawas Point Lighthouse is a fascinating attraction for maritime buffs. Tawas Point is a destination for birdwatchers; it also offers spectacular views of sunrises over Lake Huron and sunsets over Tawas Bay.

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Status of Sea Lamprey in the Great Lakes

Part of a successful sea lamprey control program is monitoring adult sea lamprey abundance in each lake and sea lamprey impacts on fish; the sea lamprey marking rate on lake trout, their preferred host, is used to assess impacts on fish. To better understand the relationship between sea lamprey abundance and marking rates on lake trout, the number of lake trout also needs to be assessed (i.e., the number of lake trout can influence the marking rate).

Sea lamprey populations are monitored by generating an adult sea lamprey abundance index for each lake. The index is calculated by assessment crews who capture migrating adult sea lamprey in index streams with traps during the spring and early summer. A mark-recapture study is conducted on each index stream to generate a population estimate. Individual index stream population estimates are then summed to create the lake-wide adult sea lamprey abundance index. Whole-lake adult sea lamprey abundance estimates can be calculated by multiplying the lake-wide index by a lake-specific conversion factor. Lake trout marking and abundance data are collected annually from management agencies around the Great Lakes to generate lake-wide marking rates and population estimates.

Success in meeting targets for both the adult sea lamprey abundance index and sea lamprey marking rates on lake trout is determined by assessing the 3-year average index or marking rate compared to the targets. There are no targets for lake trout abundance in the context of reporting sea lamprey status. The trend of the adult sea lamprey abundance index, sea lamprey marking rate on lake trout, and lake trout abundance is determined by the direction of the slope over the past five years. Single year point estimates fluctuate and can have wide error bars, thus the focus on 3-year averages and 5-year trends.

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Could the sounds of spawning lure lake trout?

Lake trout make noise in bed, according to new research by Great Lakes scientists.

The species commonly growl, snap, quiver and thump while spawning, according to a study in the “Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.”

The report may cause a smirk, but researchers say the findings are serious.

“Peeping on spawning lake trout with a camera and microphone could be the premise of an interesting comedy skit, but also makes for interesting science that could help improve how fish populations are monitored,” said Nick Johnson, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists could potentially use the audio sounds to lure fish to spawning areas, Johnson said.

Lake Trout

Lake Trout

“If you walk down the street and hear a party going you might want to check it out,” he said. “There are historical reefs in the Great Lakes that are no longer being used for spawning . . . we may be able to play back the sounds of reproduction to lure in the trout and try to get them interested in spawning there.”

Johnson led a team that included researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Windsor and the University of Vermont, and that recorded spawning lake trout with cameras and hydrophones. Hydrophones are underwater microphones that detect the sounds of boats, waves and the quietest fish.

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Charter fishing operations offer great options for novice and experienced anglers

For those who don’t have a fishing boat, may not have the correct fishing gear, don’t know how to fish, are new to an area, or are just looking for a day of fun, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources suggests considering a charter fishing trip. Charter fishing businesses are located throughout the state and offer a great way to experience Michigan’s world-class fisheries.

Lake Erie walleye charter aboard the Stray Cat Monroe, MI 48145

Sam walleye fishing Lake Erie

Licensed fishing charters make a full or half-day of fishing easy and enjoyable, as they provide the boat and all the equipment, plus the knowledge needed for a day on the water. Fishing charters are for anyone, children or adult, from the first-time angler to those who are experienced. Charter businesses in Michigan help anglers of all experience levels enjoy memorable experiences – whether it’s reeling in a fish for the first time or trying one’s hand at catching a new species.

In Michigan in 2016, more than 70,000 anglers participated in more than 17,000 charter fishing trips on Great Lakes and specific navigable waters. These anglers caught more than 244,000 fish of various species, with about half of the fish caught being trout and salmon.

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Tagged fish provide DNR with critical information

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources again this year is encouraging Great Lakes anglers who catch marked and tagged fish to report them. The DNR has used the coded-wire tag program to mass mark various fish species in Michigan since the 1980s. Mass marking provides critical data as fisheries biologists look to determine the value of naturally reproduced fish versus stocked fish, and lakewide movement of fish.

The coded-wire tag program involves implanting a small, coded-wire tag, which is invisible to the naked eye, into the snout of a fish. A fish containing a coded-wire tag can be identified because its adipose fin (the small, fleshy fin between the dorsal and tail fins) has been removed. An angler who catch a tagged fish then can record needed information about the fish, remove and freeze the fish’s snout, and drop it off at a designated location. A statewide list of dropoff locations can be found on the DNR website.

For years the DNR primarily tagged Chinook salmon and lake trout as part of its mass marking effort in Lake Huron. Tagging these fish has helped biologists understand more about lakewide natural reproduction and how many wild fish are available in the Great Lakes. It also has helped determine if the percentage of wild fish varies from year to year and how fish stocking locations contribute to lake and river fisheries. Additionally, it provides insight into fish movement and where fish are stocked compared to where they are caught.

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