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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Perch Fishing Report Monroe Michigan 10-10-2020

The 2020 Perch fishing season is in full swing with many limit catch’s near #1 Buoy, off of Stoney Point in 23 ft to 27 feet of water and straight out from Bowles Harbor from 17 to 22 feet of water.

Perch fishing charter Lake Erie Stray Cat Fishing Charter MI

Perch fishing charter Lake Erie Stray Cat Fishing Charter MI

C Buoy between Bolles Harbor and Toledo Beach Marina produced some limit catch’s this week. The dumping grounds is always a favorite spot but gets to crowded. Moving around a bit seems to help as the White Perch can be quite aggressive. I seem to catch more perch when I was away from the other boats.

Lake Erie Perch fishing Stray Cat Fishing Charters Michigan

Lake Erie Perch fishing Stray Cat Fishing Charters Michigan

Don’t crowd your fellow anglers, there’s plenty of room on the lake and plenty of perch to go around!  The best method is to start in a general area and slowly cruise watching your graph for perch on the bottom and bait fish near the bottom. When you find them it may not look like a lot but generally more will come to your spot after you catch some and the other perch see action in the area. You will notice none of the charter boats sitting on top of each other (for a reason!). Just because you see a large group of boats doesn’t mean there are a ton of perch there and just because you see a charter boat doesn’t mean a ton of perch either. Charter boats tend to move around a lot due to the fact we don’t have all day to spend on the lake and have to put our guests on fish fast because we are limited by time. I like to do a little searching before I set up. I usually end up by myself with a pile of perch to myself because I did my homework, not just following the crowd.

Perch fishing charter Lake Erie Stray Cat Fishing Charter MI

Perch fishing charter aboard the Stray Cat Monroe, MI

Perch Fishing Report Monroe Michigan 08-07-2020

The 2020 Perch fishing season is 10 times better than the 2019 season so far! Many limit catch’s near #1 Buoy, off of Stoney Point in 23 ft of water.

C Buoy between Bolles Harbor and Toledo Beach Marina produced some limit catch’s this week. The dumping grounds is always a favorite spot.

Don’t crowd your fellow anglers, there’s plenty of room on the lake and plenty of perch to go around!. The best method is to start in a general area and slowly cruise watching your graph for perch on the bottom. When you find them it may not look like a lot but generally more will come to your spot after you catch some and the other perch see action in the area. Just because you see a large group of boats doesn’t mean there are a ton of perch. I like to do a little searching before I set up. I usually end up by myself with a pile of perch to myself.

Lake Erie Perch fishing charter trip

Ben’s first double Lake Erie perch

Lake Erie walleye numbers in stratosphere, future is bright

“The totals are astonishing,” said Hale. “We had high numbers in the 1980s, but we’ve made adjustments to our methods of counting walleye numbers, and believe this year’s population one the best we’ve seen.

“We have estimated today’s population of walleye that are two years old, or older, is about 116 million,” said Hale. “Our forecast for 2021 is a walleye population of 151 million.”

“The largest year-class in our present population is the 2018 class, which makes up about 75 percent of the population,” said Hale. “Anglers will be catching lots of walleye that are under the 15-inch size limit this summer, but those walleye will be legal to keep in 2021.”

2020 outlook read more

 

Fishing Report Lake Erie Monroe Michigan 09-20-2019

Perch fishing is beyond slow for this time of the year. Our average catch has been around 40 perch for 4 hours of fishing. The perch are either 5 to 6 inches or 10 plus inches. The surface water temperature has been 70 degrees since August. I am catching lots of 3 to 6 inch walleyes in with the perch. Lately I’ve caught 10 to 12 inch walleye right on the bottom where the perch should be. I’ve fished from the Toledo Lighthouse to Sputnik, Brest Bay and as far North as the Banana Dike with the same results,  about 40 perch on average kept. 

I will be attending a Lake Erie Committee meeting next week and hope to find out more about our dismal perch fishing. Hopefully we can get some trawl data soon to see if what we a marking as perch are really perch on the bottom.

Walleye fishing has been on and off depending on the day. Last weekend a few fellow captains caught limit catches but that petered out at the beginning of the week due to North East winds. They fished from E Buoy to the Raisin River buoys using Bandits 70 to 80 feet back and varying their speed.      

Fishing Report Lake Erie Michigan 08-30-2019

Perch fishing has been super slow. I’ve tried spots from “E” buoy all the way up to Fermi, the average catch has been 30 to 50 perch. Northeast winds have not helped and the wind seems to switch every couple of days. 

Walleye fishing has also been very slow around the Michigan dump all the way up to Brest Bay. 4 to 10 fish has been the average catch using bandits 70 to 90 back.

Fishing Report Lake Erie Michigan 08-22-2019

Perch fishing is still very very slow. I’ve fished from Turtle Island to Fermi and many points in between, with very poor results. The best was last Friday when 3 us us caught 90 perch and about 100 white perch. Most of my catches have averaged around 30 perch. I’m marking them but just can’t get them to go with any consistency. 

Walleye fishing has been decent, not quite as good as June and July. The walleye are spread out from “S” buoy to #1 buoy off the Raisin River. Spots North of Fermi in 24 ft of water have produced anywhere from 12 to 20 walleye. Bandits seem to be the ticket 70 and 80 ft back. Trolling speed was 2.5 to 2.8 mph – color didn’t seem to matter

Perch-Walleye Fishing Report Lake Erie Michigan 08-09-2019

Walleye fishing has slowed to a crawl. You can still catch between 8 and 12 walleye but you have to work at it. We marked lots of fish but can’t get them to go with any consistency. The Banana Dike in 14′ of water, around #1 buoy off the Raisin River in Brest Bay and from the Michigan dump along the MI-OH north were decent. Bandits seemed to produce the best at about 80 to 90 ft back, color didn’t matter. The walleye we have been catching are fat and healthy. 

Walleye fishing Lake Erie, Stray Cat Charter Fishing

My sister with a Lake Erie walleye

The Perch bit has been slow, no limit catches yet. we averaged about 35 per trip. I spent 3 day’s checking spots from the Toledo Light, water intake to West sister and the Canada boarder near Middle Sister with not much production. I caught perch at all the spots but not a lot for all the fuel I burned and time spent. Yesterday I fished for 5 hours from E buoy all the way to Fermi with many stops in between, we caught a handful of perch but lots of small white perch and drum were caught.

Walleye Fishing Report Lake Erie Michigan 07-25-2019

Lake Erie walleye fishing report

Walleye fishing is still good in the Western Basin. We had a real slow day Monday morning due to a cold front and a storm Sunday night. Fishing picked right back up on Monday afternoon. I’m still fishing wiggle warts on one side 60 to 80 ft. back, seemed anything with a red bill was out producing ones with out. The other side I’m running mini discs 70 ft. back with Silver Streak Jr.s  color didn’t seem to matter, I believe it’s the larger profile. High divers set at 3 42 to 46 back and low divers set at 1 32 to 35 back. My speed varies from 2.2 knots to 2.4 knots quartering into the wind seemed to produce better. 

Stoney Point seemed to have a good number of catchable walleye in 22 to 24 ft of water with no weeds. The Water Intake in 22ft water was a producer to. Seemed E Buoy area really slowed as with over the Michigan dump, the area around Turtle Island slowed but still holds fish. Around the contours just in front of the Edison plant is holding fish to.

Walleye fishing Lake Erie, Stray Cat Charter Fishing

Walleye fishing Lake Erie aboard the Stray Cat

As with all things be kind to your fellow trollers. Don’t sit with your back to the helm staring at your rods, that’s what your buddies are for, it’s a good way to piss off other trollers. I ran over someone’s gear who was not paying attention and approaching from my port side and I’m the bad guy? Remember a boat approaching from your starboard has the right of way