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

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

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.

Perch Fishing Report Lake Erie MIchigan 08-17-2018

Perch fishing has been on again off again all this week. Best bets in Michigan are the Michigan dump, between the dump and the Raisin River, also between the Raisin River buoys and Stoney Point in 24′ of water. E buoy and C buoy were producing  last weekend. I have not fished E or C in over a week. This general area has been good for me. A word of caution! if you venture over the line you will get stopped and checked by the Ohio DNR. I’ve been checked this week only being over the line a few hundred yards near E buoy! I see many small boats race out not knowing they are over the line when they see charter boats fishing. The end result, they received tickets for not possessing an Ohio fishing license. 

Perch Fishing charter Stray Cat Fishing Charters, near Monroe Michigan

Her first Lake Erie Yellow Perch

If you see a pack of boats perch fishing it does not necessarily mean they are catching perch. Boats attract boats! If you see a boat catching perch don’t pull up and fish on top of them! The likelihood of you pulling that boats fish to you are usually “O”. Best bet is to slowly cruse the area using your graph, sometimes you will only mark small amounts of fish on or near the bottom. Set up and fish for them, give it 20 minutes or so. Sometimes the perch start off biting slow but more will fish be attracted to the activity and the bite will improve.   If your bite does not improve move a few hundred yards. I’ve moved up 6 or 7 times in a 1 mile area before I found a good school on the feed. You will feel and be more successful if you find your own fish.

Lake Erie Charter Fishing Trips

A trip on a charter fishing boat is a great way to spend a day on the water

Looking to spend a few hours or a whole day fishing this summer? Michigan’s waters offer plenty of opportunities to catch a variety of fish, and summer is an ideal time to try. Charter fishing businesses throughout the state offer a great way to explore Michigan’s world-class fisheries. 

Licensed charter captains provide the boats and all the equipment, plus the knowledge needed for a fun half-day or day on the water. Charter businesses in Michigan help children and adults have memorable fishing experiences – whether it’s reeling in a fish for the first time or trying your hand at catching a new species.

“Last year 72,000 anglers in Michigan participated in more than 18,000 charter fishing trips on the Great Lakes and other navigable waters,” said Donna Wesander, a DNR fisheries technician who tracks charter fishing data. “These anglers caught nearly 300,000 fish that included a variety of salmon and trout, walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass and muskie.” 

Lake Erie walleye charter trip in Michigan

Al with a Lake Erie walleye caught aboard Stray Cat Charter Fishing

When hiring a professional charter, customers need only to provide personal supplies and fishing licenses. Those licenses can be purchased online (mdnr-elicense.com) or through a DNR customer service center or license agent.  

Find a fishing charter for a specific location by searching online for charter operators and regional charter fishing organizations, contacting the local chamber of commerce or city tourism office, or visiting the Michigan Charter Boat Association website at michigancharterboats.com

Lake Erie Perch Catch Levels for 2018

Yellow Perch Anglers can expect excellent perch fishing in the Western Basin in 2018. Perch anglers in the west will primarily catch fish from 2014 and 2015, providing a good range of sizes. Fall fishing in 2017 produced both excellent sizes and catch rates. The largest perch in the Western Basin will come from 2013 and older year classes. 

Perch Fishing charter Stray Cat Fishing Charters, near Monroe Michigan

Lake Erie perch fishing near Monroe, MI 2017

 

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.