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 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

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.      

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.

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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Michigan Free Fishing Weekend this February 2018

Experience #MiFreeFishingWeekend Feb. 17-18 and enjoy the outdoors

Grab a fishing rod and enjoy some of the finest fishing Michigan has to offer during the 2018 Winter Free Fishing Weekend Saturday, Feb. 17, and Sunday, Feb. 18. On those two days, everyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

In addition, during #MiFreeFishingWeekend, the Department of Natural Resources will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that grants vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas. Several locations also may be hosting official 2018 Winter Free Fishing Weekend events that are perfect for the whole family.

Michigan has been celebrating winter’s #MiFreeFishingWeekend every year since 1994 as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing are a perfect match.

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Perch Fishing Report Lake Erie Michigan 07-21-2017

Perch fishing is starting to pick up in Michigan waters. W buoy out in front of Toledo Beach Marina has produced limit catches but it’s on again off again. E buoy area is producing some sizable perch to, but it’s hit or miss. Out towards the end of the Raisin River buoys in 20 feet of water  holds perch but you have to move around til you find a sizable school to fish. The bite seems to start off slow then pick up, give it a half hour in one spot. If the bite doesn’t improve move, sometimes it only takes moving 200 yards or so. Some walleye are being caught but be sure they are over 15″ if you keep them. There have been a lot of tickets passed out for “15” walleye this season on both the Michigan and Ohio side of the lake!! So far Ohio waters have produced the most consistent catches of yellow perch. Either side of the shipping channel north of the Toledo Lighthouse all the way to Sputnik. 

Perch Fishing Lake Erie

Lake Erie Perch Fishing Charter