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Stop the spread of spiny waterfleas in area lakes

MILACA -- Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) take many forms -- from plants (curly-leafed pondweed and Eurasian milfoil) to the razor-sharp shell of a zebra mussel. Another lesser-known kind of AIS that threatens the waterways of Mille Lacs County is...

MILACA - Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) take many forms - from plants (curly-leafed pondweed and Eurasian milfoil) to the razor-sharp shell of a zebra mussel. Another lesser-known kind of AIS that threatens the waterways of Mille Lacs County is the spiny waterflea.

They are not like the standard "fleas" you may fear - they don't attach themselves to people or pets. However, these tiny crustaceans harm the ecosystem by competing with native fish for food. They also negatively impact recreation and fishing tourism by attaching to fishing line, snarling gear, and preventing fish from being landed successfully.

A single spiny waterflea is hard to see (1/4-5/8 inch long), but when clumped together, they appear as a gelatinous or cottony mass with tiny black dots. This makes them easier to spot, especially on the eyelet of a fishing rod, a swivel, a lure, or other types of tackle. If this type of material appears on the fishing line, don't reel it in. Instead, pluck the line like a guitar string to help the mass break free.

Currently, the only body of water within Mille Lacs County reported to be infested with the spiny waterflea is Mille Lacs Lake. However, they can be difficult to eradicate and can quickly and easily spread to new waters when gear is contaminated with egg-laden females. The females die once taken out of the water, but in some conditions, the eggs remain viable and continue to hatch and thrive in a new setting.

According to Dillon Hayes, Environmental Resources Technician with the Mille Lacs County Land Services Office, "Spiny waterfleas pose a significant threat to the recreational enjoyment of Mille Lacs County waterbodies. It is important that we all do our part in stopping the spread of spiny waterfleas and other AIS."

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To stop the spread of the spiny waterflea and other forms of AIS, it's important to thoroughly clean boats, motors, gear, trailers, docks, lifts, kayaks, canoes, paddles, stand-up paddle boards - basically anything that touches the water. If a decontamination station with high-pressure, 140-degree water isn't available at a boat access or other location, boats and trailers must remain out of the water for five days before being launched into a different lake or river.

Also, docks and lifts must dry on shore for 21 days before being installed in a new location.

It will take everyone working together to control AIS and keep them from spreading to other waterways. It's important for the health, safety, and enjoyment of Minnesota lakes and rivers.

For more information, go to www.co.mille-lacs.mn.us .

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