Spiny water flea all but disappears from Lake George

This story appeared in the Post Star

People who fish on Lake George who had seen their fishing lines fouled by an invasive species known as spiny water flea were surprised this spring when the tiny pest seemed all but absent from the lake.

No one is sure why, but the tiny crustacean that was all over the lake for the past two years seems to have disappeared so far this year.

I haven’t heard a thing about them this year,” said Garry Nelson, owner of The Outdoorsman Sport Shop in Diamond Point. “No one has mentioned them. Hopefully they are gone.”

This year, we are struggling to find them,” said David Wick, director of Lake George Park Commission. “We cannot explain the population decline.”

The small, spiny pest presents a number of problems, as it does not have any natural predators. Fish that do eat them can have health problems and there does not seem to be any man-made control for them. A native of Asia, the spiny water flea has been blamed for major fishery problems on some Great Lakes and has been found in a number of other Adirondack lakes.

Wick said the groups trying to control invasive species in Lake George have experienced success recently on a number of fronts.

The effort against Asian clams has resulted in the bottom-dwellers being kept under control, in part thanks to cold winters that have killed off huge portions of clam infestations but have not eradicated the sites where they have shown up. The focus has now turned to science, with a worm that can prey on clams being researched for possible use against them by Darrin Freshwater Institute.

The first few years of infestation, experts tried using underwater mats to smother them, but the coalition has moved away from that effort after it became clear all of the areas could not be covered.

The days of us putting 14 acres of benthic barriers on the lake are gone,” Wick said.

The battle against Eurasian milfoil has gone much better, with the plant all but eradicated from a number of bays thanks to hand harvesting and state funding that has helped pay for it. Dunham’s Bay, Harris Bay and Warner Bay are all virtually clear, and Gull Bay is in much better shape.

These bays are vastly different than they were five years ago,” Wick said.

The 4-year-old boat inspection program on Lake George has found good cooperation from boaters as inspectors try to keep other invasives out of the lake that could cause more problems.

Inspectors so far have kept 150 to 200 invasive species per year from coming into the lake on boats, Wick added.

If (invasive weed) hydrilla gets into Lake George, that is going to be a game-changer,” he said.

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can also be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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