Beckie Gaskill/River News
AIS coordinator Stephanie Boismenue spoke with members of the Crescent Lake Association at a recent Clean Boats Clean Waters training workshop. She gave information about invasive identification as well as how to conduct a watercraft inspection.
6/10/2017 7:29:00 AM Clean Boats Clean Waters training held at Crescent Lake
Clean Boats Clean Waters (CBCW) is a program with which most anglers and boaters are familiar. The program includes volunteers and interns from UW-Oshkosh who man boat landings all over the state to talk to boaters about invasive species. Almost anyone who has launched a boat at a public landing in the last few years has, at some point, encountered a CBCW volunteer. The volunteers educate boaters about invasive species and also conduct watercraft inspections at boat landings as boaters are putting their boat in or taking it out. Last weekend a small group gathered at the Crescent Lake boat landing just as the rain stopped for a training session to kick off the CBCW monitoring season. The training was conducted by Oneida County AIS coordinator Stephanie Boismenue.
The point of the training session at Crescent Lake was to prepare new volunteers and to serve as a refresher for established volunteers. Boismenue went over various aquatic invasive species and the changes they bring about in the ecology of lakes. Many invasives, she said, came to the area before it was realized they had the propensity to cause problems. Rusty crayfish, for example, were once widely used by anglers as bait. At the end of the day, an unsuspecting angler may have simply dumped the remainder of their crayfish into the lake, thinking fish would eat them and that would be the end of things. Unfortunately, that doesn't usually happen. Invasive species are often lacking in predators to keep their numbers under control. In the case of rusties, larger game fish eventually learn to see them as a food source, but by then the damage has already been done. Their populations have exploded in the lake and they have made major changes in the vegetation in that lake.
Boismenue also educated the group on two invasives not prevalent in Oneida County, but ones that are certainly knocking on the door. She wanted the group to be aware of the dangers of spiny waterflea and zebra mussels. Both are invasive and can cause their own set of problems.
Zebra mussels, such as those found in Lake Metonga in Crandon, can be found stuck to the legs of docks or shore stations, boats, propellers and water toys that remain in the water for periods of time. Lakes infected with zebra mussels, or zeebs, as Boismenue called them, often become clearer over time as the mussels filter the water. While this may seem like a positive thing, in this case clearer water does not equate to healthier water. As the zebra mussels filter the water, they are also dining on an important piece of the food chain - phytoplankton. So while the water is getting clearer, there is less food at the bottom of the food chain, meaning things will soon change at higher levels as well.
Spiny waterflea come with its own set of problems, Boismenue said. These deadly invaders have a long tail with a spine at the base, hence the name. They are very small and can go unnoticed. They will clump up on fishing line or anchor rope and look like a gelatinous mass. The real danger with this invasive, she said, is the spine on the tail of the waterflea. Because they look similar to a fish's normal food, they are targeted. In smaller fish the spines can stick in their throat, effectively starving the fish when it can no longer get any more food down. In larger fish, choking is not as much of a hazard, but the spine of the waterflea can penetrate the stomach or intestines of the fish, which can kill them as well.
From there Boismenue went into the actual watercraft inspection process, instructing attendees on the questions they would be asking boaters and what to look for when doing an inspection. One important inspection point, which can easily be overlooked, she said, was inside the prop of the motor. She uses a flashlight during her inspections to look as far inside the prop as possible. While this can be useful in finding fishing line which may be wrapped around a boater's prop, causing engine problems, it can also be useful for finding hidden vegetation or animals such as zebra mussels. She said inspectors should pay special attention to carpeted bunks on boat trailers, as these tend to hold vegetation better and can be a vector for transportation of invasive species.
Experienced volunteers were able to share knowledge and stories of encounters they had at the launch ramp over the years and to help each other with best practices and tactics for dealing with the occasional cranky or uncooperative boater. New volunteers were able to walk away from the training with the information and confidence they would need to conduct watercraft inspections at the launch ramp in their quest to keep their lake healthy and free of new invasive invasions.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached at email@example.com.
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