Everyone can help stop the invaders
Threats to the future of angling have been numerous throughout the last century. From overharvest by commercial fishermen to raw sewage and chemicals dumped directly into rivers and lakes, anglers and fisheries biologists alike have had to fight ...
Threats to the future of angling have been numerous throughout the last century. From overharvest by commercial fishermen to raw sewage and chemicals dumped directly into rivers and lakes, anglers and fisheries biologists alike have had to fight to preserve fish and their habitat.
And for the most part, anglers today are fortunate to enjoy good fishing opportunities across much of the country. It's not by chance, but with continued vigilance supporting clean water and healthy fisheries.
In North Dakota, one of the more constant threats of the last several decades has been undesirable fish species. Recently, these fish - bullheads, carp and white suckers among them - have been joined by other harmful aquatic plants and animals in a category called aquatic nuisance species.
We as humans seem to be wired internally with the "it can't happen to me" syndrome. How many wildfires were started by a single individual who underestimated the potential of an unattended campfire or discarded cigarette?
How many North Dakota fisheries have been ruined by someone who dumped out their bait at the end of the day on the water, thinking they were doing the lake a favor by adding minnows, when instead the bait bucket contained bullheads or small suckers that would eventually become overpopulated?
How long will it be until someone unknowingly transports an aquatic nuisance plant fragment from one body of water to another because they didn't think one person mattered, and didn't inspect and clean their boat?
When it comes to the future of fishing, a disastrous toxic mishap can have an immediate, localized and future ripple effect which may last for years. But such incidents, which are infrequent these days, may be more easily dealt with than aquatic nuisance species. The source is identified, the problem is corrected and the water eventually heals.
Over the last few decades, ongoing attempts to stop the spread of aquatic nuisance species have cost countless dollars in time, resources and destroyed fisheries. And yet, while there are local success stories, across the landscape the aquatic nuiscance species problem is getting worse.
And it's not just displacement of game fish or establishing a vegetative nuisance for boaters. For instance, zebra mussels can plug up municipal water in-takes, with high removal costs passed on to users. Asian carp jump out of the water when a boat approaches, creating a potential safety hazard for passengers.
I'm reminded of this as open-water fishing is now in full swing and boats, canoes and other water vessels are transported from rivers to lakes and between states and sometimes even countries.
Aquatic nuisance species like carp are well known in North Dakota because they have been here for a long time. Other names that are familiar in other nearby states, like zebra mussel, Eurasian water milfoil, spiny water flea, Asian carp, ruffe and a host of others are not yet present in North Dakota.
But they are close, and if we don't take the threat seriously, it's only a matter of time before some of these names become well known in North Dakota, too.
While the "it can't happen to me" attitude may be partly responsible for the spread of aquatic nuiscance species, prevention is possible if we all adopt the "together we can make a difference" philosophy.
Each individual is responsible to remain vigilant and do what is necessary to limit potential for distributing aquatic nuisance species, like removing the aquatic vegetation from your boat and trailer and doing so at the lake site, not after you've traveled to the next stop. This is not always easy or convenient, but collectively, all those little extra efforts will go along way toward limiting the transfer and spread of aquatic nuiscance species.
North Dakota already has enough aquatic invaders to attend to, including salt cedar, curly leaf pondweed and purple loosestrife. We don't need anything else, and we can make a difference if we all do our part.
Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at (701) 277-0719 or at email@example.com