Spiny water flea, an invasive species that is believed will be impossible to eradicate once established, is poised to enter Lake Champlain.
The Lake Champlain Research Institute (LCRI) has confirmed massive numbers of spiny water fleas in the Glens Falls Feeder Canal, at the junction basin where the feeder canal branches off the Hudson River at Glens Falls. The feeder canal flows toward the Champlain Canal which serves as a route for boats into Lake Champlain.
Dr. Tim Mihuc, Director of the LCRI, reports that recent sampling indicates that the numbers of spiny water flea this year have increased dramatically. “They are on their way into the lake, if not already there,” Dr. Mihuc said. Lake Champlain is considered a source for the spread of invasive species to other water-bodies in the Adirondacks, including nearby Lake George.
Spiny water fleas are a nuisance as they attach to fish lines and leaders. Clumping on lines, they foul the eyes on fishing poles. Also, when the spiny water flea population explodes, it consumes large amounts of native plankton on which walleye, perch and many other species of fish rely on each year during early stages of their development. The spiny water flea is itself protected by its long spiny tail from being eaten by fish smaller than about two inches in length. This spiny tail may also puncture the stomachs of juvenile fish who feed on them.
The spiny water flea is a type of planktonic crustacean of the order Cladocera. It measures ¼ to ½ inch in length. A long barbed tail makes up 70% of its length. It can reproduce asexually and numbers can explode in summer with 10-fold increases in a matter of two weeks. Sexual reproduction in the fall produces new eggs that over-winter before hatching.
The spiny water flea is native to Europe and Asia and is believed to have been transported in bilge water and dumped into Lake Huron (about 1984). It has rapidly spread throughout the Great Lakes and to other water bodies from there. It reached Great Sacandaga Lake in eastern New York in 2008. It has made rapid progress in eastern New York since then.
Photo: A mass of spiny water fleas foul up line on a fishing rod.
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