The Clean Water Blog

Designated Infested Waterway sign / photo: Steve Schultz

Hook the Big One, Not a Wad of Eurasian Milfoil

The fishing opener is this weekend and thousands of anglers will be getting out on Minnesota’s lakes and rivers looking to hook the big one! Unfortunately, many lakes and rivers are either infested with or threatened by invasive species. The threat of invasive species is real and smacking us across the face every time we get out and try to enjoy our favorite waterways. They come in the form of aquatic plants such as Eurasian Milfoil; larger aquatic animals like Invasive Carp or Zebra Mussels; or very small animals like the spiny waterflea. Though the waterflea may be small in stature, they are not small in terms of the effects they have on our water ecosystems and our economy.

Like many other Minnesotans, I don’t need to look any further than across the street from my house, to Lake Josephine in the northern Twin Cities suburbs. This lake used to be very healthy and clean. You could swim, boat, and fish off the little beach we have access to on the north end of the lake. Unfortunately, in recent years, Eurasian Milfoil was introduced to the lake and now our beach is covered in a mat of weeds for most of the summer. No launching your canoe or kayak there, you can’t get through the milfoil. We can’t throw out a fishing line far enough to clear the mat of weeds. Don’t even try to swim out there; it’s like the blob, ready to swallow you up.

This is the situation for thousands of Minnesotans now, and it isn’t the way it should be if we truly value our lakes and rivers here in Minnesota. There are a number of actions we can take to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasives in our water. Some of these solutions require us to take responsibility for keeping our lakes free from invasives. These include ensuring our boats, trailers, and bait and live wells are clean when entering or leaving a waterway, or disposing of bait or aquarium supplies responsibly to not spread invasives. Other solutions though require our government— local, state, and federal – to step up and provide the research, funding, and policies so we can address the problems that some waterways already have or are threatening others.

If you care about your lake or river that you love to visit, or that you plan to go to this weekend for fishing opener, get in contact with your elected officials and tell them you are fed up with aquatic invasive species and need them to address the problem.

If we keep doing what we have been doing, we’ll see more Minnesota lakes turn into a Lake Josephine, still a beautiful lake, but one that we can’t enjoy quite as much as we used to. We need to choose to protect our lakes with our individual actions and by getting involved in the decision making process at city hall, a county board meeting, the State Capitol, or in Washington D.C., to ensure we are addressing the threat of aquatic invasive species.

Keep this in mind as you’re getting into your boat or casting your line from shore this fishing opener. Here’s to hooking the big one, but not hooking a wad of milfoil!