The Infestations Harming Your Fishing Hole

Your favorite fishing hole could be under attack right now in the form of microscopic viruses, unexpectedly dangerous plants, razor sharp mussels, or non native fish!

The U.S. Fish and wild life define aquatic invasive species as "invasive plants and animals that occur in our country's aquatic habitats including lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries, wetlands of all types and marine environments. These species threaten the diversity or abundance of native species, the ecological stability of infested waters, and the commercial, agricultural, aquacultural or recreational activities dependent on such waters."

Where Did They Come From?

Flying carpAsian carp was brought to North America to eat the extra algae in fish farms until they escapedFWS

Some invasive species, like the Asian carp, were introduced on purpose and others, like zebra muscles, were spread accidently by boaters moving from lake to lake after being contaminated. Then there are some people who illegally release pets into the wild where they have no natural predators like the lionfish invasion on Florida's coast.

Prehistoric FishMore information on the problems that threaten our fishing holesWith all the attention our oceans get, many different kinds of issues now threaten the world's oceans and its creatures. Let's take a look at five of the biggest, most immediate threats we now face.

Five Invasive Species To Look Out For

Asian Carp:

Bighead and silver carp are filter feeding fish that can weigh up to 110 pounds (bighead carp) or 60 pounds (silver carp). Both species have low set eyes and an upturned mouth.

These carp were introduced to combat plankton in aquaculture ponds until they escaped and have spread across North America. These fish eat vast amounts of food a day and as bottom feeders they disrupt the entire food chain. Silver carp also have a bad habit of scaring easily. When they are disturbed, silver carp can jump up to 10 feet out of the water and have caused some serious damage to boaters over the years.

Many methods are in effect to combat the spread of carp including the use of electrical fences and the toxin rotenone. Anglers are encouraged to aggressively target this fish. Methods like bow- fishing have become very popular for this species.


Lionfish get their name from the mane of venomous spiky tentacles. The other identifying features are the red, white and black stripes and showy pectoral fins.

This fish, originally from the Pacific Ocean, was introduced to the Atlantic Ocean along the Southeast coast of the U.S. and Caribbean after people released their aquarium pets into the ocean.

With no natural predators the lion fish population has grown quickly. As invasive species go, this one is very tasty, despite their venomous tentacles. Anglers are encouraged to go out and target these fish. Many angler and outdoors groups have lion fish specific tournaments to try to bring the population down.

Sea Lamprey:

This Lamprey is brown, grey or black on its back and white or grey on its belly and can grow up to 8 inches.

Sea lampreyThe sea lamprey are the vampires of the invasive species worldU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Archive, US Fish and Wildlife Service,

Originally from the Atlantic Ocean, the sea lamprey traveled down the Welland Canal into the Great Lakes and have been there since 1835. This lamprey uses their suction-cup like mouths to attach themselves to native fish to suck their blood. Most victims die from blood loss or infection.Electric currents, chemical lampricides and various barriers have been used to stop the spread of this invasive species.

Giant Reed:

The Giant Reed boasts wide a thick stem (0.79 - 1.2 inches in diameter) and tapered leaves with a hairy tuff at the base. This reed can grow between 20 ft - 33 ft.

#The giant reed comes by its name honestly, these reeds can grow up to 33 ft. high.Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia,

The giant reed is chocking rivers and stream channels and crowds out native plant life. It takes up space in various animal habitats and ignites easily causing intense and dangerous fires. The long roots have even caused damage to infrastructure.

Some of the management options have been powerful herbicides and prescribed burnings.

Zebra Mussels:

Zebra mussels in a pipeZebra and quagga mussels will attach themselves to anything submerged in water.California Department of Boating and Waterways

Originally from Russia this mussel is named for the striped pattern across the shell, usually about the size of a finger nail, they can grow up to 2 inches in diameter and are incredibly sharp.

Zebra mussels first started appearing in North America in 1988. They were carried into Lake St. Clair by ocean-going boats and have very swiftly spread. The shells of zebra mussels are terribly sharp and have hurt swimmers, pets and anyone or thing else that wades into a body of water where the mussels are present. These mussels also do considerable damage at water treatment facilities and power plants attaching themselves to pipe works and clogging pipes.

There isn't much that can be done for this infestation without hurting the rest of the species that live in an infected area. At best, environmental and government groups are trying to stop the spread.

What You Can Do

Invasive species are becoming a major problem and once established they are very hard to get rid of.

Prehistoric FishThese trophy destinations need to be protected from these invasive speciesThese fishing spots are home to world records and rare fish and they would not survive an invasion from these species so you need to do your part to protect them.

As an angler there is plenty you can do to help control the spread of these species:

Know what to look for:

Before you head out to any fishing spot know what invasive species have been reported in the area so you can do your part to protect your fishing hole.

Stop aquatic hitch hikersRecycled Fish

Clean, Drain, Dry:

Every time you plan to take you boat out of one body of water and move to another you should clean, drain and dry all of the boating equipment including your trailer, outboard engine, oars, bilge, livewells and anywhere there is standing water.

Replace soft soled waders:

The pores of soft soled waders are a great hiding place for the smaller invasive species. Some states have already made this a must but you can do your part by switching on your own.

Catch it? Kill it:

If you catch an invasive species - even if you are a strict catch and release angler, do not return it to the water. Some you can take home to eat, others might not be edible but they shouldn't be returned to the water. The invasive plants and the things like zebra mussels or New Zealand Mudsnails should be disposed of when you get to shore.

Tell someone:

When you come across something that doesn't belong while out on the water you should give your local Department of Natural Resources a heads up, give them as much information as you can as to what you found, the approximate location and time.

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