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Concern over invasive species: Fact or fiction?

H2O Adventures

Alewives, like the one pictured above, were first discovered in Lake Champlain in July, 2004. Columnist Howard Hammond believes some lake users and politicians overreact to the presence of non-native species.

Alewives, like the one pictured above, were first discovered in Lake Champlain in July, 2004. Columnist Howard Hammond believes some lake users and politicians overreact to the presence of non-native species.

It seems the hot topic in the last few months has been the invasion of non-native species of aquatic plants and fish into Lake Champlain. To quote the Lake Champlain Basin Program Guide for Aquatic Invasive Species: “The Lake Champlain Basin is home to a number of invasive species that cause economic and ecological harm to our ecosystem.”

I have to ask: what harm? Yes, it is costly to try and rid the eco- system of a harmful species once it’s established but then what harm is the species causing? Where is the peer reviewed research and long term studies? Just to say non-native species are harmful or will compete with the existing food chain without some documentation doesn’t seem very scientific. Actually, it seems very irresponsible.

Eurasian Watermilfoil is the most commonly named invasive plant species in Lake Champlain. I am sure milfoil causes problems with the million dollar waterfront houses’ water intake systems or the use of Jet Skis in the shallow flats from the heavy growth. But then again it seems from my years of fishing that where the milfoil grows so does the best fishing occur. Ask any big time pro and he will always say, ”find the milfoil, find the bass.”

A recent survey by Bassmaster Magazine named Lake Champlain one of the top five bass lakes in the USA, that probably wouldn’t have occurred if milfoil hadn’t invaded the lake. One has to pick their poison: the economic benefit of a great fishery or no weeds and no fish. I have witnessed the TVA in the south spend millions of dollars treating the lakes of the south to kill milfoil and hydrilla to protect the million dollar lakefront properties and megawatt hydro-electric plants, and wind up with a limited fish population. Case in point, Fort Loudon Lake in east Tennessee, during the years the lake was polluted with milfoil and hydrilla the bass population thrived, today no weeds and no fish. One can fish all day and maybe get five bites, compared to Lake Champlain where you can catch five bass in five minutes.

Howard Hammonds is a guide and experienced bass fisherman living in Westport. He can be reached at hehammonds@gmail.com.

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