Stop the Spread

     No one wants to be responsible for the depletion of game fish in our freshwater lakes of the Boundary Waters.  Unfortunately invasive species like the Spiny Waterflea are making their way inland from the Great Lakes and can adversely affect fish populations.  It isn’t surprising how the Spiny Waterflea is spread from lake to lake.

     Boaters have been urged to take precautions against transporting the aquatic hitchhikers.  Most people are aware they can live in live wells, bilge pumps and other places water may be trapped in their boat.  Boaters must empty all of the water out of their boats and bait buckets before moving to another lake.  Since the invasive species like Eurasian Milfoil, zebra mussels and Spiny Waterfleas are too small to see when they are at the beginning stage of their development people can transport them without even knowing it.

     Living close to Lake Superior I know how many folks in our area fish the Big Lake Superior one day and then head out to Gunflint or Saganaga the next day. Water flows north from Gunflint into Saganaga and it isn’t difficult to imagine how other lakes become easily infected when boats and motors are involved.  But now the silent sport folks should also take notice.

     Spiny Waterflea eggs can attach to the outside of a canoe or kayak and hitchhike to another lake.  Think about Saganaga Lake as the gateway to the Quetico Park and other interior lakes of the BWCA folks portage into. A canoe or kayak along with fishing gear is portaged from one lake to another.  The Spiny Waterflea is a hardy species and can survive the transport and live to thrive in the next lake.  

     How many folks take a dry towel and wipe off their canoe, paddles, shoes and fishing gear before portaging out of Saganaga?  Then do these folks store the towel in a ziplock never to remove it and use it in any other lake in the interior?  I can’t say I have ever seen anyone boiling water at a campsite so they can disinfect their canoe and all of their gear before entering the next lake and since camping isn’t allowed on portages I doubt many people wait the 12 hours it takes to make sure the evil hitchhikers are dead.  What does this mean for the lakes of the Boundary Waters? 

     How can the spread of invasive species be stopped?  Voyageur’s National Park is doing their part to protect their interior lakes by not allowing float planes to land and by outlawing personal watercraft. Folks must rent canoes from the Park Service that have only been used in the interior lakes.  Visitors are asked to bring a separate set of fishing gear that is only used in the interior lakes.

       It’s a much easier feat to protect the few interior lakes in Voyageur’s than it is to protect the BWCA.  Float planes often take off from Lake Superior and drop down into lakes on the edge of the Boundary Waters transporting hitchhikers in the process. It seems like it is only a matter of time before the Spiny Waterflea spreads into adjacent lakes.

     Please do your part and help stop the spread of these invasive species by learning all you can about them. Urge officials to do a better job at spreading the word on how to stop the spread of these invasive species.  While your at it ask them to figure out how to get the species out of the lakes they have already infested.

From the NPS Site… Before entering another lake or river (within Voyageurs National Park or elsewhere):

– Allow boats, trailers, anchor ropes, livewells, and equipment (including nets, fishing equipment, water filters, etc.) to thoroughly dry for at least 12 hours.This period of time is needed to completely desiccate resting eggs of spinywater flea.


– Spray boats and equipment with 140°F (60°C) water for 1 minute to kill all resting eggs and adults (resting eggs are highly resistant to chlorine and saltwater and can withstand 100°F water for 10 minutes or more; therefore, salt and chlorine treatments are not recommended)

Check out the list of invasive species and where they have been found at theMN DNR site.  In Cook County where we are located Spiny Waterflea have been found in the following lakes: Devil’s Track, Gunflint, Greenwood, Flour, Saganaga, Little John, McFarland, Pine and Caribou(in the BWCA).