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Lake Groups Prepare for Busy Season of Preventing Aquatic Invasive Species Spread

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

The beautiful, clean lakes are one of the biggest reasons people come to the Northwoods.

It’s why you likely won’t find any shortage of boats on the water this weekend.

Aquatic Invasive Species remain a big concern in the Northwoods.

Cathy Higley is the Vilas County Lake Conservation Specialist. She said you should be checking your boat every time you put it in and pull it out of a lake.

“Just make sure you’re expecting your boat for plants and animals. Remove any plants and animals. Drain all the lake water from your live well, your bilge, your ballast tanks, or any other area that’s holding water. And also, never move live fish,” said Higley.

Credit Katie Thoresen/WXPR

Eurasian Water Milfoil, Curly Leaf Pondweed, and Spiny Water Fleas are the big three Aquatic Invasive Species in the Northwoods.

Once they’re in a lake it can be hard or impossible to get rid of.

“Eurasian Water Milfoil, that’s one that we can manage, but it’s very expensive to manage. It can spread pretty readily. Just one node, a node is a place where the leaf meets the stem, has a possibility of re-rooting and growing a whole new plant. So just a fragment can start a whole new population in a lake,” said Higley.

It’s why you’ll see people with clip boards at the boat ramps of many popular lakes in the Northwoods.

Last summer, boat inspectors at Black Oak Lake in Vilas County put in more than 2,000 hours at the public boat launch just west of Land O’Lakes.

“These folks are here pretty much from fishing opener to mid-October, almost dawn to dusk,” said Higley.

Higley spent a couple hours Thursday morning standing next to Black Oak Lake training and refreshing some of the inspectors.

They’ll be monitoring boats for aquatic invasive species all summer long.

Credit Katie Thoresen/WXPR

Higley said the Clean Boats, Clean Waters group at Black Oak Lake is so efficient that most boaters coming in know to have their boats drained and cleaned.

“It’s been more of a maybe social or cultural expectation I guess that you got to have a clean boat if you’re coming to Black Oak Lake as it should be on all of our lakes and many people do make that effort,” said Higley.

That effort at the lake appears to be paying off.

“Black Oak Lake is the clearest lake in Wisconsin at least it was last year when they checked, and we want to keep it that way,” said William Foreman, the Clean Boats, Clean Waters coordinator for the lake.

He said a Black Oak Lake Preservation Foundation was created years ago to help pay for people to inspect boats.

“We view the lake as a community resource for Land O’Lakes. We want to make sure that it’s clean and beautiful for everyone who comes and visits,” said Foreman.

Higley said it needs to be a combination of dedicated community members like this and educated boaters to keep the lake clean and clear of aquatic invasive species.

“Lake Mendota lost three feet of water clarity due to spiny water flea and we don’t really want that to be happening here,” said Higley.

Some AIS like spiny water fleas can’t be seen easily, that’s why it’s important to wash your boat.

There are a number of decontamination stations set up throughout Vilas County this weekend.

They’re free for people to use to clean their boats before and after being in a lake.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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