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New Aquatic Invasive Species Found in Wisconsin for the First Time

Wisconsin DNR

A new-to-Wisconsin aquatic invasive species is motivating conservation workers to move quickly.

European Frogbit has been found along a 20-plus mile stretch on the coast of Lake Michigan starting just north of Oconto all the way up to Marinette.

“I myself have fished out of some of these launches. You know if you don’t get there by 6:00, 7:00 in the morning you’re SOL, you’re not going to get a spot, because they’re so busy,” said Amanda Smith, the region’s DNR invasive species specialist.

Smith said because it’s such a high-traffic area for boaters, that’s likely how the invasive spread there.

The nearest known wild population of European Frogbit is in the eastern Upper Peninsula near Sault Ste. Marie.

The plants look like smaller versions of lily-pads you may see around the Northwoods with a small white flower.

Once it’s there, it grows in thick.

Large mats of European Frogbit can become dense enough to reduce light that native plants need and prohibit movement of large fish and diving ducks.

“It literally covers the water. Maybe once your favorite fishing spot is now unfishable,” said Smith. There’s also a major concern over what it will do to duck habitat.

It’s likely that the Frogbit arrived sometime in the last five years, and this was the first year it grew large enough for people to take notice.

Since it was found couple weeks ago, DNR and many of its partners have been working to hand pull where they can and are considering the use of herbicides where they can’t.

Once an invasive species is in an area, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of.

DNR Statewide AIS Program Coordinator Amy Kretlow said education will be key in managing it.

“Keep your equipment clean and not spreading these invasive species. That’s a huge thing that we are really trying to work on is getting that word out also and just educating the people any invasive species but this one in particular right now,” said Kretlow.

Smith hopes boaters will see this and double down on AIS spread prevention.

“I think it’s just a good reminder that we as humans also have to continue to do better and take care of planet and water resources by following the prevention steps that everyone is required to follow," she said. 

Smith is referring to inspecting your boats for invasives, draining any water before you go into a new lake, and never move live fish.

You can learn more about European Frogbit on the DNR’s website.

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