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Spiny water fleas clump on fishing line. (Photo/Emily DeBolt)


Spiny waterflea has arrived in county

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Updated: 8:37 AM

KEENE VALLEY -- Spiny waterflea, a tiny invasive species that can have a significant impact on the aquatic food chain, is spreading in the Adirondack Park.

First discovered in the region in Great Sacandaga Lake in 2008, spiny waterflea is also in Stewarts Bridge Reservoir, Peck Lake, Sacandaga Lake and Lake George. Recent surveys detected populations in Hamilton County in Lake Pleasant, which adjoins Sacandaga Lake, and nearby Piseco Lake.

Spiny waterflea was detected in Lake Pleasant June 23 by middle school students from Lake Pleasant Central School while conducting plankton tows as part of the Paul Smith's College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) Watershield Workshop program. AWI Research Associate Corey Laxson confirmed the find.

Subsequent monitoring by AWI also revealed spiny waterfleas in Piseco Lake, on June 28. As part of efforts to develop a regional response plan, the AWI has initiated a broader surveillance for spiny waterflea in more than three-dozen waterways in coordination with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) and others.

There are no known controls for spiny waterflea, which alters the food availability for fish. Adults range from a quarter to five-eighths of an inch long. Its long spine makes it inedible for small forage fish, such as the spottail shiner.


The spiny waterflea -- native to Europe and Asia -- eats the small native zooplankton that fish, such as young perch and walleye, feed on, which leads to less food for native and popular sport fish. In addition, waterfleas degrade recreation by catching on fishing gear and lines, posing a nuisance to anglers.

Spiny waterfleas pose no harm to drinking water or human health.

The abundance, connectivity and popularity of Adirondack waterways create a situation ripe for rapid spread of this species. Prevention is critical.

Extra precautions, particularly by anglers, should be taken when leaving waterways known to have spiny waterflea. Spiny waterflea and their eggs can be transported easily on fishing lines and anchor lines and through bait buckets and bilge water.


To prevent spreading, clean gear and watercraft between waterways by following these steps: Clean, Drain and Dry.

Clean: When leaving a waterway inspect watercraft and gear and remove aquatic plants and animals, including mud and algae, and dispose of away from the shoreline.

Drain: Drain all water from live wells, bait buckets, bilges and other reservoirs.

Dry: Allow boats and equipment to completely dry. Drying times may vary. Specific guidance can be reviewed online at the 100th Meridian Initiative website. Google This period of time is needed to completely kill the resting eggs of spiny waterfleas.


If drying is not an option, wash the exterior of the boat and trailer with high-pressure water. Use hot water (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for one minute on fishing lines, downrigger cables, anchor lines, bilges and live wells etc.

The AWI, APIPP and partners are working with shoreowners, communities and volunteers to develop a prevention, education and monitoring plan to raise awareness about spiny waterflea, its distribution in the region and steps to take to prevent its spread.

Community discussions are planned for Monday, July 28, in Piseco and with the Lake Pleasant-Sacandaga Association in August. Call 548-3991.


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