BoatUS ANGLER: RecycledFish Stewardship Tips
According to the Washington Department of Ecology, many aquatic scientists consider Hydrilla verticillata the most problematic aquatic plant in the United States. Native to Africa, Australia, and parts of Asia, hydrilla was introduced to Florida in 1960 via the aquarium trade and is now well established throughout the southern United States.
Ironically, small populations of hydrilla may have a desirable effect on fishing by providing food and habitat for forage fish. It can also provide cover for larger predators such as bass. However, small areas of hydrilla, according to the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service, can “quickly spread into shallow backwaters and can form large mats that encroach on deeper areas. Low oxygen levels in the larger mats make them unsuitable for growth and survival of sport fishes.” Heavy hydrilla infestations, invasions that cover 25 to 30 percent of a lake, can lead to the elimination of fish habitat, to stunting, and to a reduction in the number of harvestable fish.
Hydrilla can be spread from one water body to another by hitching a ride on a boat propeller or a bait bucket. Hydrilla can be found primarily in the southeastern United States. It has, however, infested areas of California and can be found as far north as Washington and Massachusetts. Controlling hydrilla can be an expensive proposition. The best option for control is to contain its spread.
The most effective method for containing the spread of any invasive species is to clean your equipment before moving from one body of water to another. As Protect Your Waters advises:
- Remove any visible plants, fish or animals.
- Remove mud and dirt since it too may contain a hitchhiker.
- Remove even plant fragments as they may contain a hitchhiker.
- Do not transport any potential hitchhiker, even back to your home. Remove and leave them at the site you visited.
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