Preventing the Introduction of Aquatic Invasive Species
An Overview of the Problem
The continuing spread of non-native invasive species -- both plant and animal -- into more and more Minnesota lakes and rivers is a problem made more difficult by a mobile population and world-wide commerce. Some introduced species immediately die off. Others, finding a favorable environment and no natural enemies, overrun their new home, eliminating like native species and permanently altering the ecosystem. It's rarely possible to remove an invasive species, once established. The focus must be on prevention.
A Commitment to Boater Education that Started in the Early 1990s
The Sportsmen’s Club made a commitment in the early 1990s to make a stand against this threat. In 1992, several club members attended a meeting at Breezy Point Resort (Brainerd MN) entitled "Exotics in Minnesota: The Inland Invasion." The fight was on.
Frequent newsletter articles followed, explaining the problem and urging residents and seasonal cabin owners alike to always trailer a clean boat and to inspect both carefully before launching at Lake Vermilion or any other lake.
In the May 1995 issue [click here] of our newsletter, The Vermilion Sportsman, Jack Sparks wrote an article on the Rusty Crayfish. He surmised the “Rusty” had already been in the lake for approximately 10 years, beginning in the mid-1980s. In our May 2002 newsletter [click here], Joe Geis, DNR representative at the Tower office, advised that curly-leaf pondweed had been spotted around the Everett Bay public boat ramp, no doubt brought in by a boat or trailer. Today, all of our newsletters have some information or reminders concerning "invasive species," the more modern term for what used to be called "exotics" or "exotic species."
Each year since 2005, trained Sportsmen's Club volunteers have staffed boat ramps, checking boats and discussing this threat with our incoming guests. For more info on the inspection process and results, please click here. Keeping the public focused on the problem is the primary method our club has to prevent the further spread of invasive species.
In 2007, the Sportsmen's Club further expanded its public education efforts. The club partnered with the Minnesota DNR and the Lake Vermilion Resort Association to run a large billboard advertisement with the “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers” theme along Highway 169 on the way to Tower. At our request, local Ely radio station WELY aired invasive species prevention announcements by Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire during every Twins game broadcast. Also in 2007, we began contacting fishing tournament directors, asking for their cooperation in having their competitors come to the lake with clean boats and trailers. Look for even more in future years.
Three High-Risk Aquatic Invasive Species for Lake Vermilion
Rusty crawfish, curly-leaf pondweed, and purple loosestrife are already present in Lake Vermilion. Three additional species have spread to nearby lakes and pose the most significant new threats [individual pictures]:
Zebra Mussels: Present in the Mississippi and St Louis Rivers, Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Superior, and in several Crow Wing County lakes.
Eurasian Watermilfoil: Present in the Mississippi River, Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Superior and many Twin Cities metro lakes. In St Louis County, present in the Gilbert Pit and in Horseshoe Lake.
Spiny Waterfleas: Present nearby in Crane, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Rainy Lakes. Also present in Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods.
For More Information or to Volunteer
For more information about our aquatic invasive species prevention work or to volunteer to assist, please contact activity coordinator Bob Wilson [contact info].