It's not much to look at. In fact, it's impossible to see without a microscope.
But for the first time in a decade, an exotic aquatic species has been found in the Great Lakes. That makes 185 or 186 non-native species, depending on who's counting, now established in the basin. Some, including the lamprey and alewife, migrated up the St. Lawrence Seaway, but most, including the zebra mussel as well as this latest, probably were introduced via ballast water from ocean-going ships.
Thermocyclops crassus, a type of zooplankton, was discovered in water samples taken from Lake Erie by limnology technician Joe Connolly of Cornell University.
“It’s kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Connolly said. “I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t something we’d seen before.”
He found both male and female specimens in low numbers, but enough to say that an established population exists of the invertebrate that is native to Europe, Asia, and Australia. Officials from both the U.S. and Canada have planned more sampling to determine how widespread this new invader is and what its impact may be.
“We don’t know enough yet about what this species could or could not do in the Great Lakes,” said Elizabeth Hinchey Malloy, an environmental scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Size isn't an indicator of impact, as the zebra mussel, a fingernail-sized shellfish, and the round goby, a small bottom-dwelling fish, have proven.
Confirmed in 2006, the bloody red shrimp was the last previously discovered invader. It now swarms in excess of 135 individuals per square foot.
"The impact of this species on the Great Lakes is yet unknown, but based on its history of invasion across Europe, significant impacts are possible," said Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute. "The bloody red shrimp is an omnivore. Its diet includes waterfleas and algae. They may compete with young fish, while providing food for larger fish. The invasion of this species in some European reservoirs has been documented to accelerate silica cycling, resulting in blooms of diatoms and, in some cases, plating out of silica onto pipes."
If you like to fish and you enjoy reading about history, then The American Fisherman: How Our Nation's Anglers Founded, Fed, Financed, and Forever Shaped the U.S.A. is just the book for you. Written by Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson and historian William Doyle and illustrated with 75 photos, it traces the significant, and often surprising, role that angling has played.
For example, in "The Fisherman Who Created America," find out how fish, saved Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge from starvation, although actual events might not be as dramatic a "fish story" as originally believed. The "Greatest Fishing Trip of All," meanwhile, was Lewis and Clark's trip up the Missouri River, in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase. An Army private from Massachusetts, Silas Goodrich, even was brought along as an angling expert.
"We don't know where he picked up these skills," Robertson and Doyle wrote, "but as soon as they hit the water, he was reeling in fish all over the place," including "the men's favorite, catfish, some as huge as 100 pounds."
In this book, you also can learn about "the fish that won the last battle of the Civil War," the whaling era, and the golden age of sportfishing. The latter possibly is the most fascinating, as it traces development of the sport, both salt and freshwater, from Ernest Hemingway to Kevin VanDam.
Female anglers are recognized too, as are U.S. Presidents who fished. A final chapter documents the remarkable healing power of fishing.
Appendixes provide interesting reading as well, including an article by former President George H.W. Bush and another entitled "Great Moments in American Fishing."
The largest reservoir in Connecticut and one of its most popular bass fisheries is at risk of infestation by zebra mussels.
"They're not on in Candlewood yet, but they're right on our doorstep," said Len Greene of FirstLight Power Resources, which owns and manages the lake and a hydro power station on it. "It was only a matter of time before they migrated there."
"There" is the station's foundation on the Housatonic River and nearby boulders. In 2009, the invasive mussels were found in nearby Lakes Lillinonah and Zoar and in the river itself.
And the threat lies in way that power is generated, by pumping water between the lake and the river. In the past, FirstLight has voluntarily limited pumping during times when mussels reproduce to lessen the threat, and plans to continue doing so.
"We've been able to buy five years with the pumping restrictions," Greene added. "It's an unfortunate situation that I think was inevitable at some point, given that zebra mussels spread everywhere they can."
As officials try to decide on the best way to repel a zebra mussel invasion, Candlewood Lake Authority has suggested a smaller than normal winter drawdown to reduce the risk when the lake refills with river water. Typically, water is drawn down 6 1/2 feet to knock back another invasive, Eurasian watermilfoil. Executive Director Larry Marsicano added that the authority can monitor the area around the intake pipe.
"We're still trying to manage the risk of them getting a toehold," he said. "Even if one gets pumped in, it takes two to tango."
Aside from the threat that they post for blocking water intakes with their dense colonies, zebra mussels also improve water clarity as they feed on algae and plankton. That would allow for more light penetration, encouraging already problematic watermilfoil to grow faster and spread into deeper water.
HOUSTON, Tex. --- Seven Coves Bass Club has received some impressive recognition for its conservation efforts.
In 2013, the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation (TBN) affiliate was awarded the Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “This is probably the highest recognition our conservation program has received to date,” said Tim Cook, TBN conservation director. “Every member of the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation should be proud to be part of an organization that gives so much back to the sport we all love
And now, Lake Conroe, a Houston-area bass fishery that the club has helped shepherd to world-class status during the past eight years, will be the site of the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic March 24-26.
"We're pretty pumped about it," said Ron Gunter, a past president and conservation director for the club. "It's an opportunity to showcase what we, with all our partners, have done."
But, he was quick to add, bringing to Classic to Conroe wasn't the priority, or even a consideration. "We just wanted to protect and enhance the fishery."
In doing so, though, they helped create a fishery worthy of the Classic, according to Tim Cook, TBN conservation director. "It's been producing 30-pound stringers all summer long," he said. "The lake has a significant number of 8-pound fish and I'm expecting that six to ten over 8 pounds will be caught each day. We've had five Toyota Texas Bass Classics on that lake, so anglers know how good it can be."