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Another Troublesome Algae Season for Fisheries

Blue-green bloom in 2011 was worst in decades for western Lake Erie. Credit: MERIS/NASA; processed by NOAA/NOS/NCCOS

It’s that time of year --- algae season. No, not “allergy.” 


While troublesome jellyfish infestations are on the increase in our oceans, harmful algal blooms are growing in size and frequency in fresh water during summer and early fall.

And there’s even one of the latter now plaguing the salty water of Florida’s Biscayne Bay, according to the Miami Herald:

“Biscayne Bay, famed for its clear water and trophy bonefish, has been tainted by an algae bloom that may rank as the largest ever recorded in the bay.

“The bloom, which has left large swathes of the bay looking like pea soup and smelling like a Porta-Potty, appears to pose no human health risks and hasn’t produced any noticeable fish kills — at least not yet.

“But if it persists too long, it could damage fragile sea grass beds, disrupt the marine food chain and make boating, fishing and sand-bar bikini parties considerably less pleasant.”

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, the first alerts ever have been issued for blue-green algal blooms, according to the Courier-Journal:

“First, it was Taylorsville Lake to get a warning — the first such alert ever for a Kentucky lake. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Kentucky Division of Water area warning recreational users of potentially toxic situations at Rough River Lake and Barren River Lake.

“According to Naturally Connected, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection blog, there’s a difference between different type of algae:

“The more typical green algae, which are not harmful to humans or animals, come in many forms and may look like underwater moss, stringy mats or floating scum.

Cyanobacteria, on the other hand, looks like slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies of bacteria. The color of the algae may also appear as red or brown.

“All three lakes remain open, but these precautions are recommended:

  • “Avoid contact with visible algae and do not swallow water while swimming.
  • “Take a bath or shower with warm, soapy water after coming in contact with water in ponds and lakes, especially before preparing or consuming food.
  • “Prevent pets and livestock from entering the water or drinking untreated water from these sources. Livestock, pets and wild animals can be poisoned by the toxins produced by some algal blooms. Small animals can ingest a toxic dose quickly. Dogs are particularly susceptible to blue-green algae poisoning because the scum can attach to their coats and be swallowed during self-cleaning.
  • “Remove fish skin and organs before cooking and do not consume or allow pets/animals to consume the organs or skin.”

Finally, NOAA is telling us that blue-green blooms in western Lake Erie will be worse this year than last:

“NOAA and its research partners predict that the 2013 western Lake Erie harmful algal bloom (HAB) season will have a significant bloom of cyanobacteria, a toxic blue-green alga this summer. The predicted bloom is expected to be larger than last year, but considerably less than the record-setting 2011 bloom. Bloom impacts will vary across the lake’s western basin. This marks the second time NOAA has issued an annual outlook for western Lake Erie.

“Harmful algae blooms were common on western Lake Erie in the 1960s and 1970s. After a lapse of nearly 20 years, they have been steadily increasing over the past decade.”

What’s happening that’s encouraging jellyfish and algal blooms in our waters worldwide? Opinions among scientists vary. But one reason almost certainly is that these blooms are being fed by nutrient overload that pours into our rivers and oceans as runoff from agricultural lands and discharges from sewage plants. 


More Anglers Climbing Onto Kayaks

John Oast submitted photo to Tribune-Review

Fishing from kayaks is one of the fastest growing segments of the sport. As someone who enjoys fishing from man-powered craft on small waters, I recommend them. They're quiet, quick, and maneuverable, and, as their popularity increases, basic kayaks are becoming less and less expensive.

The sit-in, recreational kayak, however, is not a good choice for fishing. I learned that the hard way. It's much too difficult to get in and out of, especially on rocky and/or uneven shorelines. Instead, go with one that allows you to sit on the top. And if you are willing to spend a little more money, you even can buy kayaks especially designed for anglers.

For more information about kayak fishing, check out this piece in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.



Wheelchair-bound Angler Bests Lemon Shark


Matt Sechrist didn’t let a little thing like being born without legs keep him from the catch of a lifetime. With a little help from his friends, the 19-year-old Floridian caught and released an 8-foot, 250-pound lemon shark from the beach.

Read the story here.


Fishing Is 'a Perpetual Series of Occasions for Hope'

Photo by Dave Burkhardt

(Dave Precht  is vice-president of editorial and communications for B.A.S.S. He also is a great editor and good friend. This is an excerpt from his wonderful essay in my new book, Why We Fish. Click on the button at the right side of page to see more about the book at Amazon, including 11 five-star reviews.)

My favorite thought is from John Buchan, the Scottish author: “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”

That is the reason I fish. It’s an occasion for hope. I hope to catch a limit of bass, or to outfish my buddies. To catch a 10-pounder. To not get skunked. The more elusive the goal, the more rewarding its attainment. Put another way, it’s the challenge of catching bass that drives me and, I believe, most bass anglers.

A couple of years ago, our own website posted a weekly poll — unscientific but interesting — which found that bass anglers have different motivations from many other fishermen. Relaxation, contact with nature and camaraderie ranked at the bottom. Nearly half (48 percent) picked “the challenge,” while another 22 percent checked “the competition.”


Invasive Plants Spread More by Boats Than Birds

UF Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

Continuing research suggests that boats rather than birds are the primary means for introducing aquatic invasive species into Wisconsin lakes.

“The fact that accessible lakes are the ones that are invaded indicates that these species are moved by boaters,” said Alex Latzka, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Limnology (CFL).

“While birds could transport invasive species from one lake to another, our finding that remote lakes do not have invasive species strongly indicates that birds are not an important factor.”

Scientists at CFL and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are two years into a five-year study that explores the spread and distribution of exotic plants and animals in the state’s inland lakes. They hope that their monitoring of 450 lakes will uncover trends in dispersal of invasives such as Eurasian water milfoil that will allow time and funds to be better utilized toward protecting those waters where only native species are present.

“People often think that the lakes that are the most worthy of our protection and most susceptible to invasion are the pristine wilderness lakes,” Latzka said. “With those kinds of lakes are iconic in the Wisconsin northwoods, they are not the lakes most vulnerable to invasive species.”

Additionally, a lot of variability exists within lakes that have human development. For example, just 30 percent of fisheries with public access have water milfoil, while fewer than 20 percent zebra mussels. Those are promising numbers since both species have been in the state for decades.

Also encouraging is the fact that the number of lakes with invasive species remained about the same for the first two years of the study.

By finding out why these invaders have not spread to all lakes with human development and by pinpointing fisheries most at risk, scientists hope to better predict and, ideally, prevent the additional spread of invasives.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)