For years, anglers have been blamed for the illegal introduction of hydrilla, and much of that blame has been deserved.
Shortsighted fishermen certainly have spread the exotic plant, focusing only on its benefits as fish habitat and not the damage it does.
But others also are guilty of this practice, and, for years, they have done so without being held accountable.
“The issue of hunters moving hydrilla has not been on the radar much. Anglers have been getting all the blame,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director. “
Finally, that’s changed, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has acknowledged that waterfowl hunters also are introducing the fast-growing, invasive plant.
During a stakeholder meeting for Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island) last summer, Corps project manager Mike Womack specifically mentioned hunters, as well as anglers, as the culprits. Online research, he explained, revealed comments on hunting blogs about how hydrilla benefits waterfowl hunters.
“This view is shortsighted,” Womack said, adding that hydrilla crowds out native plants, diminishes oxygen levels, and can carry diseases that are deadly to waterfowl and predatory birds that might eat them, including eagles.
For years, Bill Frazier, North Carolina conservation director, has suspected hunter involvement, as he noted infestations showing up in places far removed from ramps, where anglers most often introduce it. More recently, duck hunters at Kerr, who didn’t know his identity, told him that they spread hydrilla into upstream locations. And he saw someone on a North Carolina hunting website ask about how to introduce the plant.
“At the annual meeting of weed managers for North Carolina, I confronted the state weed manager,” Frazier said. “His comment was ‘Now that you mentioned it, I wondered why I always found hydrilla around duck blinds.’”
Whether the offender is an angler or hunter, he can be arrested and prosecuted for spreading hydrilla in a Corps impoundment. Additionally, the agency offers a reward of up to $1,000 under its Corps Watch program for information about vandalism, larceny, arson, and environmental and cultural degradation.
“This includes the intentional spread of federally listed noxious weeds including hydrilla, unauthorized applications of pesticides, and unauthorized release of fish, including grass carp,” the Corps said.
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)