By Louie Stout
Michiana anglers are fed up with the way some area lake associations have amped up their aquatic plant treatments in recent years.
Anglers understand that shallow areas where thick non-native vegetation impedes boat traffic or beach areas need reduced. Yet, some associations have gone so far as nuking offshore flats that have no impact on boating or swimming.
I can assure you several fishery biologists are equally concerned. However, their hands are tied either legislatively, or politically.
The annual dump of herbicides has destroyed a lot of fish habitat in recent years. It doesn’t matter whether you fish for panfish, bass, pike or walleye; excessive treatments have negative effects.
Plants not only provide good habitat for young fish that can grow to become big fish, but they absorb nutrients coming into the lake to help keep it clear.
Untimely or over-zealous chemical treatments will turn a relatively clear lake into a brownish color.
And it can kill fish.
Like it did at Diamond Lake this summer, when an estimated 1,000 gamefish died a couple of days after a weed treatment.
Let me preface this by saying the Diamond treatment was legal,less egregious than what occurs on some lakes and the Michigan DNR’s environmental division approved the application.
However, it’s believed that a combination of potent chemical’s applied in spawning areas where fish already were stressed led to their demise.]
Credit the Diamond Lake Association for taking the incident seriously. Shortly afterwards, the association held a public meeting to discuss the fish kill.
Several anglers, including those who live on the lake, showed up to express concerns and frustrations. Association officials were equally concerned and vowed to take necessary steps. The organization met with DNR officials and lake consultants in July to discuss how it might avoid future problems.
And last week, the association met again with anglers to announce that future treatments scheduled this year will be delayed or even canceled, depending upon need. It also said it will minimize areas to be treated based upon need and request applicators use less toxic chemicals in the future.
It was a step in the right direction and one other lake groups should seriously consider.
Unfortunately, there are some residents living on Michiana lakes who would prefer to turn their lake waters into a bathtub void of vegetation.
Chicagoan Frank Yavaraski, who fishes southwest Michigan lakes, heard it first-hand from a Paw Paw Lake resident. He shared his experience in a recent email.
“After a 10-minute conversation with him about the effects of (excessive) weed treatments, the guy said, ‘I couldn’t care less if it kills all the fish in the lake, as long it kills all the weeds’,” Yavaraski wrote. “I just had to walk away.”
Sadly, I and others have had similar conversations with lake residents.
The Diamond Lake fish kill was unfortunate, but it may have awakened other area lakefront residents to seek a more conservative approach to weed treatments.
Not just for the fish, but themselves.
“I’ve never understood how lake association members are willing to let their children swim in these lakes heavily treated with herbicides, yet they will spend $10 for a gallon of organic milk,” added Yavaraski.