Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center launches spiny water flea campaign

August 02, 2021

The spiny water flea, a small opaque zooplankton that is becoming a threat to Minnesota waters, is the subject of a new campaign by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.

This invasive species disrupts the natural food chain by devouring the micronutrients that sustain and grow native fish species, yet offer no nutritional value themselves. Once established in a lake there is no treatment, chemical or otherwise, that will eradicate them, a release said.

As a result, the MAISRC has launched a campaign called Stop Spiny, which is aimed at educating Minnesotans about spiny water fleas, their spread and how to stop them.

Bruce Anspach, a Beltrami County aquatic invasive species lakes technician, is supporting the campaign and looking to educate those in Beltrami County about it.

“We’re definitely behind the campaign and are trying to raise awareness among anglers and boaters," Anspach said in the release. "All our boat inspectors have handouts and other materials to distribute to people using public access ramps -- plus, we’re running a short, informative video from MAISRC as a commercial on local cable channels to try and reach even more people.”

Spiny water fleas tend to adhere to things that move through the water, such as fishing lines, downrigger cables and the mesh bag of landing nets. An angler’s first encounter with the invasive zooplankton is often as a shimmering cluster of them at the rod tip after reeling line onto the spool, the release said.

“Fishermen use the type of gear that can easily pick up and transport spiny water fleas,” Anspach said. “So besides increasing awareness, we’re encouraging anglers to actively stem the spread by wiping down their gear after a day on the lake.”

The campaign urges anglers to wipe down their fishing line with a rag or towel as it goes onto the reel; then wipe off the reel itself before stowing a rod in the locker at the end of the day. At the ramp, after draining the bilge, livewells, baitwell or bait bucket, wipe down the wells or bucket to remove any hitchhikers.

Anspach recommends anglers check the landing net, as well as any spots inside the boat that the net or a fish might have touched.

Boaters and anglers, particularly those who are likely to launch on a different body of water within four days, are encouraged to make use of one of the many courtesy decontamination stations made available to them around the state. The system uses a hot (140 degrees) low-pressure wash to clean the hull and the outboard’s lower unit, and flush the livewells, baitwells and plumbing system, free of charge.

Beltrami County’s permanent station is located at 2400 Middle School Drive in Bemidji. Boaters should call the station at (218)760-8519 as they approach the access ramp to let technicians know they’re on the way.

Several counties operate permanent decontamination stations, and the MDNR has dozens of mobile units that are set up at various locations throughout the boating season. All of them can be found online, along with dates, locations and hours of operation.

Visit dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/watercraft_inspect/courtesydecon and click on View Courtesy Decontamination Map to find the one nearest you.