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Spiny water flea closing in on Lake Champlain? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Spiny water flea closing in on Lake Champlain?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Gary Morgan is an avid angler on Lake Champlain. He's disappointed to hear about a possible invasive species in its waters.

"Has a lot to do with fishing. They have bass fishing tournaments here throughout the year, BassMasters comes here. LCI will be affected by this, its revenue. Plus it's sporting, it's a beautiful resource," said Morgan of Burlington.

A professor at SUNY Plattsburgh studying the spiny water flea says this tiny pest will have a huge impact on the ecosystem, cutting off food supply for fish.

"This particular one is nasty because it has a spine that prevents fish from feeding on it. And it's a particularly voracious predator on the other plankton. So, it will have a pretty serious impact on the food web structure and planktonic energy in Lake Champlain," Professor Tim Mihuc said.

Mihuc says he's found a population of them in New York in bodies of water near Lake Champlain and in a feeder canal to Lake Champlain in Glens Falls. He says the spiny water flea is likely already in Lake Champlain, and if not, it will be soon.

"It's kind of imminent because it's so close in Lake George," Mihuc said.

Experts say the spiny water flea is less than 1-inch long and difficult to spot. But fishermen may be the first to detect spiny water fleas in our area and that's typically how they're found.

"Anyone trolling for lake trout or just fishing in the lake, if you see what looks like cotton balls on your fishing line, and you realize that they're actually not cotton balls that they're live organisms, those are spiny water fleas," Mihuc said.

Experts say the best way to slow the spread of spiny water fleas would be to divert water from the Glens Falls feeder canal away from Lake Champlain and boaters should clear their boat bottoms of any unwanted hitchhikers. Wash and dry your boat every time you use it. Experts will continue testing Lake Champlain's water, looking for this puny pest.

"I hope that there's something they can do about it," Morgan said.

Mihuc says the spiny water flea is not a direct threat to humans. It doesn't bite or cause physical harm. But it will threaten wildlife in the lake.

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