The Bayfield County Lakes Forum recently began an aggressive program with support from the DNR and UW Extension to prevent the spread of exotic species to the inland lakes in the county.
As of the end of 2002, the DNR reported that no inland lakes in Bayfield County were infested with either zebra mussel or Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM). County lakes were at risk of being infested because Chequamegon Bay, several lakes in Sawyer County and Minong Flowage in Douglas County have EWM infestations. Lake Superior is also infested with zebra mussels, ruffe, round goby, spiny waterfleas and fishhook waterfleas. In 2004 EWM was found in Tomahawk Lake and in the Pike Lake Chain. In 2007 it was found at the Hermitage marina.

In 2006, the Forum partnered with the County Tourism Department. After making Tourism aware of the need to protect our lakes from EWM, the BCLF helped acquire a $50,000 grant that funds our county AIS prevention work. It enabled the monitoring of infested lakes and the hiring of Stefania Strzalkowska, our County AIS Program Coordinator. Bayfield County is one of very few counties that have hired AIS coordinators.

In March, 2007, the BCLF drafted a resolution prohibiting the transport of aquatic plants. They later convinced the Bayfield County Board to create an ordinance. The Forum then worked in partnership with the AIS Coordinator and the County Conservation Department to write the ordinance. The County Board approved the ordinance in October. It is now illegal to transport aquatic plants on Bayfield County roadways. This will go a long way to stop the spread of EWM, VHS and other invasive species. The Forum is now sharing this experience with other northwestern Wisconsin counties and hopes to foster similar coalitions.
Exotic species damage our lakes in many ways. They can multiply rapidly and replace native populations of plants and animals. EWM can grow so thick that boating becomes nearly impossible and unsightly mats of vegetation interfere with swimming and other aquatic activities. People on the Pike Chain in Iron River recognize the damage caused by exotic species. The rusty crayfish, introduced by fisherman dumping bait, destroyed most native aquatic vegetation and greatly reduced fish reproduction in those lakes.

According to Roger Dreher, Past President of the Bayfield County Lakes Forum, immediate action must be taken to prevent EWM and other exotics from invading county lakes. All those who use the lakes or whose businesses depend on lake users must help fight the invasion.

BCLF volunteers placed signs at all boat landings, public and private, warning boaters about the problem and giving instructions on how to prevent infestations. Information on exotic species will also be distributed to resorts, campgrounds, marinas, sports equipment stores and bait shops. The DNR and Forest Service are assisting in this effort.

It is particularly important that fisherman and boaters who transport their boats from one lake to another take precautions to prevent the spread of exotic species. It is illegal under 2001 WI Act 16 to launch a boat or boating equipment with aquatic plants or zebra mussels attached. All boaters should:

1. Drain all water from the boat or trailer, including the bilge, live well and engine before leaving the landing.

2. Empty bait buckets and destroy unused bait in the trash or on shore, not in the water.

3. Inspect all surfaces of the boat and trailer. Remove any plant or animal material before leaving the boat landing area. Deposit the material in a waste container or on shore where it cannot be washed into the water.

The old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies. According to the DNR, lake groups spend between $800 and $1,000 per acre to control EWM. It cost over $60,000 to attempt to eradicate EWM from Clear Lake in Sawyer County. In the vast majority of cases, EWM cannot be eradicated, so the costs of control will be perpetual. In Clear Lake, EWM is pulled annually by divers in an attempt to prevent it from taking over again.

For more information, contact your local DNR office or UW Extension department. To volunteer to assist BCLF in this effort or to make donation to help defray volunteer costs, call (715) 798-3163 or email Jim.Brakken@Yahoo.com today.