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Great Lakes Article:

Education will fight water fleas
By Ralph Ansami
Ironwood Daily Globe

Now that spiny water fleas have been discovered in the Gile Flowage, it's important that boaters not spread the invaders to other inland lakes.

The Department of Natural Resources will schedule a public meeting in the Hurley area to address the invasion of the water fleas, said Cathy Techtmann, of Pence.

Techtmann, a former Iron County Extension resource agent who now works for the Great Lakes visitor center in Ashland, is one of the prime forces in forming a "Friends of the Gile Flowage" association.

"This kind of caught everybody by surprise," Techtmann said this morning. She noted her group feared the spread of other exotics, such as European milfoil, but wasn't aware of the water fleas.

She has been in contact with the DNR, which has already placed yellow signs at landings on the flowage, warning boaters not to spread the fleas into other inland waters.

"The concern now is to keep them from being transported to other lakes," Techtmann emphasized.

Pieter Johnson, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student, discovered the fleas in the flowage. They may have spread from Lake Superior.

Techtmann said the fleas have been showing up in Lake Superior in jelly-like masses on fishing lines.

The fleas, like other intruders, can be spread from lake to lake in bait buckets, boats' live wells and bilges They have been living in the Great Lakes for more than 15 years, but had not before been found in Wisconsin's inland waters.

Biologists say the fleas compete with and eat native zooplankton -- the food of young sport fish like walleye and perch.

The Gile Flowage is noted for its walleye fishing and in the past decade, the smallmouth bass population has exploded.

Techtmann noted the impact of the half-inch long flea on the food chain is not yet known, but biologists believe it could impact gamefish populations.

The spiny flea reproduces rapidly.

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