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Great Lakes Article:

Fishhook water flea: Friend or foe?


John C. Kuehner
Plain Dealer

The half-inch long fishhook water flea, a native of Eastern European waters, has been found in Ohio's side of Lake Erie.

State wildlife biologists confirmed the presence of the fishhook water flea this week in samples collected off Fairport Harbor.

"We have no idea what impact this will have on Lake Erie," said Gary Isbell, who heads the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' fisheries management program. "It may be years before we understand what it means to the ecosystem."

Isbell said the fear is that the fishhook water flea will disrupt the food chain for the lake's sport fish such as perch, walleye and bass because it feeds on the tiny animals that newborn fish need to survive.

The fishhook appeared in the Great Lakes in Lake Ontario in 1998, apparently after hitching a ride in a freighter's ballast water. Canadian biologists found it on their side of Lake Erie last October.

Wildlife officials asked anglers to take precautions to keep the fishhook water flea from moving from Lake Erie into inland lakes.

They urged anglers to thoroughly clean fishing tackle, nets and boats; drain water from boat motors, live wells and bilges; and empty tackle buckets on land upon leaving the water.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bob Taft expressed concern this week in letters to other Great Lakes governors and federal officials about another Lake Erie invader: the Asian carp.

Taft urged "increased attention, action and funding" to prevent the carp and other non-native species from moving into the Great Lakes. One species can grow up to 100 pounds. He endorsed the use of an electronic barrier in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal to prevent the Asian carp from moving into Lake Michigan.

"Everybody is realizing, if carp establishes itself in Lake Michigan, it will be difficult to deal with," Isbell said. "These things have the potential to wreak extreme biological havoc."

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