- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says they are dangerous, expensive, quiet, tiny and some are able to double their numbers in a matter of hours, and they are hitching rides to invade pristine lakes, rivers and coastal resources. So now the F&WS; has unveiled a national program called "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!" along with an instructive Web site, www.protectyourwaters.net.

"Most aquatic invasive species tag along with people who are some of our best conservation partners," said F&WS director Steve Williams. "They are the people who are out there for recreation fishing, boating, diving, hunting and a lot more."

Who among us doesn't know what Williams is talking about? Anyone who's ever launched a boat, or tried to cast a line into the shallow shoreline areas of the tidal Potomac River has had close encounters with an aquatic vegetation known as hydrilla. While hydrilla beds have provided massive fish nurseries in the river and turned the Potomac into a favorite vacation destination for bass anglers, the water weed also has given shoreline property owners and fixed-keel sailboaters a monstrous headache. In addition, hydrilla stalks and seeds still attached to boat hulls and trailers that leave the Potomac eventually get transported and "planted" in just about every lake and river in these parts.

The exotic hydrilla arrived in the river via an accidental planting by well-meaning government employees. It took hold back in the 1970s in the District's waters, but today is found south of town as far as Cobb Island, some 40 to 50 miles by water. It also was accidentally delivered by bass boaters to such Virginia lakes as Gaston, Anna and Kerr, along the way filtering the water and providing millions of hiding places for newly hatched fish fry. But it confounded some boaters and many property owners.

Other aquatic invaders entered the United States through the discharge of ballast water from international freight ships and by other means. The best known among them includes the sea lamprey and zebra mussel. They're found most often in the Great Lakes region, but also elsewhere because these species can be unknowingly spread by people engaging in a number of recreational activities. Lampreys, zebra mussels and a little critter known as the round goby have reproduced and spread quickly, wreaking havoc with native species and in some cases reducing gamefish populations. The goby has also ruined boat engines and industrial water intake systems, fouled water and power plants and made lakes and rivers unusable for boaters and swimmers while reducing property values and even affecting human health.

Here's what boaters should do whenever they leave the water:

•Remove visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting your boat and trailer.

•Drain water from equipment before moving it and clean and dry anything that was in contact with the water. That might include your dog if it accompanies you and takes a dip now and then.

•Never release plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came from there.

Watch this lady angler On the Women's Bass Fishing Association tournament trail, watch out for hotshot Judy Wong of Sugarland, Texas. Wong won the Beauty and the Bass Louisiana Pro/Am Invitational tournament on the 87-mile-long Toledo Bend Lake on the Louisiana/Texas border last weekend with a 30.13-pound catch total that included a 10.01-pound bass. Now she's the owner of a TR19 Triton bass boat, complete with motor, trailer and all the trimmings.

"I used a red/watermelon Gary Yamamoto tube and flipped it into the buck brush," Wong said. "First, the big bass got hung in the brush. When I tried to move in to get closer, the trolling motor hung up. Somehow, I was able to get the fish into the net by myself. It was obvious the good Lord was with me."

Jordon wins at Guntersville With a four-day bass catch of 83 pounds, 11 ounces, Texas angler Kelly Jordon won the $478,000 Alabama CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Lake Guntersville, Ala., which ended last Saturday. Apparently, the Texan likes Alabama lakes. In 2001 he won a Bass Anglers Sportsman Society-sanctioned tournament on nearby Lake Wheeler. For his Guntersville feat, Jordon took home $110,000. Michigan pro Kevin VanDam received a $50,000 check as he placed second with a four-day bass total of 77 pounds, 7 ounces.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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