- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - Vermont officials are reminding anglers and boaters of ways they can help prevent the spread of spiny water fleas, an invasive species found in Lake Champlain that competes with native species for food and can foul fishing lines.

The spiny water flea is a zooplankton native to Eurasia that arrived in the Great Lakes in ballast water in the 1980s. It turned up in the Lake Champlain Canal in Whitehall, New York, and in Lake George in New York in 2012.

It is growing more common in Lake Champlain. But so far, it has not been discovered in any other lakes in Vermont, and officials want to keep it that way.

“This nonnative invasive zooplankton species disrupts the food chain at the base level and ultimately causes fish species to not have enough food to eat,” said Shawn Good, fisheries biologist with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Over the last month, Lake Champlain boat launch stewards have been hearing reports of anglers spotting spiny water flea, said Meg Modley, aquatic invasive species management coordinator with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Last week, a sample was taken off a downrigger cable on a boat during an inspection at the Shelburne Bay fishing access area, Modley said.

The best way to prevent them from spreading is by letting them dry out, as well as drying all fishing and boating equipment to which they may be attached. Rinsing equipment with 140 degree water is also believed to be effective in killing the invasive species, according to the Fish and Wildlife Department.

“It definitely has the potential to impact the fisheries. Whether that would come to fruition in Lake Champlain is a question we don’t really know,” Good said. “Any time we get another nonnative species, it has the potential to disrupt the natural kind of harmony of the native aquatic community. It’s our goal right now to keep it from going anywhere else in Vermont.”

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