The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held a public meeting Tuesday evening at the Lake Placid Elks Lodge to discuss an integrated management plan to control native Illinois pondweed in Lake June-in-Winter.
FWC biologist Kelle Sullivan said the plan calls for the continued use of aquatic herbicides, with those efforts bolstered by stocking “an appropriate number” of triploid grass carp that may help with plant control. She said the number of fish is yet to be determined. The carp are genetically altered at hatcheries to prevent them from reproducing.
FWC has spent $150,525.72 distributing granular herbicide on 275 acres of Lake June to control the native vegetation that has spread in recent months. FWC officials had said the use of triploid grass carp was not an option. After pressure from lakefront property owners and lake users, FWC changed course.
Tuesday’s meeting was announced last Thursday. The meeting time was after the press deadline for this week’s edition of The Journal. A full report with comments from area residents will be in next week’s publication.
Staff from the FWC’s Invasive Plant Management Section led the discussion. The public was encouraged to offer input on the plan.
Sullivan said she would caution those who favor carp to battle the pondweed as there the fish could bring more problems.
Lake June is not a closed system, she said, raising the possibility of the triploid grass carp leaving Lake June and making their way to other water bodies including Lakes Carrie and Henry, Stearns Creek and associated canals; Catfish Creek and associated canals above the G-90 structure; and Lakes Francis, Red Water/Little Red Water, Jacks Creek and Josephine Creek below the structure.
Some lakes in Highlands County have been stocked with the sterilized grass carp to control hydrilla, an invasive nonnative aquatic plant, the Lake June project would mark the first time FWC is using the fish to control Illinois pondweed, and there are many unknowns, Sullivan said, including whether carp will eat Illinois pond weed. It is known that pondweed is not at the top of the carp diet list, Sullivan said. And the fish could ignore pondweed and eat vegetation that keeps the lakes clear of nutrients and helps other fish spawn.
Those who could not attend the meeting can provide written feedback by writing to Sullivan at FWC Invasive Plant Management Section, 2001 Homeland-Garfield Rd., Bartow, FL 33830 or email email@example.com.
Sullivan said more information about triploid grass carp can be found by visiting MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and clicking on “Invasive Plants” and then “Are grass carp the answer?”
Experts say vegetation in Lake June is growing in response to an increase in the levels of phosphorous and nitrogen. Highlands County Lakes Manager Clell Ford said the LakeWatch group has monitored water quality in Lake June and documented increased nutrient levels over the last 10 years.
Ford said he he’s waiting for test results that would evaluate levels of nitrates, commonly found in lawn fertilizer. He has said he had hoped to have results by Tuesday night’s meeting.