Mention weeds in a lake and you certainly will get different reactions.
They are a boon to some and a bane to others. To fish biologists and lake managers there is a delicate balance, especially when it comes to an ecosystem.
That’s the situation occurring at Indian Lake, located in Lakeview, that is in Indian Lake State Park. Indian Lake actually is a reservoir fed by the north and south forks of the Upper Great Miami River, Cherokee Mans Run, Blackhawk Creek, and Van Horn Creek. At 5,104 acres, it is the second largest inland lake in Ohio.
While some anglers like weeds, others don’t. And the vegetation is not a favorite of boaters, paddlers, personal watercraft users or swimmers. That’s why in the past three years, park management has taken measures to eradicate some of the weeds. It has done this via weed cutting and spraying.
“The whole lake is experiencing significant aquatic invasive vegetation growth. The increased sunlight on the shallow lake bottom produced larger aquatic vegetation growth and earlier in the season than in years past,” said Hiedie Whitman, Indian Lake State Park manager.
“ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) understands that there is no quick fix related to limiting aquatic vegetation in the lake’s canals,” she added. “We are working on a science-based approach to managing the situation while working on a long-term plan that protects the overall health of Indian Lake.”
Known for years for its turbidity, the lake’s water clarity has become clearer during the past few years. This likely has occurred since zebra mussels began showing up in the lake a few years ago. Clear water in shallow bodies of water make it easier and often faster for weeds to grow.
Pro bass angler Kyle Weisenburger likes the clearer water and grass in the lake.
“Probably last 3 to 5 years the grass has been increasing. There have always been lilly pads but this grass is growing out away from pads and around many other parts of lake. Last year was when I first actually saw thick grass along main lake shore. I’m sure there are some complaints. The fishing to me has gotten better since the grass and I feel there are more fish. As a fisherman, it has changed the way you catch them drastically, but I like fishing the lake more with the grass than without it,” he said.
However, park management has to consider all participants on the lake since clear water has proven to be a problem with rapid weed growth.
“These factors are contributing to this growth — many of which are natural and are an indication of good water quality. The actions we take to manage vegetation must be done with potential impacts to water quality in mind,” Whitman said.
Thus, a weed harvester has been run more often and earlier than in past years and a second harvester also has been employed to keep main channels clear of the vegetation for boat traffic.
“We have also continued our nuisance aquatic vegetation herbicide treatment at the lake as another tool to help keep channels open for boat navigation,” she said. “Both spraying and weed harvesting can be effective, but we must also strike a balance since the aquatic vegetation does absorb excess nutrients in the water which helps prevent harmful algae blooms.”
There has been a significant increase in the amount of vegetation the weed harvester has taken from the lake. Thus far this year, 3,511 yards of weeds have been removed compared to 1,410 yards in 2020 and 6,637 yards in 2019.
This situation will not be solved quickly and a fix will take more than a year or two.
“This amount of vegetation is a new phenomenon and as such we are working to develop a new long-term plan. The reality is that there is no quick fix but we will continue to develop a science-based approach to managing the situation that attempts to balance maintaining boating navigation while also protecting water quality and overall lake health,” Whitman said.
“We do know that the vegetation issue is not going away overnight, and we continue to look at newer, more efficient techniques and equipment to help us keep the waterway open for boaters, but still have that ecosystem balance to support good water quality and habitat.”
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL