East Lake Okoboji Seeing Surge In Native Aquatic Plants

Wed 7-10-2019

(Spirit Lake)-- While curly leaf pond weed has died off for another year, lakeshore property owners around East Lake Okoboji are now noticing some other aquatic vegetation that is thriving. Mike Hawkins, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources tells KUOO news they're seeing an abundance of native plants starting to grow now. Hawkins says while those plants are common on Big Spirit Lake and West Lake Okoboji, they haven't been as much on East Lake Okoboji. Hawkins says that's changed this year and he says some are mistaking them for curly leaf pond weed...Aquatic Vegetation Issues01 

"These native plants are beneficial and I think folks get them confused. They are not invasive. They are very much a part of our natural lake system here and grow throughout healthy lakes in the region, so. And a number of species of those. Anything from sego to coon tail, some pretty neat names; floating leaf pond weed, clasping leaf. So there's a number of species out there and they, like I said, they are good."

Hawkins reminds everyone that while it's legal to mechanically remove vegetation from a 20 foot radius around docks and boat hoists, that it is NOT legal to use chemical herbicides to do that...Aquatic Vegetation Issues02 

"There's some new administrative penalties that can be, civil penalties that can be levied against someone. Actually the enforcing agency for those would be the Department of Agriculture because they run the Pesticide Enforcement Bureau. But also that could be a fine associated with that as a criminal citation for taking those plants in an illegal manner, so we just want to make sure we're being safe. Applying herbicides to water is a very complicated procedure and it needs to be done safely and accurately and, you know, most people just don't have the certification or the knowledge to be able to do that."

Hawkins says any illegal use of herbicides should be reported immediately by contacting the DNR office at the Fish Hatchery in Orleans at 336-1840 or by getting a hold of a lake patrol officer or a DNR enforcement officer.

Hawkins adds the surge in native aquatic plants is a GOOD thing in that it's a clear indicator of good water quality.