LAKE PLACID - Authorities are proposing to stock Lake June with grass carp to control a recent proliferation of Illinois pondweed, but they want to hear from residents living on nearby connected water bodies about the carp possibly ending up in their waters.
So far, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has spent $150,525.72 spraying herbicide on 275 acres of Lake June to control the native vegetation that has spread in recent months, angering many residents who have complained about unsightly beaches, stalled boats and danger to swimmers.
FWC's Regional Biologist Kelle Sullivan said the herbicide treatment so far has gone well and the triploid grass carp will supplement FWC's "integrated management" efforts to contain the native pondweed in the lake's navigation channels and public recreation areas such as boat ramps.
While some Highlands County lakes have been stocked with the sterilized grass carp to control hydrilla, an invasive non-native aquatic plant, this is the first time FWC is using the fish to control Illinois pondweed, and there are many unknowns, Sullivan said.
One of the big questions is whether the grass carp, which have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and are at their most effective the first three to five years, will remain in Lake June or swim to other areas.
Unlike some other lakes, Lake June is not a closed system and the fish could end up in other water bodies, including lakes Carrie and Henry, Sterns Creek and associated canals; Catfish Creek and associated canals above the G-90 storm water structure; lakes Francis, Red Water/Little Red Water; and Jacks Creek and Josephine Creek below the structure, FWC officials say.
That's why Sullivan is also strongly asking these residents to attend an upcoming meeting to learn about the stocking plan and express their opinion, which will help FWC decide how many carp they'll stock in Lake June.
The public meeting is set from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5 at the Lake Placid Elks Lodge, 200 E. County Road 621, Lake Placid.
Once the fish are stocked in a lake they cannot be removed, Sullivan said, and there is no saying what they might end up eating - or not eating - and where they might swim away.
"Stocking fish is not a real exact science," she said of the carp plan, which was partially driven by Lake June residents' demands
"We believe that as long as it (the carp) will stay in the lake, it will work," she said.
Pondweed, however, is not at the top of the carp diet list, Sullivan added, and the fish could even gobble up vegetation that keeps the lakes clear of nutrients and helps other fish spawn.
In some cases, like Lake Jackson 20 years ago, the grass carp denuded the lake of vegetation, even nibbling upon lawn grass skirting on the lake edges.
Lake Clay also has been stocked with grass carp, and FWC stocked Lake Glenada with the triploid fish in February.
Those who cannot attend the meeting or prefer to provide written feedback can send their comments on the Lake June integrated management plan to Kelle Sullivan, Regional Biologist, FWC Invasive Plant Management Section, 2001 Homeland-Garfield Rd., Bartow, FL 33830 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provide comments no later than Nov. 11.
For more information about triploid grass carp visit MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on "Invasive Plants" and then click on "Are grass carp the answer?"
Meanwhile, there is a possibility that vegetation in Lake June, including the Illinois pondweed, is growing in response to a steady increase in the levels of phosphorous and nitrogen.
Highlands County Lakes Manager Clell Ford said that LakeWatch water quality readings from Lake June show the nutrient levels going up over the last 10 years.
Ford said he couldn't say for sure if excessive nutrient levels in the lake are to blame for the recent growth in Illinois pondweed and would have a better idea when he gets back some test results.
One of the samples he's waiting for will check levels of nitrates, commonly found in lawn fertilizer. Ford hopes to have results by the Nov. 5 meeting.