LAKE PLACID - Bucket by bucket, hundreds of flapping carp transported from Georgia were dumped into Lake June Tuesday.
Residents say they hope the carp will have voracious appetites and eat up the Illinois pondweed they say has clogged up much of the lake, making recreation difficult and dangerous.
"I'm hopeful," said Peggy Gray, one of those residents. "Just using herbicides hasn't worked."
"I would like to see improvement of some sort," said Bob Howard, another resident who has seen growth of pondweed near his property.
Tom and Laura Shirley, two other Lake June residents, said in an email they've seen improvements with the herbicides and are hopeful the carp will be the "icing on the cake."
In all, 2,500 carp were transported from Georgia to Lake June. The foot-long fish were somewhat larger than expected, said Kelle Sullivan, regional biologist for the office of invasive plants of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Because of that they won't be easy prey to birds, she said. Laws prohibit humans from fishing for the carp, she added.
The sterile carp will ideally be most effective in reducing the pondweed when the fish are 3 to 8 years old, Sullivan said. "Their appetite goes down after they pass eight years." The fish can live much longer, she said.
How much of the pondweed the carp will eat up remains uncertain, as the fish may eat other aquatic plants,too , Sullivan said.
The fish will be part of a two-step approaching to controlling the weed, Sullivan said. After herbicides kill the plant, if there's regrowth, the fish will "graze on the new growth. The fish tend to prefer new, young growth," Sullivan said.
Putting the two methods of control together should be effective, she added.
So far FWC has sprayed herbicides on 260 acres of the lake, in public sections, she said. Homeowners were able to get free permits to spray herbicides on the shoreline of their property.
Sandy Pelski, a resident, said she can only hope the carp will do what the herbicide alone hasn't achieved. She said her shoreline is still clogged with the weed, a situation that limits her recreational opportunities.
She and some other residents have complained the wildlife commission primarily sprayed herbicides in areas used by people who don't live on the lake.
But, she said, she hopes the fish will control the problem.
Sullivan said the wildlife commission's aim is not to eliminate pondweed, as it improves water quality and provides habitat for fish.
"We're looking for a balance," Sullivan said. "We don't want to remove all of it."
At least twice a year, FWC will check on the plant growth to see if there's a need for more use of herbicides, she said.
They have equipment that can be used to draw a map of the growth on the bottom, Sullivan said.