Invasive species are bad news. Once they’ve become established, there’s nothing that can be done to eliminate them. We’re left with either expensive (and usually not very effective) control options, or just learning to adapt and deal. In the last six years, two invasive zooplankton (microscopic animals) have arrived in Lake Champlain – the spiny waterflea and the fishhook waterflea.
In addition to the ecological damage they cause in the lake, they also make fishing difficult by snagging on fishing lines when trolling and downrigging for trout and salmon. Contaminated gear then becomes a high risk of spreading these to other waters if anglers go fishing elsewhere.
Brian Ames of Putney VT sent in a fishing report this week saying he and his wife fished for trout and salmon on Lake Champlain north of Chimney Point recently, but didn’t catch anything, mostly because the waterfleas built up on the lines so thick they triggered the downrigger releases, and they clogged the line guides on the rods so much they couldn’t reel in. Brian asked if there were ways to avoid this.
There definitely are. I reached out to Ron Winter and Randy Colomb who both spend a lot of time trolling on Champlain. Ron and Randy said trout and salmon trollers are learning to adapt by using heavier line which significantly reduces waterflea clogging.
Strip enough existing line off your reel to make room for 100 to 150 feet of 30 to 40-lb monofilament, and splice it onto your existing line with an Albright knot. Then, add a barrel swivel small enough to go through your rod guides to the end of the heavy line, and connect a six-foot leader of 8 to 12-lb mono or fluorocarbon to which you tie your lure. This will cut down on most of the clogging and will keep your down line clear.
Spread prevention is key to keeping aquatic invasive species at bay. The two invasive waterflea species are mostly an issue in the deep, open waters of the lake, and aren’t present for the most part in shallow nearshore areas. It’s best never to use gear on other lakes that’s been used in Lake Champlain unless you clean them thoroughly with approved methods.