April 8, 2020
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
MAGNOLIA – With guidance from Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists, the Rural Development Authority in Columbia County, owner of Lake Columbia, has begun treatment of the lake to combat giant salvinia.
“Right now, it’s just technical guidance,” Andy Yung, an AGFC Fisheries Division biologist in Camden, said of what the agency is providing the RDA. The AGFC manages the fishery. “They have taken our advice, brought down the lake level and hired a contractor to spray it.”
Giant salvinia was spotted on Lake Columbia a couple of days before last Christmas. The AGFC advised the lake manager at Magnolia to begin treatments as soon as possible to reduce the spread of the invasive species.
Yung said, “We had to have the approval of the Arkansas Department of Health, because the lake is a water supply for the city. We had to work with the city of Magnolia because they have to use well water when we’re spraying the lake. And we have to work with the owner of the lake, the RDA. There were a lot of moving parts there and we managed to get everyone together from across the state in less than 2 weeks of identification of giant salvinia at Lake Columbia. Everyone getting together this quickie during the holiday season exemplifies how serious this situation is.”
The chemical used to spray giant salvinia will not harm the lake’s bass, crappie or other fish, or hamper the fishing, though anglers were asked to avoid the spraying area while it was ongoing during the past week. The spraying also limited the city’s use of the lake for the water supply during the application.
“The fishing there is good,” Yung said late last week. “We were out there two days the week before last for our annual electrofishing survey. The fish we collected were fat and happy. We picked up some big fish.”
Now, because of the higher spring rains, the giant salvinia is backed up in marginal vegetation, Yung said, and may not be as apparent to the average boater or angler. It is not reproducing as much now as it would be in August, he said, so to some eyes it may look like it’s “barely out there.” But it’s there, he said, and even with spraying it is still difficult to control without the help of our boaters, anglers and hunters.
Yung said giant salvinia can be spread from one lake to another with just a small detached portion. “Boats, trailers, gear, anything you can think of, do everything you can to keep it clean,” Yung says. It takes a very small amount of this to spread it somewhere else, only a couple of leaves. It breaks off and it largely spreads by the fragmentation. Giant salvinia can double very quickly. I’ve seen some laboratories where they doubled it in less than three days.”
Lake Erling, another fishery in southwest Arkansas owned by another entity, saw a major spread of giant salvinia last summer after it was discovered in smaller patches the year before. The owner has plans to spray the lake this year, Yung said. But all anglers and boaters need to remember to clean all of their equipment when leaving lakes Erling or Columbia now. Louisiana and Texas also have lakes near the Arkansas border that have been overwhelmed with giant salvinia.
The AGFC recommends boaters and anglers remember to “CDD”: clean, drain and dry all of your boating and fishing equipment immediately upon leaving any lake to lower the chance that you’ll take an invasive species like giant salvinia into another fishery.