Batman vs. Starry Stonewort

For the last 3 years, though a Michigan Grant program, a group of researchers from Central Michigan and Grand Valley Universities, the Nature Conservancy; and aided by the Gun Lake Improvement Board (GLIB) have been studying Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in Gun Lake.  I know many of you saw the teams of scuba divers, or students in boats, who checked the test sites on a weekly basis.  Their report is finished, and I wish the results were more encouraging.

Today’s post is about Starry Stonewort (SSW) – that bright-green mat of algae-that-looks-like-a-plant.

 

 

 

 

It chokes out beneficial plants, and offers no habitat for fish or other aquatic critters.  You can’t fish through it; and when dense enough, it will stop motorboat traffic and foul jet-pump intakes.  It doesn’t have roots, and apparently is impervious to herbicides and algicides.  No matter what the Grant Program folks or GLIB did to SSW, it prevailed.  The best control method we have for the moment, is to simply mow it down with harvesters (which is VERY expensive to do) – and of course, like grass, it grows back again.

Meanwhile, some of us played Batman.  A few years ago, perplexed by the mat of SSW that prevented my grandkids from fishing from our dock (their favorite pastime), and being a former horse owner – I took a “tack hook”, tied a 25′ length of 1/4″ rope to it, and started lobbing it into the lake and dragging out gobs of SSW.

(A tack hook looks like a 15″ grappling hook, with no sharp points.  Weighs about a pound)

Well, my grandkids thought this looked very Batman-ish and fun.  So I bought more, to encourage their participation – they’re about $10 on Amazon.com: https://smile.amazon.com/Tough-1-4-Prong-Cleaning-Hook/dp/B002HVIAMU/ref=pd_sbs_200_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B002HV8X36&pd_rd_r=JBGFYC759YGJH335N1RV&pd_rd_w=QLKKa&pd_rd_wg=xPL01&refRID=JBGFYC759YGJH335N1RV&th=1&psc=1

(They can also be found at most horse-products stores)

Before you knew it, our waterfront was clear, although we had heaps of SSW everywhere along the seawall.  Once it dried for a couple of days, it weighed nothing, so was put in our trash cart since it refused to burn (?).  My neighbors did the same thing – now the kids could swim/fish/play.  YAY!  (Disclaimer: the hook does NOT pull out rooted, beneficial lake weeds, which is actually a very good thing!)

But here’s where it gets interesting: since the “big haul” of SSW, very little has grown in front of our houses in the 2 or 3 years since we Batmanned it.  Last year, my neighbor hauled out a small pile that might have filled a 5-gallon bucket.  That’s all.  In light of the Grant Group’s report, playing Batman might be important?  I told Pam Tyning, our Aquatic Engineer from Progressive AE about our tiny success, and she wants to test a few more areas next summer!  I will challenge my grapple-throwing abilities in our Gun Ho Channel, where the SSW is truly a huge problem (and where another neighbor has had some  success with HIS tack hook!).  But I’m passing this along now, in case others want to join the fun (and help eliminate the scourge of our beautiful lake).  SSW seems to really like our lake’s channels, and these should be the easiest areas to grapple clean, so get a hook and rope, don your Black Cape – and let’s clear this “bad guy” from our lake!

PS: if you DO decide to clear your lakefront via tack hook, please let me know the results?

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