Elodea Outbreak Prompts Fishing Closure Of Alexander, Sucker Lakes

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Palmer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is closing two remote lakes in the Alexander Creek watershed to sport fishing due to both lakes being almost entirely infested with elodea, an invasive freshwater aquatic Canadian waterweed plant. Due to the frequency of floatplane traffic on Alexander and Sucker lakes, and that elodea can reproduce from a single plant fragment, there is a high risk of elodea spreading to other waterbodies. Therefore, these lakes are closed to sport fishing effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, October 31, 2019.

Elodea was likely first introduced into Alaska via illegal aquarium dumps where it established populations in the wild. It has since been moved to other waters by human-mediated means such as entanglements on boat props and floatplane rudders. Alexander Lake is a popular summer fly-in lake for northern pike, which is also an illegally introduced and invasive species in Southcentral Alaska. Closing Alexander and Sucker lakes to sport fishing has the potential to reduce floatplane traffic during the effective period of this emergency order, thereby reducing the potential for spreading elodea to other area lakes.

Successful eradication of elodea from the Alexander Creek watershed is imperative to prevent the spread of this highly invasive plant and to prevent the threat on pristine fish habitat in Southcentral Alaska. Due to the location of these lakes’, eradication will be expensive, and will require multiple years to complete. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the management authority for invasive aquatic plants in Alaska and is the lead agency in charge of this project. However, because of the complexity and scale of this project, a multi-agency task force has been formed consisting of staff from DNR, ADF&G, Tyonek Tribal Conservation District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Mat-Su Salmon Partnership, Cook Inlet Aquaculture, and lake residents in the area. Collectively, this task force is working to develop treatment plans and acquire permits and funding. While funds are sought to complete this eradication effort, containment of elodea to Alexander and Sucker lakes is of utmost importance and floatplanes will continue to remain a primary source for spreading elodea.

Additional information on elodea in Alaska, is available on the DNR Invasive Plants and Agricultural Pest Management webpage http://plants.alaska.gov/invasives/elodea.htm. Please report any additional sightings of elodea in Alaska via the ADF&G Invasive Species webpage https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=invasivespeciesreporter.main or by calling 1 (877) INVASIV.

Fishing for northern pike will re-open for the winter when ice-cover minimizes the chances of spreading elodea. Some alternative fly-in northern pike fishing locations include Figure Eight Lake, Flathorn Lake, Arrowhead Lake, Whitsol Lake, Whitsoe Lake, Upper and Lower Vern Lakes, Ladyslipper Lake, Lockwood Lake, Trail Lake, Bulchitna Lake, Sevenmile Lake, Onestone Lake, Shell Lake, Whiskey Lake, Hewitt Lake, Chelatna Lake, and Trapper Lake.

For additional information, please contact Invasive Species Research Biologist Krissy Dunker at (907) 267-2889.