Eradicating vegetation puts Mosquito Lake fish at risk

Mosquito Lake is facing a threat from people intent on eradicating an invasive plant that many say has a huge benefit to the reservoir’s fish population.

Long popular with Northeast Ohio anglers, Mosquito Lake, as early as seven or eight years ago, began experiencing a dramatic shift in the behavior of two of its most important fish populations: walleyes and largemouth bass. The shift is a result of the proliferation of two plant species, hydrilla and milfoil.

Both plants are considered invasive species, introduced from their native ranges by migrating waterfowl and by people whose boats and trailers transported sprigs of the plants to Mosquito Lake and other popular Ohio fisheries.

While undeniably beneficial to the fish that live in our waters, hydrilla is vilified by boaters, swimmers and others who are creeped out by leafy green plants in “their” lake. Complaints rained down from Mosquito’s boaters, dock renters, swimmers and even some anglers.

Those who target Mosquito’s largemouth bass cite the proliferation of lush vegetation for the surging fish population. Expert walleye anglers also have learned to target weed-loving walleyes.

Fishing is a major contributor to Trumbull County’s travel and tourism industry. I recently reported on the thriving bass population in the April issue of Bassmaster Magazine. In the article, I quoted comments from Mosquito State Park Manager Josie McKenna and B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland.

McKenna has been the Mosquito park manager for 11 years. She and Gilliland advocate for management to control vegetation instead of complete eradication of the greenery. They cite the need to strike a balance between the interests of bass anglers and the others who play on the weedy waters.

My Bassmaster article reported: “As the vegetation thrived and spread seven or eight years ago, officials started receiving complaints from walleye fishermen, boaters and swimmers. They tried using a harvester around the launches, marina and swim beach.”

Harvesting proved to be ineffective, so officials put their heads together to find another way to manage the plants.

“In ’22, we worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ohio EPA, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio divisions of Wildlife, Parks and Watercraft, and the Warren Water Department, and came up with a management plan,” McKenna said in the Bassmaster article.

The plan involves treating select patches of hydrilla with fluridone pellets, McKenna said. As the fluridone dissolves in the water, it removes the hydrilla plant’s chlorophyll, which is essential for the photosynthesis that sustains plant growth.

“We fishermen hope whatever measures are taken to control vegetation, whether native or invasive, rather than deciding to eliminate them, we get all of the stakeholders together-bass anglers, walleye, crappie, water skiers, boaters, whoever lives around the lake-and come up with a plan to manage rather than eradicate plant species,” Gilliland said in the article. “Invasive species can be a real problem, even to bass anglers. There can be too much of a good thing. When invasive species come into a body of water, for a period of time they do a good thing. Then as the percentage of cover increases, they can provide too much cover, and forage can hide too effectively.”

Hysteria, meanwhile, is echoing from pro-grass anglers and the anti-grassers who wish to kill off the invasive plants. Recent TV news coverage of Trumbull County Commissioner Denny Malloy’s “eradicate” comments have heightened concerns about the future of Mosquito Lake’s growing largemouth bass population. Anglers fear officials will go too far in fighting the hydrilla, poison the environment and wipe out the recent gains in Mosquito’s bass fishing.

My personal experience on Mosquito Lake extends back to 1977. I’ve fished there for walleyes, crappies and largemouth bass. In my opinion, Mosquito has never been healthier than it is today. The base of forage fish — shad, perch and bluegill primarily — is rock solid. Predator fish are obviously eating very well. I have no doubt today’s outstanding bass fishing is because of the healthy weed beds.

As long as a balanced percentage of Mosquito Lake’s 7,000 surface acres support aquatic vegetation, the future there looks bright. Catches already this spring point to another outstanding year of fishing and I believe Mosquito’s management is thinking productively.

“Mosquito is an amazing fishery and we want to keep it that way,” McKenna said.

Jack Wollitz is the author of “The Common Angler,” a book featuring stories about experiences that help define the “why” behind anglers’ passion for fishing. Email Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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