The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 3, 2009

Lake Wapello to be drained again

Reappearance of invasive gizzard shad leaves no choice

DRAKESVILLE — The state is starting over with Lake Wapello in another attempt to rid it of gizzard shad.

The shad, an invasive species, damage small to mid-sized lakes because they compete with native fish for food and resources. Mark Flammang, the fisheries biologist for Lake Wapello, said they disrupt the balance in lakes, leading to the collapse of the fisheries anglers depend on.

Ridding Lake Wapello of the shad was a major goal when engineers drained it in 2008, though dam repairs were also a high priority. The state began refilling the lake this spring and had it at about three-quarters full by early last month.

A sampling of the lake on July 7 put a stop to that when it found a new gizzard shad population. The shad were not yet big enough or numerous enough to start crowding out the restocked bass, catfish and crappies. Ignoring the problem would give them that chance, though.

Flammang and others spent most of July working on a new eradication plan. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that it was lowering the water level again.

When the level is low enough, the DNR plans to kill every fish in the lake by applying rotenone. Rotenone is a naturally occurring piscicide commonly used to control invasive species in lakes.

Flamming said there is no choice other than eliminating the gizzard shad if the 270-acre Lake Wapello is to thrive.

“For these smaller lakes to succeed, they have to have a balanced fish population, and at Lake Wapello, that balance does not include gizzard shad,” said Flammang. “It’s disappointing for anyone who enjoys Lake Wapello that we have to drain this lake again, but it is necessary if we want the lake to reach its potential.”

Officials remain unsure how the shad got back into Lake Wapello after the lake was drained and the remaining water treated last year. Surveys showed there were no shad in feeder streams entering the lake or in nearby farm ponds. An investigation into the recurrence of the shad is ongoing.

It is illegal to introduce any live fish to public waters in Iowa.

The DNR plans to restock the lake with channel catfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, redear sunfish and crappies once the shad are eliminated.

Matt Milner can be reached at (641) 683-5359 or via e-mail at mwmilner@mchsi.com

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