Salvinia problem continues: Will bugs and signage help?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - 7:05pm

Some call it "koi candy," but Giant Salvinia is anything but sweet for the fishes in East Texas lakes.

The problem is, it kills off other aquatic plants and animals.

"It bunches up and mattes up over the water's surface, which blocks out all the sunlight," said Fisheries Biologist Dan Bennett. "A fish will leave the area ... it can't survive."

The rate that it grows is keeping Texas Parks and Wildlife very busy, as they try to figure out how to keep it from spreading.

The plant, native to Brazil, first popped up in Texas in the late 90s.

It spread north, and showed up on Caddo Lake a few years ago, northeast of Marshall.

Sam Rice fishes on Caddo several times a month, and says the plant definitely gets in the way.

"It stops the water from getting to your motor because it's so thick, and your motor will heat up. It's just a mess," Rice said. "... You have to scrub down your trailer and your boat because it'll go with you ...If you see it, you stay away from it."

Texas Parks and Wildlife Officials have found Salvinia has now spread to other East Texas lakes, including Lake O' The Pines, Wright Patman, Gilmer and Murvaul.

The biggest problem Bennett says, is when anglers get it caught in their boat trailer.

"If you don't clean that off or know what it is, you can easily transport that plant," Bennett said.

To try and knock out the invasive water weed before it spreads anywhere else, Parks and Wildlife are raising what's been called a 'Salvinia Weevil,' which feeds exclusively on Giant Salvinia, and doesn't feed on other species of plants.

But the question is: Is it working?

"It's working to keep the plant from matting up and becoming so damaging, but unfortunately in these upper latitudes, the bug cannot really keep up with the growth of the plant," Bennett said.

Tyler city officials say Salvinia is not a problem at Lake Tyler nor Lake Palestine right now.

Officials want to keep it that way.

Bennett says the best thing they can do is inform fisherman of how to keep them from spreading the plant to other bodies of water.

The city is working to get signs up around Lake Tyler, warning fishermen to inspect their boats for Salvinia before and after entering the lake.

"We are putting those up at our boat ramps, and require people to inspect their trailers prior to launching their boats into the water to ensure they don't have it, and also that they haven't brought any aquatic vegetation with them from another lake," said Greg Morgan with City Utilities and Public Works.

Salvinia can actually survive on a boat or trailer up to a few weeks and still spread when put back into the water.

Morgan says the Lake Tyler signs should be up within the next couple of weeks.

Salvinia is illegal in most southern states, including Texas.

There is a fine of up to $500 if you are caught with it.

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