Exotic water hyacinth threatening lakes, ponds|[07/11/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is working to control an exotic purple and pink flowering plant that is threatening to crowd out landing areas at some lakes in the state.

The water hyacinth is a favored plant among pond gardeners for its colorful flowers. However, the invasive plant from South America is prone to growing into a dense mat that can cover an entire lake, choking out native plants and making it virtually impossible to land a boat.

“It can cause serious problems in terms of lake access,” said MDWFP Assistant Director of Fisheries Larry Pugh. “We want to get this thing under control in the lakes that have it, and keep it out of the lakes that don’t.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Thus far, no oxbow lakes in the Vicksburg area have been found to have water hyacinth, but Pugh warned the plant can easily be transported from an inhabited lake to local lakes.

“Most of it gets spread from lake to lake by boats, which can be avoided if people just take a moment to check their boats and trailers for the plant before they put their boat in a lake and after they take it out,” he said.

The MDWFP is focusing its efforts on Crystal Lake, an oxbow lake of the Pearl River just east of downtown Jackson, accessible by a boat ramp off Flowood Drive. The popular lake boasts a healthy population of bass, bream, catfish, crappie – and water hyacinth.

Aquatic herbicides are the only way to treat the flowering plant, and the MDWFP uses an airboat to apply them. The most recent application came in May, when 40 acres were treated with chemicals that are non-toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

The herbicides were purchased by the City of Flowood and the state fisheries department. In August 2007, about 30 acres were treated, and 20 more have yet to be sprayed. About 120 man hours and 156 gallons of gas have been used to treat the lake so far.

“We have no idea how it showed up on Crystal Lake,” said Pugh. “Hopefully we won’t see it spread to other lakes.”

Lakes throughout Mississippi and other Southern states are known to have the exotic plant. In some cases, the water hyacinth covers up to 300 to 400 acres of water.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Inland Fisheries Division Administrator Gary Tilyou said water hyacinth is a problem in lakes across the Mississippi River, and anglers should be careful not to transmit the plant across the state line.

“That aquatic plant is in just about every body of water in the state. It is a situation we have under control, but again, boaters should always be careful when landing boats and bringing them ashore,” he said.

Tensas hunting info due in meeting tonight

Information about the upcoming hunting season specific to the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge will be made public during a meeting tonight from 5 to 7 at the refuge’s headquarters and visitor center at 2312 Quebec Road, off U.S. 80 near Tallulah.

Refuge Manager Kelly Purkey will make a short presentation, then open the floor for questions and comments.

For more information call the refuge at 318-574-2664.

Deadline Tuesday to apply for alligator hunting license

The deadline to apply for alligator hunting permits for this year’s hunt is Tuesday.

Mississippi residents 16 and older are eligible to apply, and applications can be obtained at any point of sale for state hunting and fishing licenses, online at www.mdwfp.com or by calling 1-800-5GO-HUNT. A total of 240 permits are available; the nonrefundable fee to apply is $7.29.

All selected applicants will be notified by mail and will be required to complete an alligator hunting training course, in Jackson on Aug. 9 and Wade, Miss., on Aug. 16. Twenty permits will be issued for each of the two designated alligator locations – the Pearl River/Ross Barnett Reservoir zone near Jackson and the Pascagoula River zone in Jackson County. Each zone has two, two-day hunting seasons. The Pearl River season dates are Sept. 12-13 and Sept. 19-20, and the Pascagoula River zone dates are Sept. 26-27 and Oct. 3-4.

Hunting hours are restricted to 6 p.m. through 4 a.m. each day. Applicants will be able to apply for a specific weekend hunt this year.

Each hunter may apply once for each hunting zone. The bag limit is two gators per possession permit, and each must measure at least 4 feet long, and only one may exceed 7 feet.

Residents and non-residents may participate in the hunt as “hunting assistants.” Assistants must be 16 or older, must remain with a person who possesses a valid alligator possession permit and are required to possess a valid Alligator Hunting License ($25) and a combination hunting/fishing license.

The first gator hunting season in Mississippi was in 2005, with subsequent seasons expanding to award more permits.

Fifty permits were awarded the inaugural year, with the 41 hunters who completed the mandatory training course harvesting 30 gators.

Last year, 184 permits were awarded, with 173 participants harvesting 134 gators.