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Grassy battle brewing at Mosquito Lake

Grassy lakes are generally considered healthy environments well suited as habitat for thriving populations of fish, amphibians, crustaceans and other animals.

Aquatic vegetation provides shelter for small fish, crawfish, shrimp, tadpoles and emerging insects; hunting areas for predator fish, otters, minks and raptors; and food for geese, ducks and other herbivores.

Grass is good, but too much is problematic and creates a potential bone of contention between people who love it and those who hate it.

Battles over aquatic vegetation have been fought for decades at lakes around America – and now we have a conflict brewing at Mosquito Lake, the popular Trumbull County reservoir beloved by anglers, boaters and the thirsty citizens who drink and bathe in the water delivered from the city of Warren’s treatment plant.

Mosquito has become a grassy lake. For more than two-thirds of the 75-plus years of Mosquito’s existence, barely a sprig of greenery sprouted in the sand-and-silt bottom. The lake was generally turbid, but clear enough to support largemouth bass, crappies and an excellent population of walleyes fortified by annual stockings by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

In the 1990s, zebra mussels arrived in Lake Erie in the bilge water of freighters from northern European ports. They were transported from Erie to inland waters in the plumbing of boats and engines operated on Lake Erie.

Zebra mussels eat by filtering nutrients from the water they siphon through their bodies, effectively removing suspended materials. As their colonies burgeoned in Mosquito and other waterways, the massive number of zebra mussels filtered the water clean.

The clear water subsequently provided the opportunity for invasive plants to take root in Mosquito’s soft bottom and grow thick and fast.

Hydrilla is the plant that is causing most of the uproar. Like zebra mussels, hydrilla is an invasive species. It’s not native here, but it certainly has proliferated after being introduced, most likely by geese, ducks and stalking birds as well as boat trailers.

More recently, southern naiad has taken root in Mosquito and other local lakes. It is a stringy plant that is not particularly appealing to fish. It competes with the weeds fish prefer, often overtaking the lakes in June, but usually gone before Labor Day.

Some users of Mosquito Lake believe the greenery is a nuisance and have called for measures to KO the vegetation. Ohio Department of Natural Resources is considering using “targeted chemical control” to knock back Mosquito’s hydrilla.

Nature, of course, has a way of dealing with nuisances. Doom-and-gloom predictions of the end of great Erie fishing followed the introduction of zebra mussels and round gobies. Erie did change, but many say it is for the better, as the native fishes learned how to capitalize on the zebra mussels and gobies.

Weeds have changed the fishing at Mosquito. Bass, walleyes and crappies love the green stuff.

Walleye pro Sammy Cappelli noted that in years past, when state park employees used aquatic plant cutters, the walleye thrived in the mowed areas as new growth ensued.

Ask any Mosquito bass angler about the fishing since grass took root and you’ll get a definite thumbs-up.

All of this suggests that perhaps it will be best to let nature run its course. Nature brought the weeds to Mosquito and the lake is changing as a result. Nature has a way of settling at equilibrium.

“Targeted chemical control” sounds ominous to me as an angler and as a friend of people who drink Mosquito’s water. Let’s give nature a little more time to bring balance to the lake for the sake of the creatures that rely on it for life.

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing includes chapters about the responsibility of anglers in sustaining our waters. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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