FAQ – Are Fish Safe to Eat from Lake Erie?

– I love fishing in Lake Erie. There are so many amazing species I typically catch! But I wonder how many types of fish are actually in the lake…

Lake Erie has 52 different fish species, according to the Ohio Lake Erie Shoreline Fish Community Survey performed by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, University of Toledo, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.utoledo.edu/nsm/lec/pdfs/Lake%20Erie%20species%20list-1.pdf).


Figure: List of fish within Lake Erie, according to the Ohio Lake Erie Shoreline Fish Community Survey


– So, what fish are safe to eat from Lake Erie?

Well, it depends. According to the New York State Department of Health, there are limitations on what fish you can eat based on your age and gender. These categories are divided into two sections: “men over 15 and women over 50” and “women under 50 and children under 15”( https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2792.pdf). Depending on what category you fall into, you should or should not eat certain types of fish.



Figure: This helpful infographic shows what fish are and are not edible from Lake Erie 

The predominant reason you should not eat fish out of this lake, according to the New York State Department of Health, is that there are a number of toxic chemicals that can bioaccumulate, or, in other words, become fused with the meat in certain fish species based on their diet (https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2792.pdf). Many of these chemicals are specifically harmful to the female reproductive system and can be very harmful to individuals who are pregnant. In the case of PCBs, they can cause “developmental disorders and cognitive deficits” in children (http://www.cwru.edu/med/epidbio/mphp439/Toxins_LakeErie.pdf).


– What are PCBs?

PCBs, or Polychlorinated Biphenyls, “are a group of man-made organic chlorinated hydrocarbons” that were seen in industrial practices around the early to late 1900s (http://www.cwru.edu/med/epidbio/mphp439/Toxins_LakeErie.pdf). According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they don’t burn easily and are good insulators” (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=140&tid=26). They have since been banned due to their highly toxic nature. However, as a result of them being dumped into Lake Erie, they are still causing issues for people’s health, especially those that eat more than the recommended amount of fish from Lake Erie.

PCBs are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and skin conditions (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=140&tid=26). These effects are primarily seen in individuals that eat high amounts of sport fish that have bioaccumulated the chemical in their system from eating other smaller fish that have accumulated it in theirs.


– So, what caused these restrictions in the first place? Were there factories that dumped this chemical into the water?

According to Adefunke Adedipe’s “Toxins in Lake Erie” paper, around 5,000 chemicals had been introduced to Lake Erie “under the unfortunate assumption that water dilutes any substance” from many different factories around the 1800’s (http://www.cwru.edu/med/epidbio/mphp439/Toxins_LakeErie.pdf). Some of these chemicals were PCBs. As there was little research being performed during this time on the chemicals that are now seen in Lake Erie, thousands of pounds of them were dumped into the lake until the 1970s, when health effects from eating sport fish were beginning to be paid attention to (http://www.cwru.edu/med/epidbio/mphp439/Toxins_LakeErie.pdf). After these health effects began to be seen in the general population, research began in order to determine where the effects were coming from. For PCBs, it was determined that individuals who ate a large amount of sport fish from the lake were more likely to develop health effects as a result (http://www.cwru.edu/med/epidbio/mphp439/Toxins_LakeErie.pdf). As such, regulations were set in place in order to help prevent individuals from experiencing these health effects.


– Will time allow these chemicals to disappear from the lake?

Depending on where the PCBs are, they can take a long or short time to break down in the environment. In Lake Erie, the majority of PCBs are found on the bottom in the soil. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,

“PCBs stick strongly to soil and will not usually be carried deep into the soil with rainwater. They do not readily break down in soil and may stay in the soil for months or years; generally, the more chlorine atoms that the PCBs contain, the more slowly they break down” (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=139&tid=26).

As such, it can take a very long time for these chemicals to break down in Lake Erie, especially since they are not exposed to weathering element or sunlight that would naturally break them down.


– Is there any way we can make the fish safe to eat again?

There is no specific way that the current fish in Lake Erie can become safe to eat again, as they have already accumulated these chemicals in their bodies. However, cleanups of these chemicals can help reduce the amount of PCBs in the environment. While this may be difficult to perform on such a large lake, it is possible. Though, it would take a very long time to clean up and even more money to do so. The typical way to remove PCBs from a water body is to dredge the bottom and remove the substrate (sand, soil, etc.) to large containers that are sent to a processing plant that will help remove the PCBs (https://www3.epa.gov/hudson/cleanup.html). The Hudson River cleanup, which spanned 200 miles of the water body, took six years to complete. Those six years were spent dredging the bottom of the river and removing the substrate. Now, in 2016, the removal of the PCBs from the substrate is underway. In comparison, Lake Erie spans almost 10,000 square miles.


Figure: Lake Erie as seen from one of NASA’s satellites


– Why should we improve fish quality?

Currently, there is a large refugee population that lives around Lake Erie that rely on these fish to survive. There are also many low-income families that need these fish to feed themselves. To have these fish polluted with such chemicals causes health concerns for the people who cannot afford to pay for meat at the grocery store. If these individuals get sick as a result of having little to no money because they subsist on these fish, they cannot receive health coverage. They also may not have enough money to pay for a fishing license, which puts them at risk of receiving a ticket that they also cannot pay. As such, there is a large environmental justice concern surrounding these people and the current poor quality of fish provided to them. There is also a major loss in terms of sense-of-place for people who used to eat these fish on a relatively frequent basis that can no longer do so.

To have the lakes change so drastically from 40 to 50 years ago changes the overall mentality surrounding Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. This, of course, is in reference to older generations that used to use the lakes as a source of sustenance and can no longer do so due to the restrictions set in place as well as the overall change in the fisheries themselves.


– What regulations are in place to help bring the fisheries back?

The DEC has a catch limit in place for fish within Lake Erie and there are specific times when you can catch fish and keep them. These typically follow the seasons when they are and are not spawning.  The catch limit is daily, meaning that each person can only bring a certain number of fish back per day. This ensures that the fishery is not overharvested.

Another regulation is now in place to help protect fish habitats. This regulation was also set in place by the DEC to help prevent aquatic invasive species spread into New York State waterways. It states that individuals must clean, drain, and dry their boat before placing it into a new water body. By having people remove aquatic invasive species from their boats before entering a new waterway, fish habitats can be protected from things such as zebra mussels and aquatic invasive plant species.


– What would restocking fish into the system do?

Restocking would certainly allow new fish to enter the system that would be edible if they were raised safely in a fish hatchery before being placed in the lakes. However, if they ate fish that were already in the water body to begin with that had already bioaccumulated these chemicals, then the cycle would essentially repeat and that fish would no longer be entirely safe for consumption.


– What organizations are working to educate the public about this issue?

There are a number of organizations that are currently working to educate individuals about the safety of eating fish out of Lake Erie. The New York State Department of Health is one such organization that is working towards protecting individuals that wish to consume fish taken out of the two lakes. For more advice provided by this organization about fish eating, please refer to their guide: https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2792.pdf.

Another organization that is educating the public about fish consumption is Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. They are also looking into the environmental justice aspects associated with eating fish from Lake Erie. For more information, please visit their website: http://bnriverkeeper.org/can-i-eat-the-fish/.

Outside of New York State, there are organizations in both Ohio and Michigan that are working to educate their public about consumption of fish from Lake Erie. These include the Ohio Department of Health, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection Agency (pamphlet found here: http://www.epa.state.oh.us/portals/35/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_pamphlet.pdf) as well as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (pamphlet found here: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/MDCH_EAT_SAFE_FISH_GUIDE_-_SOUTHEAST_MI_WEB_455358_7.pdf).


Where have the invasives gone?


By Gwendolyn Temple, WNY Steward

I’ve been noticing lately that hardly any of the boats that have come in from either Big Six Mile Creek or Fort Niagara have aquatic invasive species on them anymore, when weeks ago, they were absolutely covered in both Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed. Curious to know why I haven’t been seeing them recently, I decided to do a bit of research.

Now, typically, Eurasian watermilfoil will flower around, according to the State of Washington Department of Ecology, “mid to late July”, and then die back after the flowers have surfaced.[1]


Figure 1: Eurasian watermilfoil, an aquatic invasive plant species that often chokes out motors during its peak growing season. Credit: Luke Burns


Once they die back, if they haven’t flowered too early, they lie dormant until the next season.[2] As they can survive rather well under ice, it appears as if they can tolerate far lower temperatures than many native aquatic plants can.[3] However, there is no research that I have found that suggests what sort of higher temperatures this plant can sustain itself in.

Currently in the upper Niagara River, where Big Six Mile Creek is located, it is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, I cannot fully determine whether it is the warmer temperature this plant is dying back as a result of its growth season. Before the typical season for this particular aquatic invasive started, I saw it coming off boats around early July. So, I would assume that another burst of the plant’s growth should be seen around now. Yet, I have not found any since late July.

Curlyleaf pondweed, on the other hand, ended a bit earlier at both launches. This aquatic invasive’s growing season is in the winter and it grows to become a problem in non-native water bodies around early summer.[4] Then, it dies back until the next major growing season.[5]

curly leaf

Figure 2: Curlyleaf pondweed, as seen growing out of control in a water body. Credit: Christian Fischer

In terms of temperature, when the water drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant begins to sprout itself again.[6] As such, it is possible that the reason it has not been seen near Big Six Mile Creek since mid-July is a result of the 80-degree temperature noted in the Upper Niagara River. Of course, I did note that curlyleaf pondweed was being taken off of boats at Fort Niagara a week or two following a lack of it on boats at Big Six Mile Creek. This could be a result of the lower Niagara River being colder than the Upper Niagara due to its proximity to Lake Ontario, which, given the location of my launch, makes perfect sense.

In any case, it seemed rather odd to me to not be picking off invasives from boats in these areas anymore, despite these species being the most pronounced at both launches this season.

Have any of you other stewards been experiencing die-offs of the aquatic invasive species you used to frequently handle? If so, what could be the possible causes for it? I’m very curious to know!

[1] “Non-native Invasive Freshwater Plants: Eurasian Watermilfoil.” State of Washington Department of Ecology. State of Washington Department of Ecology, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2016. <http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/weeds/aqua004.html&gt;.

[2]  “Non-native Invasive Freshwater Plants: Eurasian Watermilfoil.” State of Washington Department of Ecology. State of Washington Department of Ecology, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2016. <http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/weeds/aqua004.html&gt;.

[3] “Non-native Invasive Freshwater Plants: Eurasian Watermilfoil.” State of Washington Department of Ecology. State of Washington Department of Ecology, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2016. <http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/weeds/aqua004.html&gt;.

[4] “Curlyleaf Pondweed.” Aquatic Invasive Species (n.d.): n. pag. Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Aug. 2016. <http://www.in.gov/dnr/files/CURLYLEAF_PONDWEED.pdf&gt;.

[5] “Curlyleaf Pondweed.” Aquatic Invasive Species (n.d.): n. pag. Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Aug. 2016. <http://www.in.gov/dnr/files/CURLYLEAF_PONDWEED.pdf&gt;.

[6] Poovey, Angela. “Curlyleaf Pondweed (Potamogeton Crispus L.).” State of Washington Department of Ecology, 2008. Web. <http://depts.washington.edu/oldenlab/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Potamogeton-crispus_Poovey.pdf&gt;.


Figure 1: Burns, Luke. 2015 Lake Tahoe Summit. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 24 Aug. 2015. Web. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/usacehq/21221263823/in/photolist-dWPLDB-p8VkjW-paVntQ-paXukz-3iwope-paXnqc-8xBUm6-deC2jJ-ykfwp2&gt;.

Figure 2: Fischer, Christian. Potamogeton Crispus. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., 21 Aug. 2008. Web. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PotamogetonCrispus.jpg&gt;.


Paddles Up at Beaver Island

by Gwendolyn Temple, WNY Steward

Paddles Up at Beaver Island, held on Saturday, July 30th, was an event dedicated to getting kayakers out exploring the local landscape around their community.

The day began with an early morning ecotour, designed to get people out during the post-dawn hours of the morning when wildlife appears most active. Then, paddlers were brought back in to set up for the larger paddling event. During their break, they could indulge in some breakfast or look at the vendors that had been set up during their time out on the water. These vendors included RiverKeeper, Wear It, New York!, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, WEKANU, Flying Bison, and many more.

Holly and I had set up our table next to the Wear It, New York! display, and as such, received much of their foot traffic. Many people were genuinely interested in our cause to prevent aquatic invasive species from getting into New York State waterways. As such, we found that our pamphlets had to be refilled a number of times during the course of the event. To see that many kayakers become enthusiastic about our cause was very uplifting. Of course, many of the patrons did stop by to give a look at our free merchandise, but were very happy to engage us in conversation about our positions with the Parks office and our AIS spread prevention at local boat launches.

paddles up

Gwen and Holly setting showing off some invasive species handouts

Before lunch, a raffle was held for kayaking and camping related items, then the main paddling event began. Hundreds of kayaks launched out into the Niagara River to paddle together and, as stated by many return patrons, this was the largest turn-out they had seen thus far. Many of the patrons hope that the event continues to grow larger and larger every year as it is not only good for kayakers as a networking experience, but also brings a lot of people from outside the area into their local parks.

Around lunchtime, a number of food trucks began to show up, including Cheesy Chick, a grilled cheese truck, Dirty Bird, a chicken and waffles food truck, and House of Munch, a truck that specialized in state fair food. Other tent vendors set up to sell food as well, such as the shish kebab tent that experienced a large gathering of patrons. When kayakers were thoroughly exhausted from paddling, they came in and sat down at the tables inside our main pavilion with the vendors to eat what they had bought. This was a good bonding experience, as many patrons enjoyed simply chatting with us about the event and how it could be improved for the next year. These suggestions included having more advertisements for the event in the weeks leading up to the paddle, spreading the event through word of mouth from people who participated, and having more press releases about the paddle after the event.

As the event settled down, many people began to make their way home just as the park was beginning to note its typical bustling clientele. All in all, the event was incredibly fun and exciting. The public was very responsive to our cause, which is sometimes not seen at our typical boat launches. I would highly recommend participating in a Paddles Up event either as a patron or a vendor if anyone ever has the chance.

Too Hot to Fish?

Jared Reed – Saratoga Lake Steward


With the recent heat, many fishermen have been complaining that the water is too warm for the fish to bite. That’s simply not true – fish require food regardless of the temperature, but the water temperature does dictate where fish look for food. Fish are (for the most part) cold blooded, and rely on their surrounding environment to regulate their body temperature, so when the water gets too warm, fish take to the deeper, cooler waters.

While more prevalent in the ocean, and in very deep lakes, shallower lakes can also exhibit dynamic changes in the water column when the air temperature gets warm. In ‘clean’ clear lakes, sunlight can penetrate up to 10 meters (about 30 feet), and this results in the top layer of water becoming very warm. Warm water is also less dense than cold water, which results in a very stratified water column. This ‘layer’ is defined by a ‘thermocline’ (an area with a steep temperature gradient) and a ‘pycnocline’ (an area in a body of water where the density rapidly changes), and in saltwater, there is also a ‘halocline’ which pertains to salinity. This stratification is most prominent in the summer when the air temperature and increased amount of sunlight heat up the water. In the winter the cold air keeps the top layer of water close enough in temperature to the bottom for the thermos- and pycnoclines to be nonexistent.

The different properties of these layers in the water column prevent the water from mixing, and can result in an uneven distribution of nutrients (including oxygen) throughout the waterbody. An extended restriction of oxygen flow can have major implications, such as hypoxia, fish kills, and can be a contributing factor for HABs (harmful algal blooms).

This stratification is naturally occurring, and there’s little that humans can do to prevent it, or undue it. Violent storms and sustained strong winds can disrupt lakes enough to cause temporary relief from the stratification, but the water will quickly settle.

Check out the attached graph to better understand this stratification!
For more information, check out:


Why are the States Abbreviated like that?

By Jared Reed – Saratoga Lake Steward


Living in the Northeast, it’s common to encounter boaters from neighboring states. It’s only a few hours drive to Saratoga Lake from New Jersey or New Hampshire, and a little more than an hour from parts of Massachusetts and Vermont. I didn’t think much about inter-state boat traffic, until a couple boats from Massachusetts caught me off guard.

I noticed that the boat registration started with the letters “MS” and immediately thought that the boat was registered in Mississippi, even though the car and trailer both had Massachusetts plates. After completing my inspection, I asked the boater if the boat was registered in Massachusetts, and if so why the abbreviation was “MS”, which is normally reserved for Mississippi. He double checked his paperwork and confirmed that it was in fact registered in Massachusetts… but he, nor any of the other Bay State boaters I saw that day knew why the registrations were different.

After some research I discovered that Massachusetts, is one of 11 states where the abbreviations on watercraft registrations differ than ones traditionally used. This discretion actually results from a discrepancy between the United States Coast Guard and the United States Postal Service. The USCG abbreviations predate those used by USPS, but in 1969 the USPS created their own 2 letter abbreviation system, intending to help process mail with easier character recognition. They also changed some state abbreviations to avoid conflict with Canadian provinces, such as using NE for Nebraska, instead of NB, which is used to identify the Canadian Province of New Brunswick.  Other abbreviations were altered from the USCG list of unknown reasons.

Here are the eleven states whose USCG and USPS abbreviations are different:

  California  Colorado  Delaware  Hawaii  Kansas  Massachusetts  Mississippi  Michigan  Nebraska  Washington  Wisconsin
USCG       CF    CL    DL    HA    KA       MS    MI    MC    NB    WN WS
USPS       CA    CO    DE    HI    KS       MA    MS    MI    NE    WA WI


Research yielded minimal factual reasoning as to why there are so many differences (excluding the Nebraska/New Brunswick differentiation), but several anecdotal explanations were found in chat rooms and on discussion boards, voicing that the two federal agencies did not communicate well with each other.

Whatever the actual reasoning may be, it is useful to know that watercraft registrations do not use the same abbreviations as terrestrial motor vehicles.


For More Information, check out these sources:


Boater’s Pocket Reference: Your Comprehensive Resource for Boats and Boating by Thomas McEwen


Water Chestnut Facts and Control Methods

By David Newell, North-Eastern Lake Ontario Steward


Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) is an aquatic invasive plant species to the U.S. It is currently found in the states of New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rode Island. Water Chestnut is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia; it was brought into the U.S. sometime in the 1800s as a water garden plant, and it eventually escaped, thus has become an invasive species in many of the states listed above. It spreads by producing thorny seeds (nutlets) that can stick themselves to watercraft, the fur of mammals, or the feathers of birds. Unlike most of invasive plant species water chestnut cannot reproduce by fragmentation of the plant, only by seeds. Water Chestnut looks very different from other aquatic plant species. Water Chestnut is a submerged plant with floating leaves that have toothed margins and are triangular in shape with a waxy coating on top and hairy underside of the leaf.

Water Chestnut negatively effects the ecosystem and water recreation by forming “dense floating mats and out competes native plant communities. Its decay can deplete oxygen levels, leading to fish being killed. Dense growths can interfere with swimming and entangle propellers, which hinders boating, fishing, and waterfowl hunting.” (Water Chestnut, Minnesota Sea Grant).  This is why Water Chestnut should not be transported to other ecosystems, and why management practices for the plant are crucial. Water Chestnut starts to fruit in July when a white flower appears on the surface of the water. The fruiting bodies creates the nutlets that have four thorny points to it and eventually drop to the bottom of the water way. The nutlets can be hazardous to people and animals due to the four thorny points. Water Chestnut can rapidly reproduce and spread due to its seeds. One single Water Chestnut can produce 25 seeds. This allows Water Chestnut to rapidly take over a water way.

The four control methods for Water Chestnut is hand pulling, mechanical harvesting, chemical, and biological. The hand pulling method works well with small population of Water chestnut, the roots are shallow this means the plant is easy to pull out of the water. However; Water Chestnut is an annual plant species thus it is critical that you try and get the nutlets out of the water when you pull the plant up. The hand pulling method eliminates accidentally pulling native plants. They are normally attached to the plant but can fall off easily. Here’s Cayuga County’s guidelines for hand pulling Water Chestnut “Pull before seeds mature in mid-August, pull as much of the plant as possible, start at the edge of the infestation and work your way in. dispose of plant by composting on land or in the trash, coordinate hand pulling with mechanical harvesting, especially where large infestations exist, protect your toes” (Water Chestnut Control, W2O!). This method is very labor intensive. The next method is mechanical harvesting which works well for large areas of infestations, mechanical harvesting works by cutting and removing the plant from the water way. In order to be effective the harvester must harvest before the seeds drop into the water. A downside to the harvester is it can also harvest native plants along with the invasive ones, and possible injure or kill the aquatic life. This method is still very labor intensive and expensive, also leaves large amount of disposed plant material on land.

The chemical treatment is the use of herbicides for large infestation of Water Chestnut, the herbicides must be applied before the seeds drop, the downside to this method is it can have a negative impact of native aquatic life, and the treatment only works for current year’s growth, the herbicide cannot penetrate the seeds shell. This means that each year you need to come back with an herbicide and treat the Water Chestnut until the seed bank is diminished. “In New York State, chemical applications require a permit and must be done by a certified pesticide applicator” (Water Chestnut Control, W2O!). The last method is biological control; biological control requires that the invasive species is reunited with its predator species. This requires research to be done to determine if the predator species will only target the invasive species and not the native species that are beneficial to the environment. There is currently research being done by Cornell University on the biological control for Water Chestnut.

What can you do to help the control the spread of water chestnut?

Clean, Drain, and Dry your watercraft and gear.


Works Citied:

“Water Chestnut.” Minnesota Sea Grant. Sea Grant, 4 May 2016. Web. 5 June 2016. <http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/ais/waterchestnut&gt;.

“Water Chestnut Control.” W2O! Cayuga County, n.d. Web. 5 June 2016. <http://www.cayugacounty.us/portals/0/wqma/weedswatchout/controlwc.htm&gt;.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat (Swiftly Down the Stream)

by Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward

The Saratoga State Boat Launch has a new neighbor. Sharing the launch’s driveway is the Saratoga Rowing Association’s Regatta and Training Center. The Saratoga Rowing Association has a prominent presence on Saratoga Lake, particularly, on Fish Creek – the northerly ‘drain’ for the lake. Standing at the launch, looking northward up Fish Creek, you can make out several lanes, used for regattas and rowing races, and early in the day, you can even catch some of the rowing practices, as the crew teams row their boat as fast as they can up the stream. (It remains unclear as to whether or not the crew maintains a merrily demeanor while rowing.)

Rowing is an ancient sport, and arguable the first method of mass transport. Rowing vessels can be dated back to almost 4,000 years ago, to the earliest days of civilization. Such vessels were used to transport goods and people between ports. The earliest proof of competitive rowing comes from the funeral markings of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep II, from 1430 BC, depicting the pharaoh defeating other nobles in a rowing race. The Greek Orator Virgil also told of a rowing competition as part of the funerary games, honoring the death of the mythic Greek hero Aeneas.

Rowing continued to be practiced throughout the Roman Empire, and Europe’s Dark Ages, but competitive rowing saw its revival during the Middle Ages in the port city of Venice, known for its streets of water. Competitive Rowing was revived during the fourteenth century, during a Carnevale celebration (comparable to Mardi Gras, Carnevale ends with the beginning of Lent in the Christian faith). The first races at Carnevale involved individuals and teams of rowers racing through the canals of Venice. Competitive rowing made its way through Europe, and the first modern regatta happened in England around 1454, where guilds sponsored boats and racers in “Lord Mayor’s Water Procession”.  “Doggett’s Coat and Badge” race, which is the oldest continuously held regatta, started in 1715, and races from London Bridge to Chelsea Harbor.

The 1700s brought about a new ‘wave’ of crew teams, as the sport was introduced into the American Colonies. The first recorded American regatta happened in New York City around 1756, and the sport gained popularity among college student with Oxford University currently boasting the oldest standing crew team, being founded in 1815, and a notable rivalry with Cambridge University starting in 1832. The sports popularity among college students carried over to the states, and the gained a lot of attention when Yale challenged Harvard to a race in 1852. Rowing has since remained a staple sport on many college campuses.

Rowing became an Olympic Sport at the second modern Olympic games in 1900 in Paris, France, leading to the founding of the International Rowing Association in 1903 (later joined with the NCAA). Rowing was once the most popular collegiate sport, even dominating over football, but there has been a sharp decline of public interest in rowing over the last hundred years.

In the Olympic Games, the rowing events occur in local rivers and waterbodies- in Rio you can expect to watch the teams row in the scenic Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.


For more information:
Olympic Rowing (Rio)







Saratoga Rowing:


Saratoga Sewage Spill!

by Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward


Saratoga Lake Boat Launch. Photo by Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward

Recently, 5,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled into Saratoga Lake. Untreated sewage is comprised of two types of wastewater: greywater (water used for cleaning and bathing), and blackwater (containing human and animal waste, such as fecal matter). Sewage spills are not uncommon, but can greatly impact the local environment. While it may be difficult to imagine sewage being anything but ‘gross’, raw sewage is actually packed with nutrients that algae and filter-feeders thrive upon- which is not always a good thing.

An excess of nutrients, or eutrophication, in an ecosystem can lead to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). HABs, often referred to by their color (such as Green Tide, Red Tide, or Brown Tides) are an explosive population growth of harmful bacteria. HABs are not restricted to one type of bacterium, and different bacteria often result in different color HABs (example: cyanobacteria create a’ Green Tide’, while Dinoflagellates create a ‘Red Tide’). If ingested, these bacteria can lead to serious illness, paralysis, or even death. Bacteria, being aerobic (breathing Oxygen), and anaerobic (creating their own oxygen), consume and deplete the levels of Oxygen dissolved in the water to a point where the water is not inhabitable for fish. This results in an anoxic event, which can lead to major fish kills.

Saratoga is not alone in this dilemma, as it is a frequent occurrence in large bodies of water near major cities. The western end of the Long Island Sound, and the New York City Harbor, experience yearly anoxic events, due to eutrophication (from both city runoff, and sewage spills). This is also partially due to insufficient wastewater treatment facilities, that overflow after heavy rainfall, and the mouth of the Hudson River, which carries nutrient rich runoff from upstate.

Lake George has also had many problems in recent years with sewage spills near the south end of the lake, temporarily closing several of the beaches near the Village of Lake George. A 7,000-gallon spill in 2014 was caused by line blockages, and mismanagement by local resorts, but was quickly contained and rectified. In 2009, however a 10,000-gallon spill resulted in Shepard Park Beach closing for the season.

HABs can be identified by cloudy or discolored water, and looks like spilled paint, or even pea soup. If you think you see a HAB, do NOT swim or drink the water (including any pets or children), and avoid fishing, paddling, and any watersports, and please contact your local DEC office.

Go to www.dec.ny.gov and search for ‘swimming’ to choose a safe place to swim, learn which waterbodies near you have HABs, and to sign up for text alerts about sewage spills.







Industry Standard: Aquatic Invasive Species


Irondequoit Bay Marine Park boat launch. Photo: Dan Reude, NYS OPRHP

by Dan Reude, Irondequoit Bay Boat Steward

I recently accepted a job with New York States Park, Recreation, and Historic Preservation department, spending my summer as a Boat Steward. You may be wondering, what is a boat steward exactly? My daily job duties entail, but are not limited to, teaching the public about aquatic invasive species and their effects on the environment, taking samples of aquatic invasive species for research, and performing boat inspections, removing any aquatic vegetation and animal life and giving the public the tools and knowledge so they can do so themselves in the future.

Although there are Boat Stewards located throughout New York, my site is located up on the beautiful Irondequoit Bay, part of Lake Ontario by Rochester, NY. With it’s vast size, Lake Ontario gives an impression like that of an ocean, more so than a lake. Located in the town of Sea Breeze, people flock to this area to enjoy the coastal village atmosphere. With places like Margie’s, a beach themed bar where you can enjoy a nice cold beer while digging your toes in the sand, or taking the boat out for a spin with the family, perhaps indulging in the great fishing opportunities. It didn’t take long to realize I was part of a special place, a place that depends on the overall health of its natural resources.

With this position, and other teaching opportunities in my past, I am aware of the power of education and the passing of knowledge. After a couple weeks on the job, I began to see a pattern of those who were already aware of the preventive measures of invasive species, and those who didn’t know that aquatic invasive species are even a serious issue or that even such a thing existed. Unfortunately, the people who appreciate and partake in activities, like boating and fishing, can sometimes be the contributors, if proper preventive measures aren’t taken. But how can you point the finger at someone, if they aren’t aware of the effect of their actions? I wanted to see if the industries that are involved with these recreational activities, that act as carriers of aquatic invasive species, provided any kind of information or awareness. So on my day off, I went and did some investigative work.

That morning, I made my rounds to several boat distributors, fishing gear retailers, and a couple of local pet stores. I acted as an interested customer, and asked questions like, “so what is all this talk about aquatic invasive species?”, and “do you have any information pertaining to such issues?” What I found was the same contradictory pattern each time: those who had an idea of what I was asking or those who had no clue. I also looked for informational literature or notices within the establishments. The few times I actually saw something regarding this serious issue, it was often small and easy to overlook. My first question was, if invasive species is such a big concern and is as detrimental to our economy and environment as its made out to be, why is this information and awareness not standard practice with all related industries? My next question is, how do we all get on the same page and inform those purchasing goods and participating in such activities, and become aware of the implications? And what are the implications of aquatic invasive species?


A NYS OPRHP Boat Steward learning about Aquatic Invasive Species with NYS OPRHP Environmental Analyst Karen Terbush. Photo: Matt Brincka, NYS OPRHP

Weeks prior to the start date of my job, I attended a two day educational workshop at Paul Smith’s College, where we received Regional Watershed Steward Training. We were introduced to the aspects of what this job entailed and why our service is so important. When I was informed that invasive species are the second leading cause to the loss of biodiversity, the first being habitat loss, my eyes grew wide with concern. Another alarming fact that was mentioned, that I validated through the National Wildlife Federation, “Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife. Approximately 42% of Threatened or Endangered Species are at risk primarily due to invasive species.” Other devestating effects of aquatic invasive species on our environment include, impacting drainage, altered nutrient cycles, and food cycles. What happens is that invasive species come here from other places, thus lacking native competition, like predators and diseases. These non native invasive species thrive due to this, and our ecosystems can’t adapt to the changes quick enough. Before this training, I thought I knew about invasive species and the havoc that they bring, but not to the severity. For some, this “environmental” issue may not seem to directly affect them. If the environmental strategy doesn’t work, I suggest this: try telling them that it could ruin their boat, raise taxes, and ruin the local economy. I’m sure those previously in doubt will suddenly be “all ears.”

As I mentioned before, I am located at Irondequoit Bay, in the town of Sea Breeze, where seasonal tourism seems to make up a significant portion of the local economy. The beaches and the fishing seem to be a major attraction. Massive populations of zebra mussels and asian clam shells can easily cut up the feet of the those trying to enjoy themselves by the Lake, with the potential to close down beaches. Native fish species declining due to the replacement by invasive species, hinder the fishing market. Those who love and care for their boats should know, according to the the Lake George Park Commission, “,…zebra mussels can get in the cooling system and ruin the boat.They clog the cooling systems of oat motors, causing them to overheat, clog up exhaust pipes, clog bilges, live wells, and ruin props and entire motors.”

Taking out a couple minutes of your time to inspect your boat and trailer (anything that comes in contact with the water) and remove any visible plant, animals or debris, clean and drain anything that contains water, and dry anything that comes into contact with the water may seem like silly, pointless procedure required by the State but, as you have read here, has major benefits both for the environment and for our boats. With towns like Seabreeze, and resources like Lake Ontario, we have a responsibility to conserve our environment for future generations, and for nature itself.  We all have a special place, whether it’s Irondequoit Bay, or a favorite fishing spot; it’s special because it has provided us with an experience, making it personal. Like any healthy, long lasting relationship, both parties must be available and willing to give their all.


For more information check out





“Invasive Species – National Wildlife Federation.” Invasive Species – National Wildlife Federation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016.


“LAKE GEORGE PARK COMMISSION Zebra Mussel Alert.” LAKE GEORGE PARK COMMISSION Zebra Mussel Alert. N.p., 16 Feb. 2000. Web. 09 June 2016.

The Northern Snakehead: A Credible Threat


by Noelle Hatton, Thousand Island Boat Steward


The invasive northern snakehead (Channa argus) is of the family Channidae.  Also known as the amur snakehead, eastern snakehead, and the oscillated snakehead, it is a native of China, Russia and Korea.  More specifically, it is found in the Amur River basin (hence the nickname).  The fish are long and thin, with a relatively flat head.  The dorsal fin is long and runs along the length of the fish, from the base of the pectoral fins to the caudal fin.  The anal fin is also elongated and is more than half the length of the dorsal fin.  They are obligate air breathers, which make them very capable of living in oxygen-depleted environments.  Snakeheads prefer to live in shallow, muddy streams or swamps, but they utilize deeper waters in winter months, which makes them perfect candidates for the Great Lakes.  They are highly adaptable and at low temperatures, their metabolism rate and oxygen demand decrease which allow them to survive the ice cover during winter months.

Usually, snakeheads reproduce after 2-3 years of age, but are capable of making young after only a year of growth.  The fish can spawn up to five times during the year (usually from April to August) and each time can produce 1300-1500 eggs.  They can hatch within three days and grow at a rapid rate.  Initially, the fry eat zooplankton and work their way up to small insects, crustaceans, small fish, beetles and frogs.  As adults, snakeheads have a large diet and can consume fish up to 33 percent of its body length.  The fish can survive out of water for four days, and as juveniles, they can migrate overland because of their horizontally flat body.


Snakeheads’ mouth are filled with many sharp teeth. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey, bugwood.org

This invasive species was established in the United States via live fish markets and aquarium dumping.  They have been found in many states, but only have documented populations in the states of Arkansas, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and southern parts of New York.  In smaller lakes and streams where specimens have been found, eradication attempts were made with the pesticide/piscicide rotenone.  Snakehead are currently on the watch list for the Great Lakes to avoid establishment, as they could survive and out-compete native fish species for food and habitat.  Under the Lacey Act, the importation and cross-border transplant of the species was banned in the U.S. in 2002, and subsequently banned in Ontario.

The northern snakehead has a striking similarity to two kinds of native fish in New York State.  These fish are the bowfin (Amia calva) and the burbot (Lota lota).  There are differences in the fish that can help the angler or observer tell which fish is which.  The first difference is in the anal and pelvic fins.  Bowfins have a much shorter anal fin and the pelvic fins are more towards the center of the fish.  Like the snakehead, burbot have a long anal fin, but the pelvic fins are directly beneath the pectoral fins.  The next clue is the dorsal fin.  All three species of fish have a long dorsal fin, but you can tell the burbot apart from its two counterparts because there is a very noticeable break towards the front of the fish and makes two distinct dorsal fins.  The heads of the 3 types also look different.  The snakehead has a long, flat head (kind of like a snake), while the bowfin’s is round and broad and the burbot’s is slightly flat and they have a chin barbel.  If none of these pop out to you, you can always look at body color.  The snakehead is usually dark brown in color, with a coloration pattern that looks something like “old school” army uniforms.  Bowfins usually have a green tint and most of the time (but not all, so cannot always rely on this) possess a black “eye spot” on the tail near the caudal fin.  Burbot also have a dark brown color, but their color pattern is more spotted, kind of like a northern pike.

The northern snakehead has the potential to decimate rivers, streams, lakes and their tributaries with their high appetite for just about anything, high fecundity rate and adaptability to many kinds of environments.  They are not yet established in the Great Lakes or its tributaries, but they highly resemble the native fishes bowfin and burbot.  Any transportation or release of the snakehead is highly prohibited in the United States and Ontario for fear of them entering the lakes.  NYS anglers are asked that if they catch a fish that looks like a snakehead, to first check with the simple picture above.  If you are still not sure what the species is, take pictures, lengths, and weights of the fish and contact the nearest fish and game agency or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as soon as possible.  If you are sure it is a snakehead, do not release the fish back into the water or throw it on the bank (they can live by breathing air and can wriggle back into the water).  Freeze the fish or put it on ice for a length of time to ensure the fish is dead.  If you catch one in an area where they are not known to live, contact the USFWS.  Always remember, it only takes a few individuals to establish a highly invasive population.  Keep yourself informed on these kinds of invasive species, and never release fish from your personal aquarium into an open waterway.


Works Cited:

Fuller, P.F., A. J. Benson, G. Nunez, A. Fusaro, and M. Neilson. 2016. Channa argus. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?speciesid=2265 Revision Date: 9/22/2015