University of Vermont

Vermont Water Resources & Lake Studies Center

LCBP press release on Spiny Waterflea

Grand Isle, VT – The discovery of the spiny waterflea has triggered action by the Lake Champlain Basin Aquatic Invasive Species Rapid Response Task Force. They have met twice since the discovery of the spiny waterflea in the Champlain Canal last week to discuss possible actions.

The spiny waterflea, an aquatic invasive zooplankton native to Eurasia, has been confirmed in the Champlain Canal and the Glens Falls Feeder Canal. This marks the first known occurrence of spiny waterflea in the Lake Champlain Basin. Analysis of the samples collected by SUNY Plattsburgh working with the NYSDEC also suggests that fishhook waterflea, another invasive species, may be present in the two systems. 

Photo credit: Kate Fiel (USGS Fact Sheet)


A small number of spiny waterfleas, which compete with other zooplankton for food and foul anglers’ downriggers and fishing lines, were discovered during routine monitoring efforts, established to detect the presence of new invasive species.  This discovery is a reminder of the critical need to address the issue of the Champlain Canal as a potential vector for additional introductions between Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

Experts from agencies in New York, Vermont, and Quebec were alerted to this new invasion, understanding that the introduction of a new aquatic invasive species (AIS) affects the entire watershed.  Dave Tilton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Lake Champlain manager and Chairman of the Rapid Response Task Force, said “Biologists from state and federal agencies around Lake Champlain are currently working to determine whether feasible methods exist to prevent the spread of spiny waterflea to the Lake through the canal. This new threat illustrates how important it is to find the means to implement the Army Corps of Engineers' authority, granted by Congress, to complete a feasibility study and develop a barrier to invasive species in the Canal.”

Spiny waterfleas were identified in water samples taken north of Lock 9 in the Champlain Canal and in the western end of the Glens Falls Feeder Canal as part of the Lake Champlain Long-term Water Quality and Biological Monitoring Project, a joint effort by NYSDEC, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and with funding from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Sample identification was confirmed at the Lake Champlain Research Institute at SUNY Plattsburgh.

"The discovery of spiny waterflea in the Champlain Canal is a reminder that there are many other aquatic invasive species that may move between the Hudson and Champlain Watersheds through the canal," said Kathy Moser, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Assistant Commissioner for Natural Resources.  "Individuals must take steps to ensure that their boats, fishing equipment and other recreational gear, are not transporting aquatic invasive species. We also need to redouble our efforts to prevent other aquatic invasive species

from moving through the Champlain Canal."

The New York State Canal Corporation is responsible for operation of the extensive canal system throughout NY, and they have a strong track record of working cooperatively with NYSDEC and the Lake Champlain Basin Program to address aquatic invasive species spread prevention in the Champlain Canal. The Canal Corporation has formally requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) initiate the Champlain Canal dispersal barrier feasibility study to determine how to best prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

“With the cooperation of the LCBP and the NYSCC, the Army Corps of Engineers may perform a study on the feasibility of a dispersal barrier for the Lake Champlain Canal under several existing authorities,” said Jenifer Thalhauser, Project Manager for the Corps of Engineers. “We are currently working together to identify the best approach to initiate this study.

Vermont Senator Patrick recently secured $200K for the Lake Champlain Basin Program to assist with a Champlain Canal Feasibility Study with the USACE. The study, a cooperative effort between USACE, NYSCC, and LCBP will investigate all possible options to reduce the spread of future AIS that might travel back and forth along the Champlain Canal.

“We urge all recreational users to take precautions to reduce the spread of invasive species,” said Meg Modley from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. “As is often the case with new introductions of aquatic invasive species, there are no practical means to eradicate spiny waterfleas, so limiting their spread is the only way to prevent their impacts on native aquatic communities.” Microscopic life stages of invasive species are not always visible to the naked eye. Therefore, never transport water from one lake to another.

It is very important that boaters, anglers and other recreational enthusiasts take precautions to avoid transporting this and other invasive species, particularly after leaving waters known to have an aquatic invasive species. Inspect and clean recreational equipment and boats, dry the equipment before using it on another water body and disinfect equipment when drying is not a possibility.



For further information, contact Meg Modley at LCBP (802) 372-3213.

-additional background information-

Native to Eurasia, the spiny waterflea arrived in the Great Lakes via transoceanic ships. It feeds on tiny crustaceans and other zooplankton that are food for fish and other native aquatic organisms, putting them in direct competition for this important food source. In warmer water temperatures they can hatch, grow to maturity, and lay eggs in as little as two weeks. Contrarily, "resting" eggs of spiny waterfleas can remain dormant for long periods of time prior to hatching. The tail spines of the spiny waterflea hook on fishing lines and foul fishing gear.

Spiny waterfleas were previously confirmed in Great Sacandaga Lake in 2008, and subsequently in Peck Lake, Stewarts Bridge Reservoir and Sacandaga Lake. Most of these waters flow into the Hudson River which is a source of water for the Glens Falls Feeder Canal which, in turn, feeds the Champlain Canal.

INSPECT & CLEAN your boat and boating equipment (anchor, lines, paddles, lifejackets, etc), trailer, tow vehicle hitch area, fishing gear (downriggers, line, reels, nets, etc), and recreational equipment (skis, tubes, towlines, etc) and remove all mud, plants and other organisms that might be clinging to them. Drain bilges, live wells, bait buckets, and lower units.

DRY your fishing and boating equipment before using it on another body of water. Drying is the most effective "disinfection" mechanism and is least likely to damage sensitive equipment and clothing. All fishing and boating equipment, clothing and other gear should be dried completely before moving to another body of water. This may take a week or more depending upon the type of equipment, where it is stored and weather conditions. A basic rule of thumb is to allow at least 48 hours for drying most non-porous fishing and boating gear at relative humidity levels of 70% or less.


DISINFECT your fishing and boating equipment if it cannot be dried before its use in another body of water. Disinfection recommendations vary depending on the type of equipment and organism of concern. Be particularly aware of bilge areas, livewells and baitwells in boats. These areas are difficult to dry and can harbor invasive species.

See the NYS DEC website for more information on aquatic invasive species and how you can stop their spread:

USGS Spiny Waterflea Fact Sheet:



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