Flouride hurts bass spawning, guides insists

By:David Brewer – Times Staff Writer

Effects of treament on Roseberry will show later, they say

SCOTTSBORO – Bass fishermen say they fear the recent private herbicidal treatment of weeds in Roseberry Creek here destroyed one of the best spawning areas on Guntersville Lake.

But an Auburn University expert on fish and lake weeds said it shouldn’t. And Richard Radon of Scottsboro said he knows it hasn’t.

“I’m still catching fish,” he said Friday, adding that he’s caught 57 bass in the lake tributary since June 27, including a couple of five-pounders.

But local fishing guides Doug Campbell and Troy Jens said it could be a few years before the real impact is noticed. Jens said he’s been getting calls from fishermen “who are angry at what happened in Roseberry.”

Jens said he’s boycotting fishing here and referring clients to other areas downstream like Guntersville and Pickwick Lake.

But Dr. Alan Wilson, an assistant professor at Auburn University’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, said Thursday the recent treatments “should not have a negative effect on the bass spawning habitat.”

Bass, he said, do not spawn in beds of aquatic plants like hydrilla and milfoil. However, “bass are ambush predators and do hide in (aquatic plants) to find prey,” Wilson said.

Lowell Bivens, spokesman for the Roseberry Rescue Group that hired the Guntersville company Aqua Services to control weed growth on Roseberry Creek, said he’s probably heard from hundreds of people who are pleased with the results.

“I can tell you that the boating community is very happy,” he said Thursday. He said the weeds made it difficult, if not impossible, for pleasure boaters to travel far from shore without getting their propellers entangled.

Bivens said Fluridone was used on about 900 acres of the 1,800-acre tributary. It is, a herbicide that disrupts photosynthesis, the process that allows plants to get energy from sunlight

After the Tennessee Valley Authority announced that it would no longer treat weeds in private and commercial areas along the lake after this summer, the Rescue Group of about 200 lakefront property owners formed and sought financial help from the local government.

Contributing $42,500 toward the $170,000 treatments, the group received the same amounts from the city and Jackson County’s legislative delegation.

Campbell said hydrilla and milfoil are what make the lake so popular among fishermen.

“If you start destroying the cover” where the spawning occurs, “at some point the fishing goes down,” he said Wednesday.

Campbell, owner of two fishing tackle shops, said he’s never had a problem with treating weeds along boat houses and docks. “But when they go killing vegetation all throughout the creek,” he said, it’s a major concern.

But Wilson said “not all plants provide good habitat for bass and their prey.”

“Moreover, hydrilla and milfoil are an invasive species,” he said. “So, their removal via herbicide may actually reduce competition between invasive and native plants.”

Bivens said the group tried to reach a balance with the bass fishermen by leaving lake weeds north of the marina toward the Alabama 35 causeway and in Ski Cove along Goosepond Island untreated. “But they want the entire lake to be in weeds,” he said.

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