By DAVID BORAKS
MOORESVILLE – Officials from Duke Energy, the the Lake Norman Marine Commission and the state of North Carolina gathered at the Davidson College Lake Campus in Mooresville one morning last week for a fish release. Not game fish, but “grass carp,” which the state has been using for more than a decade to control the growth of invasive hydrilla on Lake Norman.
Ron Shoultz is executive director of the marine commission, and a 15-year resident and boater. We asked him a few questions as we awaited the arrival of a tractor-trailer from Arkansas, carrying tanks of the large grey fish.
Listen to an audio version of this interview below.
“(Grass carp) keep the hydrilla from getting bigger and spreading,” Shoultz said. The program is run by the commission in cooperation with Duke Energy and Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities. The state Wildlife Resources Commission and the Aquatic Weed Council also pay portion of the cost, this year estimated at a few thousand dollars.
“The science has found that we’ve been pretty successful at control the hydrilla,” Shoultz said. In fact, Lake Norman’s success with using the carp to control weeds has become a case study for others.
Last year, Lake Norman wasn’t able to get any carp, so the program had a year off. That’s OK, Shoultz said, because the fish have helped bring the hydrilla under control over the past 11 years.
The truck came from an Arkansas hatchery called J.M Malone & Son. It pulled up next to the boat house at the Davidson Lake Campus, attached a pipe and long plastic sheath, and literally poured about 300 fish into the lake.
Shoultz said at one time about 400 of the lake’s 32,500 acres were infested with the weed, which is not native to the lake. This year, the focus is on the area near the Davidson Lake Campus.
“The primary areas that we have the biggest concentration of hydrilla on the lake are in this cove, which is called Work Creek. So we like to kind of keep them (the carp) close. They naturally will go to where the food is at. Lake Norman is very devoid of any natural vegetation, so they gravitate towards the hydrilla,” he said.
The grass-eating carp are sterile, which means they won’t reproduce and take over the lake.
Listen to an audio interview with Ron Shoultz of the Lake Norman Marine Commission. Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE> (MP3, 44 sec)
Lake Norman Marine Commission website, LNMC.org.
Marine Commission page on hydrilla and grass carp.