CORNELIUS – After a long truck ride from Arkansas, stored in multiple tanks and slightly sedated to stay calm during the trip, the newest recruits in Lake Norman’s ongoing battle against hydrilla were understandably groggy for a few minutes after being discharged into their new home.
But shortly after their release on a cool morning at the boat launch area at Ramsey Creek Park, thousands of footlong sterile grass carp begin flipping through the water and swimming away to search for one of their favorite meals.
The fish-stocking process on April 16 was the second of the year coordinated by the Lake Norman Marine Commission (LNMC). Morris Sample, the commission’s executive director, said about 6,000 carp were released at Blythe Landing April 11 and that more will be released, probably on the lake’s west side, in the near future.
The goal of the project, which included placing 10,000 of the grass carp in the lake last May, is to combat the spread of and eventually eliminate hydrilla, an aggressive non-native aquatic weed that has taken root in Lake Norman in recent years. The weed, if left unchecked, can cause significant negative impacts to lakes.
Dense stands of the weed can lower oxygen levels in the water, which threatens fish and other aquatic creatures, and can interfere with boating, swimming, water intakes, power generation procedures and the overall quality of the lake. Last year, as hot weather arrived and the lake level experienced its traditional seasonal drop, hydrilla infestations choked a few areas in Lake Norman.
Sample said a recent comprehensive survey of the lake by representatives from N.C. State University found active hydrilla growth in 640 Lake Norman acres. The lake offers an 8,000 acre habitat for the weed if it is not contained.
The carp, verified sterile to prevent the cure from becoming as big a problem as the disease – a factor that Sample said raises the price to about $7 per fish – have proven successful in controlling hydrilla.
Sample said surveys will continue to gauge the success of the carp-stocking program and guide decisions about future stocking plans. The LNMC anticipates the current areas of hydrilla growth, and the weed’s prospects for expansion, will be largely eliminated within the next two to three years.
The Lake Norman carp-stocking program is a cooperative effort between the LNMC, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission, Duke Energy and Charlotte Water.
For more details and updates, visit lnmc.org. The commission meets on the second Monday of each month, starting at 7 p.m., at the Charles Mack Center in Mooresville.