MAYFLOWER – Left unattended, the nonnative, invasive vegetation known as alligatorweed is a lake and fishing disaster waiting to happen. At least that’s how Matt Horton, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Fisheries biologist describes it when he discusses the herbicide application process underway at Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir.
“Alligatorweed can double in mass every 30 days,” Horton says. “And, Lake Conway having as many nutrients as it has, the plants grow very fast. They’ll quickly overtake native plant species. They’ll reduce water quality by shading out the sunlight. You’ll have a drop in pH, you’ll lose spawning habitat for fish. You can’t drive a boat through it, you can’t fish in it, it’s too thick.
“So, it hinders fishing and boating access, access to private piers and boathouses, public fishing piers, reduces water quality and, if left unattended, in time it would have an impact on the fish population. And that’s the gist of not doing anything about an invasive aquatic plant.”
On the northeast end of Lake Conway, where Palarm Creek flows into the lake, anglers and boaters can note literal floating islands of alligatorweed, something that looks like large clumps of holly or, when it flowers, like white clover. Things are better this year, though, Horton notes. Last year, he estimates, the lake had about 250 acres of alligatorweed that could be found around the entire shoreline, with the vast majority spotted in the mouth of Palarm and Caney creeks, two of the primary tributaries that drain into Lake Conway. Those areas also are shallower than most of the lake.
Two years into a newer approach – applying herbicides in May, July and September – the areas of alligatorweed appear to be diminishing. Horton estimates there are about 150 acres of the plant this spring.