Algae bloom woes and more

For the past several years, several Midwest finesse anglers and member of the Finesse News Network  have been moaning about the plethora of  algae blooms that have been besmearing some of  the flatland reservoirs in northeastern Kansas.

Recently, while we were in San Antonio, Texas, taking a respite from our wintertime angling endeavors and relishing a visit at the home of  our youngest daughter and her family, we were disheartened to learn that the algae plague is also tormenting anglers who ply the southwestern sections of Lake Erie around Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio.

At our daughter's breakfast table, we read about this blight in a story by Michael Wines  in the Mar. 14 edition of the  New York Times.  His story was titled "Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie."

Wines' first two paragraphs  summed up the horrible woes that afflict Erie's  shallow western basin.

He wrote:

" For those who live and play on the shores of Lake Erie, the spring rains that will begin falling here soon are less a blessing than a portent. They could threaten the very future of the lake itself.

"Lake Erie is sick. A thick and growing coat of toxic algae appears each summer, so vast that in 2011 it covered a sixth of its waters, contributing to an expanding dead zone on its bottom, reducing fish populations, fouling beaches and crippling a tourism industry that generates more than $10 billion in revenue annually."

According to Wines' sources, the problem stems from the vast quantities of phosphorus that pollute the Maumee River, which courses across 137 miles of  Ohio, and much of its watershed  is farmland devoted to the cultivation of corn and soybeans.  Maumee  flows into Erie near Toledo, and it supplies Erie with five percent of its water and 50 percent of its phosphorous.

Wines noted that before the establishment of The Clean Water Act of 1972, Erie was caustically called "North America's Dead Sea."  Then in the 1970s and '80s the governments of the United States and Canada worked to improve sewage plants and prevent  industrial pollution, and eventually  Lake Erie enjoyed a renaissance. But, according to Wines' sources, algae blooms began to erupt in the mid-1990s because of agricultural pollution rather than sewage and industrial pollution,  and some of these blooms were of the toxic blue-green variety.

As we occasionally thought and talked about Wines' story during our stay in Texas, we thought and talked about the state of many of the flatland reservoirs that stipple the countryside of northeastern Kansas, which are adversely affected by the same kind of agricultural pollution that plagues Lake Erie.  And as we pondered about this state of affairs, we suspected that northeastern Kansas' waterways might be in worse shape than Erie.

Wines' story didn't address the dastardly effects of  agricultural pesticides, but many of northeastern Kansas reservoirs and streams are polluted with pesticides.  In fact, several years ago a fisheries biologist with the  Kansas Department of  Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said that silt in one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' reservoirs that he managed was saturated with atrazine. He described it as a disaster and readily admitted that he wouldn't  eat any fish that were caught in this reservoir.

What's more, some of the community reservoirs in northeastern Kansas that are adjacent to golf courses and suburban neighborhoods are  blighted with an array of noxious chemicals that create algae blooms and unseen or currently unrealized problems that will gradually manifest themselves in the years to come if this pollution isn't stopped.  A fishery biologist who manages one of these community reservoirs said that until homeowners stop applying fertilizers and pesticides to their lawns and  until Kansas golf courses become more environmentally friendly, these reservoirs will become more and more polluted.

It is interesting to note that on Jan. 7, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism issued a press release stating  that largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in Kansas waterways are contaminated with mercury.  And as was noted in a blog posted on Sept. 9, 2011, entitled "Atrazine, Glyphosate and Other Pollutants Have Killed Our Hankering to Eat Fish,"  our family has finally become concerned enough about the state of our  waterways in northeastern Kansas and the fish that inhabit them that it has provoked us to not eat any of the fish that we catch.

Upon our return from San Antonio on Mar. 16, we were greeted by a story in the Kansas City Star by Brent Frazee of Parkville, Missouri, who is the outdoor editor for the Kansas City Star and a colleague on the Finesse News Network. Frazee's story is entitled "Missouri, Kansas lakes and streams showing signs of trouble."

Frazee interviewed Doug Nygren, who is the chief of fisheries for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Nygren talked about the siltation problems that are affecting several flatland reservoirs in eastern Kansas.  Nygren also expounded upon the dire effects of the drought of 2012, outbreaks of algae blooms, and  agricultural pollution. In sum, many of eastern Kansas waterways are deteriorating at a noticeable clip in Nygren's eyes.

Frazee also interview Al Agnew of  Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.  Agnew is a  noted angler, conservationist, wildlife artist,  and writer, who has spent five decades floating and pursuing smallmouth bass on the streams that grace the Ozarks.

Agnew told Frazee that the smallmouth bass fishing on the Ozark streams has declined significantly and the streams have deteriorated.  According to Agnew, civilization is the cause of this demise. Civilization includes increased fishing pressure, gravel mining, erosion and siltation, and scores of other  human curses, such as wakes from jet boats and developments situated on the watersheds of these streams.

Agnew didn't address the chemical pollution problems in the Missouri waterways that he floats and fishes, but Frazee noted in his story and in a sidebar that the fish in The Eleven Point River  and Current River are affected with mercury poisoning, e-coli is present in Niangua River, cadmium and lead pollution afflicts Big Creek, lead poisoning exist  in the Meramec River, and lead and zinc sullies Courtois Creek.

In short, it is lamentable that we have not treated our waterways kindly and thoughtfully. And as Agnew told Frazee, we  need to develop a better sense of stewardship about how to protect and care for our waterways and their denizens.



(1) Here's the link to Michael Wines' story:

(2) Here's the link to Brent Frazee's story:

(3) For more information about pesticides see:

Duhigg, Charles. "Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass." The New York Times. 22 Aug. 2009.

(4) For more information about pesticides in Kansas and Missouri waterways see:

(5)  For information about environmentally friendly golf course see:

(6) Here's the link to our blog about pollution and fish consumption:

(7) Here's a link to a blog entitled "Trash Galore," which we posted on Mar. 14, 2012. It examines the blight of litter that besmears the shorelines of our waterways.

For more information about our trash woes see this link:

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