Management Goals for Big Whitefish Lake
Big Whitefish Lake is a very productive diverse aquatic ecosystem. There are many aspects to management including but not limited to exotic plants, algae control, water quality monitoring, fish habitat and native plant diversity. The primary goal of aquatic plant management in Big Whitefish Lake is the control of exotic aquatic plants. The exotic plant species, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed are controlled throughout Big Whitefish Lake on a yearly basis. The abundance of these species are reduced to the maximum extent possible, and efforts are made to reduce their recovery after treatment.
Aquatic plant management in Big Whitefish Lake seeks to preserve species diversity and cover of native plants sufficient to provide habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. The native plant species in Big Whitefish Lake benefit the lake, performing such functions as stabilizing sediments and providing habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. In general, native species cause fewer problems, compared with those caused by exotic plants. Currently, Big Whitefish Lake has 21 different native plant species, which include submerged, floating and emergent varieties. Native plants are managed to encourage growth that supports the Big Whitefish Lake fishery, by creating structure and habitat. At times, native plants can excessively interfere with recreational uses of the lake (e.g., swimming and fishing) in high-use areas and management may be required. Where they must be managed, techniques that reduce the stature of native plants without killing them are used whenever possible. Specific areas are set aside where native plants are not managed, to provide habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. Muskgrass (Chara) is allowed to grow throughout the lake, except in where it grows so tall as to interfere with boating and swimming in residential areas.
The species Starry stonewort (SSW), is aggressively controlled where present in Big Whitefish Lake. Starry stonewort is in the same family as Muskgrass (Chara) but is an exotic invasive species. Starry stonewort, which looks very similar to the beneficial species Chara, is appearing in more and more West Michigan lakes. Chara is a highly desired plant because it is typically low growing, keeps the water clear and can slow down the invasion of exotic weed species. Starry stonewort also forms dense mats, but unlike Chara, it can grow from 5 to 7 feet tall. Starry stonewort can be very detrimental to a lake’s ecosystem and has the ability to kill off native plants and have a negative impact on a lake’s fisheries. At the time of the 2019 year-end survey, SSW was only found in one location near the boat launch and was effectively treated.
** See “PLM Treatment Info” for specific state limitations and 2020 plan.