Aquatic Weed Apocalypse of 2024

Aquatic Weed Apocalypse of 2024

It’s not your imagination, you weeds are worse this year than ever — a lot worse — and it’s all because of this past winter’s “mild” weather.

December 2023 through February 2024 was the warmest winter on record in the lower 48. Eight states, including Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin, had the warmest winter ever recorded — between 8° and 14° above normal.

To make matters worse, the contiguous 48 states had the least amount of snow cover in more than 20 years. Coupled with the briefest ice cover in memory, the sunlight stimulated lake weed growth at a record clip. As a result, aquatic weed growth is six weeks ahead of schedule.

Having spent part of the winter in Florida, my wife and I returned to Michigan in early May to find an aquatic weed apocalypse. Chara (muskgrass) blanketed the bottom, mixed with whorls of elodia, (Canadian lake weed) and watermilfoil.

Slimy, floating algae, (spirogyra and horsehair) floated on top of the weeds. YUCK!

I’m the guy who invented LakeMats in 2008. I’d cleaned our mats last fall, but this spring they were completely covered with weeds. Chara doesn’t grow roots in LakeMats, rather it just sets on top — it would grow on you too, if you stood there long enough.

Our lake gets professionally treated with herbicides. They usually skip our place because we don’t have weeds. But this year, I was glad to see them spraying. Three days later I added copper sulfate to patches of algae the spray hadn’t killed. Once the weeds were dead, I removed them. The bluegills came in and bedded in droves.

It’s Like Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors — Without the Scissors

The dreaded Eurasian watermilfoil mixed with elodia (Canadian waterweed).

 I usually tell customers to leave their LakeMats in the water over the winter. But this spring shows what can happen, even though it hadn’t happened the previous 15 years. Leaving LakeMats in over the winter is usually a good idea — but sometimes it isn’t…

If I’d removed my LakeMats last fall, I could’ve easily put them over the new weeds, instead of spending so much time and effort getting them off my mats. It’s sort of like playing rock, paper scissors without the scissors.

This fall, if the long range weather forecast even hints at a “mild winter,” I’ll either pull my LakeMats out, or come home a lot earlier in the spring — and avoid the aggravation of another lake weed apocalypse. 


This is chara. It grows on everything, even you if you stood in one place long enough.

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