Snowbird season is in full swing. With the dry season here, an increase in fishing and recreation boats will be piling into Lake Okeechobee. Please be alert and wear your personal flotation devices (PFDs). Many migratory birds will also be coming to town, including white pelicans, skimmers, long necked stilts, least bitterns and more. Lake Okeechobee provides wonderful habitat for many species of migrating birds and a nice break from the cold weather back home. Many of these bird species stay all winter long and are known to use the lake as a nesting ground. Come check out these beautiful creatures around the lake!
• The U.S, Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will be conducting interagency surveys via airboat, monitoring for floating aquatic plants throughout the lake. If you spot a navigational way that is blocked, please notify either Jessica Fair, Ian Markovich or Brendon Hession of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be conducting aquatic plant management treatment via contractor on Lake Okeechobee to maintain navigation and flood control structures around the south end of the lake. Area of responsibility will include the Rim Canal from Port Mayaca to Old Sportsman’s canal and in lake from Pelican Bay to Uncle Joe’s Cut.
• FWC Invasive Plant Management contractors will begin treating invasive floating plants in the western marsh on Lake Okeechobee. Work will begin with the treating of trails leading into Moonshine Bay to restore navigation prior to the start of the regular waterfowl hunting season. Contractors will be working in deep water and the edge of the marsh where floating plants have accumulated beginning Dec. 7 to stay out of priority waterfowl areas. Work will continue in Fisheating Bay managing floating plants and Luziola subintegra.
• FWC AHRE (Aquatic Habitat Restoration/Enhancement): Due to high winds and Tropical Storm Eta, 250 acres of an aerial helicopter treatment of cattail will be completed the first week of December on the east side of Tin House Slough and in Moonshine marsh. Imazamox will be used at a rate to selectively kill cattail, allowing natives such as spikerush, bulrush and pickerelweed to survive and expand. Prescribed burns are planned in late winter or spring of 2021 to further enhance the two areas. Spoil islands in the northwest marsh will have moonvine and balsam pear vines hand pulled or treated with flumioxazin to prevent vines from damaging or killing planted native trees. Phragmites will also be treated on the islands using imazamox.
• FWC Freshwater Fisheries Management will be releasing a stakeholder survey this month as part of its Fish, Wildlife, and Habitat Management Plan for Lake Okeechobee in development. This survey will measure public opinion on topics and solutions that may be included in the plan and will be available to all stakeholders interested in providing their feedback. To learn more about this effort and find a link to the survey when available, please visit myfwc.com/conservation/management-plans/lake/okeechobee/.
• The South Florida Water Management District, FWC and USACE are scheduled to conduct their monthly invasive plant management survey around Lake Okeechobee by helicopter on Dec. 3. Annual maintenance treatments of scattered melaleuca are scheduled to continue in the northern marsh, between Dyess Ditch and Buckhead Ridge. Higher lake stages allow for increased access to areas of the marsh where melaleuca trees grow. Maintaining melaleuca infestations at the lowest possible levels promotes diverse habitats by lowering the risk of re-establishment of this disruptive species. SFWMD intends to resume prescribed burns in the Sports-Haven Marsh and Curry Island areas of the lake once water levels are below 13 feet and the environmental conditions are appropriate.