Kayaker in Big Cypress Bayou

Several marked paddling trails navigate the swamplands of Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou. Photo: Erich Schlegel

Anglers and paddlers, rejoice: Caddo Lake is back.

Once largely overrun by giant salvinia, a highly invasive aquatic fern, the lake has benefited from a combination of freezing weather last winter and the release of more than 200,000 salvinia-munching weevils—the same kind that keep salvinia in check in the noxious weed’s native Brazil, the Marshall News Messenger reports.

Salvinia was first discovered in Caddo Lake in 2006. By 2017, about one-fifth of the lake was covered in more than 5,000 acres of giant salvinia, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department representative told the News Messenger. During a survey in August, the wildlife department found just 1,300 acres of salvinia.

The weevil program offers hope for other Texas lakes that lie in the path of giant salvinia. Additional efforts, like TPWD’s “Clean, Drain, Dry” marketing campaign, are also making a difference, said John Findeisen, the department’s invasive species control program coordinator, according to the News Messenger:

“We did this campaign to show anglers and boaters it doesn’t take but five minutes to crawl up underneath your boat, pull the stuff off, put it off to the side,” Findeisen said.

He said boaters are taking responsibility and taking heed as they can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and up to a $500 fine per plant.

“That for salvinia has been a huge success,” Findeisen said of the campaign. “This time last year we had gained five new lakes of salvinia. In a year’s time we haven’t gained (a single new lake), so the word is getting out.”

State and local partners opened a greenhouse in 2014 in Uncertain to produce hundreds of thousands of weevils, which were released at Caddo locations from Willowson’s Woodyard to Pine Island Slough.

“The giant salvinia is one of the most aggressive aquatic species in the world, and when we saw that this needed to be taken care of, we started a grassroots effort from individuals and municipalities and entities — anywhere that we could get funding to start the greenhouse,” Daren Horton, president of the Caddo Lake Bio-control Alliance (CBA), told the newspaper.

Located on the border of northeast Texas and Louisiana, Caddo Lake’s 26,000-acre network of bayous, sloughs, and wetland cypress forests make up one of the state’s wildest natural treasures. Find more information about paddling, touring, and fishing on Caddo Lake in our April 2018 story, A Canoe Exploration of Caddo Lake’s Creatures and History.

The March 2024 cover of Texas Highways Magazine

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