During a recent boat patrol, I noticed some algae growth in and on the water. These blooms commonly occur in July, August and even into September, especially if the weather has been warm, and that it has!
Algae blooms are common occurrences that occur naturally in many lakes, ponds, rivers and streams in Saskatchewan. Ideal conditions for algae growth include the presence of stagnant shallow water, warm temperatures and nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus.
Wind motion will move these growths closer to the shore, but they can be found anywhere. Blooms can appear in the water looking almost like pea soup, or they can be a blue/green scum floating on the surface, but algae colors can also be olive green to red. Old growths can have a pretty bad smell associated with them.
Caution should be taken around these blooms on the lake. Avoid swimming, tubing or boating in areas where these blooms are present and do not ingest any of the water. Illness due to swallowing water can happen. Symptoms can occur in less than an hour and include vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, numb lips and skin rashes.
If you have to be in the water, make sure that you rinse yourself off really well. Eating fish taken from algae-infested waters is safe, but you just want to make sure you rinse the fillets and your hands with clean water.
Extra care should be taken for dogs as well. Dogs should not drink any water near an algae bloom and they should be rinsed off if they swim in a bloom growth area.
The truth is that the substance commonly called blue-green algae is not algae, but bacteria. It has similar characteristics to algae, thus the misnomer.
In some instances, people confuse these algae blooms with chemicals being dumped in lakes or spills causing fish to die.
Given the unusually hot, dry summer we have had across much of southern and central Saskatchewan, many locations are experiencing lower water levels and higher water temperatures. These conditions can lead to summer kill events to fish caused by stress from reduced oxygen levels or other water quality factors resulting from reduced water flow through the systems.
These types of events are often localized in shallower lakes and rivers and typically occur on an annual basis.
That wraps up another column. But we did have a couple of interesting questions come in.
Q: What can I do about a hawk that is dive-bombing people in my neighbourhood?
There is a good chance that this particular hawk is nesting and protecting its young. It sees you as a threat and will do what it can to scare you away from its nest. This happens in early summer in many locations throughout Saskatchewan and goes on for about three weeks.
In Saskatchewan, there are two hawk species that will dive bomb people to protect their nest. Merlins will be the guilty party in the spring, mostly in June, while Swainson’s Hawks will be found doing this in late July to early August.
There is really not much of a solution for this as law protects these hawks. Some people choose to avoid the area, while others continue to occupy the area only to be on the lookout for dive-bombing hawks. Another suggestion is to use an umbrella while walking through these areas.
Q: What are the rules for pontoon boats and alcohol?
Earlier this summer, a number of conservation officers did boat patrols with RCMP and city police officers in search of violations and ensuring the waters were being used safely.
I am amazed at how many people actually purchased boats, like a pontoon boat, specifically to drink on. When picking features while purchasing, many made sure that they had a barbecue on the bow, and a cushion that could convert to a bed, so they could call it a houseboat.
We do our best to educate and advise people that there is no legal way to drink on a pontoon boat regardless of what type of equipment you have on it. Only moored houseboats with plumbed-in water, kitchen and sewage facilities would meet that definition.
The fine for consumption of liquor on any boat is $250, so please keep that in mind when boating in the future.
Until next time, have a safe summer out on the water and keep your rod tip up!
Editor’s note: Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 25 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. For many years, Officer Leko contributed a column to local papers on a variety of issues related to hunting, fishing, and other resource-related issues. If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.