No. This quote is from email correspondence between an individual biologist from the Fish Division of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and Misha Cetner from the Vermont DEC, and has been repeated numerous times, and in numerous mediums.
Lakes and Ponds Program Manager Oliver Pierson addressed this statement directly in his March 15th, 2023 testimony to the House Committee on Environment and Energy, saying this:
“The example that has been read twice today about the Lake St. Catherine situation where it’s been quoted twice by a [Vermont DFW] fisheries biologist that Lake St. Catherine’s aquatic plant management has been quote “nothing short of a disaster.” That’s one individual in Fish and Wildlife. We’ve heard from others in Fish and Wildlife that it has not been a disaster, it has simply led to a change from a decrease in largemouth bass, but an increase in smallmouth bass. Fish and Wildlife will be here tomorrow, I’ll let them speak for themselves, but I think it’s fair to say that we don’t agree, nor does Fish and Wildlife’s leadership, with the statement that aquatic plant management has been quote unquote, ‘nothing short of a disaster at Lake St. Catherine’.”
It should also be noted that the DEC took this claim very seriously, leading to the following reply from Vermont DEC Lake & Shoreland Ecologist Misha Cetner later that day:
“I take your comments on the St. Catherine warmwater fish populations quite seriously as that is not a casual statement. Do you have data that supports this? If so, that needs to be incorporated into the overall discussion. Is this observation in St. Catherine only or is it seen in the other lakes with EWM control?”
There was no response from the biologist to this direct questioning from the DEC.
Often cited along with this comment is a report entitled “2021 Bass Inventory and Management – District 2”, which was compiled by the fish biologist referenced above. This report contains data on electrofishing surveys performed on Lake St. Catherine from 1988 – 2021, with the data showing a decrease in largemouth bass, and an increase in smallmouth bass populations. It should be noted that this report does not contain bass data prior to 1988, so there can be no comparison between bass population data from 1988 to 2021 to the pre-milfoil era of Lake St. Catherine (prior to the early 1970s).
In the ‘Discussion’ section of this report, the author notes:
“Following a 15-year study of the black bass population in Lake Morey, VT, Kirn (1996) concluded that the introduction and rapid expansion of Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) (EWM) in the lake was a major factor that lead to the development of a high-quality Largemouth Bass fishery there. Similar observations have been made in other Vermont lakes with established EWM populations (Good 2019).”
The author is citing a study, and his own observations, that milfoil infestations in lakes have a positive impact on largemouth bass populations.
So, this would lead you to the logical conclusion that lakes which experienced increases in their largemouth bass populations because of their milfoil infestation would also see a reversal of those unnatural largemouth bass population increases when they began milfoil control programs. Meaning, if the rapid expansion of milfoil was a major factor in increasing largemouth bass populations, the control of that milfoil would bring the population back down to its natural level that had been previously supported by the lake’s native aquatic plants.
As you have read previously, this logical conclusion has been described by the author as ‘nothing short of a disaster’. It certainly appears that the author is advocating for lakes to remain heavily infested with milfoil to support “high-quality Largemouth Bass fisheries”, without regard for the overall long-term health of the lake.
Finally, see this excerpt from the document “Rapid Response Plan for Eurasian Watermilfoil in Massachusetts” developed for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation by ENSR International which discusses how intermediate densities of aquatic plants (including milfoil) can be beneficial for fish, but dominance of milfoil can result in replacement of native plants, alter the food web, and decrease fish and macroinvertebrate abundance.
“Aquatic macrophytes [aquatic plants] can provide food, shelter and spawning habitat for a wide variety of fishes (Lillie and Bud 1992). Intermediate densities of aquatic macrophytes, even including EWM, enhance fish diversity, feeding, growth and reproduction (Dibble et al. 1996). However, dominance by EWM tends to replace native macrophytes, altering the food web and creating food shortages for many fishes (Engel 1995). Beds of EWM can also impede predation, shelter overly dense assemblages of panfishes, and cover spawning areas, leading to potential decreases in sportfish abundance (Engel 1995). Large piscivorous fishes spend more time foraging for prey as plant density increases, thus reducing growth rates through unfavorable energetics (Savino and Stein 1982). EWM beds have been shown to decrease fish abundance compared to native vegetation, and Keast (1983) found that beds of native vegetation supported up to four times as many fish and up to seven times as many macroinvertebrates. Decreases in macroinvertebrate abundance were observed as EWM coverage increased in a Michigan study examining six lakes (Cheruvelil et al. 2001). In another Michigan study involving 13 lakes (Schneider 2000), EWM was implicated in undesirable population features for centrarchid fishes (bass and sunfish). The depletion of oxygen in waterbodies with dense milfoil coverage can also result in fish avoidance, and, in extreme, cases fish kills (Holland and Huston 1984, Lillie and Bud 1992, Engel 1995).”