Something fishy happening at Zoar

Something fishy happening at Zoar

Image Credit: Kyle Valentini

The Zoar Wetland Arboretum is holding a Fishy Fundraiser, which will help them buy a special type of fish that will help save the lake, the other fish in it and the diving birds that rely on fish for their survival.

In recent years the lake has become overrun with lily pads. On the surface that doesn’t sound like a big problem. However, too many lily pads reduce oxygen levels in the water and block sunlight from reaching underwater plants. Pretty soon, the entire food chain is disrupted.

Lily pads are tenacious plants with extensive root systems. It is estimated that for every lily pad you see on the surface, there could be a dozen or more ready to pop up.

“They’re tubers,” said Denny Lewton, director of the wetland. “They just multiply and multiply.”

A natural solution

A natural, nonchemical solution to the problem is to introduce amurs. These Asian fish, also known as sterile grass carp, love nothing more than to eat vegetation all day long. In doing so, they eventually restore balance to the habitat.

Because the Zoar Wetland Arboretum is a nonprofit, they are asking for help in purchasing these fish during their Fishy Fundraiser. A donation of $8 buys one fish, $15 buys two fish and $20 buys three.

The fundraiser will culminate with an event on Saturday, June 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the wetland, where kids and kids at heart can name and release their fish into the lake.

“Families can come out and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the pavilion, and if you bought a fish, you’ll get to release your fish,” said Sherrie Baughman, the secretary/treasurer for the all-volunteer nonprofit. “We’ll also have a kids nature scavenger hunt, so it will be a great day to come spend some time at the wetland fishing, hiking or just enjoying nature.”

Because amurs are sensitive creatures, the fish the public will release into the lake that day will be bluegill and large-mouth bass, which will help stock the lake for people who enjoy fishing.

“The amurs have really delicate layers of skin,” Lewton said. “If you rub the outside layer, it can tear off, and then the fish get a bacterial infection.”

For this reason personnel from the wetland will handle placing the amurs into the lake.

The ripple effect

The overabundant lily pads don’t just put the fish at risk. They also threaten the birds that count on fish as a dietary staple.

“This is the first year when I haven’t seen eagles here on a regular basis,” Baughman said. “We usually have herons and other shore birds like kingfishers that dive down under the water to get fish. But if the surface is covered with lily pads, they can’t dive down to get them, so it’s a ripple effect.”

The plan, according to Lewton, is to reduce the number of lily pads, not to rid the lake of them entirely.

How to purchase a fish

Baughman said the wetland’s website is newly updated and able to take payments made with PayPal. Visit and click the pink Fishy Fundraiser box on the home page.

Donations also can be made the day of the event or by mailing a check, made payable to Zoar Wetland Arboretum, P.O. Box 646, Zoar, OH 44697.

Other ways to offer

The wetland’s annual garage sale will take place June 24-25 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Once again, the wetland will raffle a Pelican kayak during the event.

Individual and family memberships also are for those who want to kayak or canoe on the lake or just help preserve this 82-acre nature park. The wetland has no paid staff, and 100% of all donations directly support operations.

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