Freshwater jellyfish take up residence at Lake Allatoona
by Marie Nesmith
Oct 04, 2010 | 6049 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After three decades of angling at Lake Allatoona, Michael Turner has discovered a new species in his hometown fishing hole.

"I was fishing down at Wilderness Camp Tuesday or Wednesday [two weeks ago]. I had some halogen [work lamps] showing into the water," said Turner, a resident of White, who was fishing off a dock between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. "There was a couple of people at another dock doing the same thing. We were doing some night fishing for some stripers or hybrids.

"[We saw] what we assumed to be pollution until we decided we would try and net some, and it turned out to be a jelly-like substance when we did so. Of course upon further investigation they were jellyfish about the size of a quarter. So I called [Georgia Department of Natural Resources] the next day and DNR confirmed that we do in fact have freshwater jellyfish. ... I've been fishing in Allatoona for at least 30 years and I had never even heard of a freshwater jellyfish before."

While the freshwater jellyfish does not appear every year, it is common in the waters of Lake Allatoona, said Jim Hakala, fisheries biologist for Wildlife Resources Division's Northwest Georgia headquarters office in Calhoun.

"They generally don't get any larger than an inch, most of them are a half-inch in size. They're just about translucent. They're a little bit flatter than a saltwater jellyfish," Hakala said, noting a jellyfish's diet consists of tiny, free-floating animals and plant life. "They do have stinging cells but they don't affect people for the most part because they're so small they don't even penetrate the skin. So unless you are super, highly allergic to them, you most likely wouldn't experience any sting from them.

"And the late summer is a common time when you'd see them. I'm not really sure how long they're there. I imagine with the water temperatures cooling, they will probably disappear here in the next few weeks. They like still, warm water. You don't typically find them in rivers or anything like that."

Calling them an exotic species, he said reports show they originated in either South America or Asia.

"They're widely distributed around the world. I guess they've been transported in ballast water on boats and stuff like that. That's how they've gotten all over the place," Hakala said. "They like real warm water that's still. They don't like flowing water at all. They're pretty fragile."

Currently in their second phase of life, known as the medusa, the freshwater jellyfish should be dying off as the temperatures turn cooler.

"They don't show up every year," Hakala said, adding the jellyfish have been at Lake Allatoona at least since he joined the Wildlife Resources Division in 2001. "I guess the conditions have to be right for the medusa state to be created. So you might go a couple of years without seeing them and then all of a sudden they're back again. It seems like every couple of years, we get some reports from Allatoona of people seeing this freshwater jellyfish."