Freshwater jellyfish found in area lakes

By Mike Marturello


It’s that time of the year when some lake residents pack up and leave the cottage for the season, leaves start to turn colors and you can see jellyfish in area lakes. Yes, jellyfish.  “I have seen them only in the fall,” said Pete Hippensteel, biologist and professor emeritus from Tri-State University, now Trine.

There has been at least one report made to the Steuben County Lakes Council’s administrator, Sue Myers. “I heard from Sue Myers that somebody reported jellyfish in Lime Lake a few days ago. I have rarely seen them in a couple of lakes over the past several years. They are very sporadic in their occurrence from year to year,” Hippensteel said. But they are here. Holly Law, Hamilton Lake, said some children found some jellyfish this summer at the lake in southeast Steuben County. Photos were even posted on the Hamilton Lake Association website. Here’s how Law described the creatures: “Gross.  ”Steve Smith, a longtime Lime Lake resident, relates having seen jellyfish in his lake, which is connected to Lake Gage in northwest Steuben County.

“When we first moved to the area (19 years ago), I kept seeing large groups of tiny jelly fish in Lime Lake,” said Smith, a retired art professor from Defiance College. “I collected some in a jar and took them to a biologist at Defiance College. The first thing he asked was if the lake had lots of turtles in it, I said yes, many species, and he said they were a favorite food of turtles. ”Responding to a social media query, posters said they had never heard of such a thing in northeast Indiana lakes. “Most people never see them. They’re smaller than the tip of your little finger and transparent,” Smith said. “I swam through schools of them and they had no tentacles so no stings, but very cool to watch, like flocks of birds the schools move in unison.”People can report sightings of jellyfish to the University of Pennsylvania jellyfish website.  Below is a list of jellyfish sightings in northeast Indiana:


DeKalb County:

Indian Springs Campground Lake


LaGrange County:

Atwood Lake, Brokesha Lake, Dallas Lake, Oliver Lake, Lake of the Woods, Messick Lake, North Twin Lake, Olin Lake, & Stone Lake


Noble County:

Diamond Lake

Steuben County:

Bass Lake, Buck Lake, Big Turkey Lake, Lime Lake, & Stayner Lake





Mike Moblo and Tyler McCarl

Pictured is a freshwater jellyfish from the website, where people can report sightings of the creature.


Smith said it has been a while since he’s seen them.  The website out of the University of Pennsylvania said jellyfish are common throughout the United States. The site confirms what Smith said, that their appearance is sporadic. “The appearance of the jellyfish is described as sporadic and unpredictable. Often, jellyfish will appear in a body of water in large numbers even though they were never reported there before. The following year they may be absent and may not reappear until several years later. It is also possible for the jellyfish to appear once and never appear in that body of water again,” the site said.  Freshwater jellyfish are not native to the U.S. and it isn’t clear how they got here. How the jellyfish travel from lake to lake is a bit of a mystery, but there are theories.  “During the winter, the polyps contract and become ‘resting bodies’ that are capable of surviving the cold temperatures. Some scientists believe that the resting bodies, called podocysts, are one way in which the jellyfish are transported from lake to lake. It is believed that the podocysts may be transported on aquatic plants, by aquatic animals, or perhaps on the feet of birds. When conditions become favorable, the podocysts develop into polyps and the life cycle is continued,” the jellyfish website said.Smith reported no stings, but that wasn’t the case in central Indiana where a sting was reported earlier this week on


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