Considering Zebra Mussels is not much fun, but it is absolutely necessary. If you ever take your boat into the water or go fishing from a dock, you really need to understand how serious the Zebra Mussel problem has become. Everybody has to take precautions if we are going to take our boats or our fishing gear into other waterways. Invisible larvae can travel with us when we least expect them, and they can quickly invade streams, rivers and lakes anywhere we go boating and fishing.
Lake Texoma was threatened with Zebra Mussels in 2006 when they were discovered on a boat arriving from out-of-state, but that boat was intercepted and cleaned. The same thing occurred with other boats until April of 2009 when the Zebra Mussels were first discovered living in Lake Texoma. The Mississsippi River and its tributary rivers and connected lakes have been infested with Zebra Mussels for many years, since the severe infestation in Europe and Asia spread to this continent from boats arriving in Lake Michigan in the 1980s. Zebra Mussels are a serious world-wide problem , and they are now our problem, too.
Called Dreissena polymorpha as their scientific Latin name, Zebra Mussels are the only freshwater shellfish that can attach themselves to solid objects. They are generally found in fresh water of 6-30 feet deep, with easy access to algae. Strangely enough, as the tiny mollusks (creatures with soft bodies, usually living in a shell) filter water to obtain their food supply, they absorb other algae but reject blue-green algae. For this reason, the presence of Zebra Mussels in a body of water can contribute to blue-green algae growth, a significant issue for Lake Texoma at times.
Also, due to their protective shell, Zebra Mussels have few natural predators. Ducks and fish may eat them during the 1 - 5 week period that they are microscopic, free-floating plankton, before they sink down and begin to attach to boat hulls, rocks, dams, drainage pipes, water filtration equipment, dock pilings, and water intake pipes. The creatures reach maturity at the end of their first year.
Solid objects in infested waters can become completely encrusted with Zebra Mussels, inhibiting proper functioning and costing millions of dollars to clean. Water intake pipes and water filtration equipment located in infested waters are especially costly to clean in order to keep water flowing. In other parts of the world, lobster and crab raised for human consumption are being suffocated by Zebra Mussels clinging to their shells, damaging world-wide shell fish productivity.
Brian Van Zee is the Inland Fisheries Regional Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, and in May of 2012 he was quoted as saying there are 42 Zebra Mussel larvae per liter of water in Lake Texoma. He also put out a bulletin in July of 2012 announcing that live Zebra Mussels have been found in Lake Ray Roberts and Lake Lewisville as well, and that emergency rules are in effect for those lakes now.
Basically, the rules state that draining and drying the exterior and bilge pumps and live wells of all boats, and keeping them out of contact with infested waters for a week is mandatory to avoid contaminating other waterways. However, boats that are leaving Cedar Mills service shop are treated with a 10% bleach solution as a precautionary measure. This precaution is a very good idea for all boaters visiting Lake Texoma, or, as an alternative, taking the trailered boat to a car wash and spraying it down with 140 degree water, which will also serve to decontaminate it.
The following is a description of the rules for boats in use on Lake Texoma at this time:
Effective May 17, 2012, anglers and boaters will need to drain bait buckets, live wells, bilges, and any other receptacles, containers, or systems that could contain water before leaving the lake. People who follow this procedure will be in compliance with rules on possessing and transporting the microscopic larval stage of this invasive mussel. A person will not have to drain water if traveling from Texoma to the Red River below the dam, or going on a public roadway via the most direct route to another access point on Lake Texoma. However, all water-containing receptacles should be empty before leaving for home or another water body.
Despite these rules, however, arrests for failure to comply are hampered by the lack of personnel. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden for North Texas has said that his officers have little time to patrol boat ramps all over Lake Texoma. That is why it is critical for us all to comply by choice, because we care.
Clean, drain and dry to save our lakes now.
For more information, contact:
Brian Van Zee (254) 867-7974