PRATT -- A Kansas boat owner narrowly escaped major state and federal fines after it was determined the zebra mussels found on his recently purchased boat were dead. The Kansan had purchased the boat in another state and launched it at Milford Reservoir, northwest of Junction City. An alert marine service professional noticed the adult zebra mussels attached to the motor’s lower unit and called the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

After investigation, KDWP officials were relieved to determine that the mussels had been out of the water long enough prior to launching in Kansas that there was no chance they were introduced into Milford. The boat owner was relieved, as well. If the mussels had been determined to be alive, the owner could have faced state and federal charges.

In Kansas, it illegal to posses live zebra mussels, and it is also illegal to introduce an exotic species into state waters. Those violations are punishable by fines up to $500. This boater could have also faced federal charges through the Lacey Act because the boat was purchased in another state and transported to Kansas. Those violations could have added $5,000 in fines and/or six months in jail.

Obviously, the best part of this story is that zebra mussels were not introduced into Milford Reservoir, where ramifications of such an introduction would have affected the reservoir, the hatchery located below the dam, as well as other downstream waters. Officials want Kansas boaters to learn from this near mistake.

“We’ve been working hard to promote the clean, drain and dry prevention practices to Kansas boaters,” said Jason Goeckler, KDWP aquatic nuisance coordinator, said. “But in my mind, this close call illustrates the responsibility all boaters have. It was this boat owner’s legal responsibility to make sure his boat did not have live zebra mussels attached before he moved it. One seemingly small, thoughtless act could have had a dramatic impact on many Kansans.”

The "clean, drain, dry" procedure means cleaning, draining, and drying all equipment — including boats, tackle, waders, and any other equipment used on the water — before moving from one body of water to another. A detailed procedure for halting the spread of zebra mussels includes the following:

• never move fish or water from one body of water to another;
• empty bait buckets on dry land, not into lakes;
• inspect boats, trailers, skis, anchors, and all other equipment and remove any visible organisms and vegetation;
• and wash equipment and boat with hot (140-degree) water or dry for at least five days to remove or kill species that are not visible.

Before leaving the lake

Inspect equipment and remove any plants, animals, and mud.
Drain all water from equipment (bait buckets, livewells, bilges)

Before using in another lake

Completely dry all equipment a minimum of five days. If you can’t wait 5 days, wash equipment with hot water.

To help stem the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species (ANS), KDWP has developed an online study and test site where water users can be wise users when it comes to ANS. Go to the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, and click "Fishing/Aquatic Nuisance Species" to learn all about these destructive species in Kansas and link to ANS Education Course and Voluntary Certification . Educational information is displayed in video, text, and image form. After reviewing this material, participants can take a quiz with scenario-based questions to test what they've learned. Those who complete the process can then print a certificate proving that they have taken this short course.

The potential impact of zebra mussels on fisheries can be profound. Zebra mussels eat by filtering microscopic food from the water. Young fish and native mussels rely on this same microscopic food to survive. Economic impacts are as grim as ecosystem impacts. Due to zebra mussels in intake/discharge pipes, municipalities, utilities, and industries have incurred significant costs associated with monitoring, cleaning, and controlling infestations.