Mussels found by diligent boater
PRATT — After a day on Milford Reservoir Nov. 16, a diligent boater was following the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) "clean, drain, dry" protocol for fighting the spread of zebra mussels when he discovered a few of the aquatic nuisance species (ANS) on his boat. He immediately called KDWP staff, who found two adult mussels in the water where the boater had pulled out.

"At first, we considered a localized rapid response treatment of that part of the lake," said Jason Goeckler, KDWP aquatic nuisance specialist. "We had sampled the lake in October and found no zebra mussels, so it initially seemed that a localized treatment might be helpful. However, we surveyed again and found another adult mussel in the middle of the lake, so at this point we have to consider this a lake-wide infestation.

"This is an unfortunate situation that happens all too frequently, but we are very grateful to the alert boater for following protocol and notifying the department," Goeckler added. "There are way fewer biologists than boaters, and we really rely on them to help monitor our lakes and keep them ANS-free. This boater serves as an example for all Kansas boaters, and we thank him. His discovery is the latest call to action for boaters and all lake users."

Zebra mussels did not infest Milford on their own. Other than downstream movement, they can only be spread by human movement. One irresponsible lake user can transport mussels from an infested lake to another water body. However, three simple steps — clean, drain, and dry — can help prevent the spread of mussels. Anglers and boaters must take these precautions to avoid transporting mussels from infested lakes to other waters:

  • never move fish or water from one body of water to another;
  • drain all water — empty bait buckets, livewells, and any lake water 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.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian Sea in Europe and were introduced to the Great Lakes from the ballasts of ships in the1980s. They have now been confirmed in several Kansas waters, beginning with El Dorado Reservoir in 2003. Others include Cheney, Marion, Perry, Wilson reservoirs; Lake Afton; Winfield City Lake; and any rivers flowing out of these impoundments. Zebra mussels are a problem because of their negative economic and environmental impacts. Although they clear up water, clear water does NOT mean clean water and the clear water zebra mussels leave behind will often lead to algal blooms that are harmful to people. The clear water can also let UV rays damage fish eggs laid during the spawn. Larval fish and native mussels rely on this same plankton to survive. Zebra mussels also clog pipes by forming colonies inside of the pipes. Nationwide expenditures to control zebra mussels in electric generating plants are estimated at $145 million/year, expenses that eventually affect consumers. In addition, zebra mussels also have sharp shells that cut the unprotected skin of people and pets.

If an individual is caught transporting live zebra mussels in Kansas, they may face up to six months in jail and fines up to $5,000. More information on zebra mussels and strategies to contain their spread, including an instructive video, is available at the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us. Click "Fishing/Aquatic Nuisance Species" and then click on the picture of the zebra mussel.