Boater, angler precautions critical to contain further spread
PRATT -- The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Marion Reservoir. An angler reported finding a single zebra mussel in the Cottonwood Point area of the reservoir during the past weekend. KDWP biologist Jason Goeckler investigated immediately and found two more juvenile mussels, indicating that reproduction of mussels has occurred at Marion.

“This is extremely frustrating because the spread of mussels can be prevented,” said Goeckler, aquatic nuisance species specialist for KDWP. “Other than downstream movement, zebra mussels can only be spread by human movement. All it takes is one irresponsible lake user to transport mussels from an infested lake to another water body. This occurrence is especially troubling because it means zebra mussels are now present in the Cottonwood River, a tributary of the Neosho River, where it had not been documented before.

“It is absolutely critical that all boaters and anglers take necessary precautions to contain any future infestation of zebra mussels,” Goeckler said.

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;
  • 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, a 10 percent chlorine-and-water solution, or dry for at least five days to remove or kill species that are not visible.

Zebra mussel larvae are free-floating and microscopic, which enables aquatic users to unknowingly transport them between water bodies. Since they were first documented in El Dorado Reservoir in 2003, zebra mussels have spread to four other Kansas lakes, including Winfield City Lake, Cheney Reservoir, Perry Reservoir, and now Marion Reservoir.

A highly opportunistic mollusk, the zebra mussel reproduces rapidly. Once introduced, new populations can expand quickly and cause great damage both economically and environmentally. Populations may become quite dense, and can be a serious problem for boats and water control structures. Zebra mussels attach to hard surfaces such as rocks, piers, and flooded timber. They may also attach to pipes, water intake structures, boat hulls, and motor lower units often clogging them to the point of malfunction.

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. According to a recent economic impact study, nationwide expenditures to control zebra mussels in water intake pipes, water filtration equipment, and electric generating plants are estimated at $1 billion per year. Power generation alone expends $145 million per year. Often, these costs are passed along to customers.

What’s more, zebra mussels also have very sharp shells that can cut the unprotected skin of people and animals. Federal legislation has been passed to help prevent the spread of zebra mussels. If an individual is caught transporting live zebra mussels into 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 is available at the KDWP website (