Farthest west spread of destructive species to date
PRATT — The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Wilson Reservoir, 55 miles west of Salina in Russell County. The owner of Marine Specialty in Wilson was working on a boat from Wilson Reservoir when he noticed zebra mussels on the boat hull. He quickly notified KDWP and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) officials about his discovery. KDWP fisheries biologist Tommie Berger soon discovered live zebra mussels in Wilson Reservoir, and marina staff found them attached to other boats at the lake.

Wilson Reservoir is a 9,000-acre impoundment on the Saline River. This discovery makes Wilson the westernmost zebra mussel-infested water in Kansas. Downstream reservoirs, such as Milford near Junction City, are now at risk for infestation if the mussels are carried in the Saline from Wilson. Because of its westward isolation from other infested waters, Wilson's infestation is likely the result of transport by lake users.

“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 Saline River and threaten other lakes downstream."

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 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 seven Kansas waters, beginning with El Dorado in 2003. Others include Cheney, Winfield City Lake, Marion, Perry, and Lake Afton. Zebra mussels are a problem because they filter water, up to a liter a day, to eat plankton. Although this filtering action may clear up the 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. 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.