Save Texas Lakes: Stop the striped bandit

They might look tiny and harmless, but the zebra mussels popping up in Texas lakes are anything but friendly recreationists Under the guise of a shiny shell, these striped freshwater invaders are rapidly reproducing and damaging ecosystems, recreational benefits and putting our drinking water systems at risk.

What’s so bad about Zebra Mussels?

  1. They plug pipes used to divert water for drinking water treatment. Cleaning these intakes costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
  2. They significantly destroy the aquatic life and water quality of our lakes. Since these mussels don’t have any natural predators, they rapidly multiply in lakes. Their presence depletes the water’s food supply and oxygen, starving native fish and plants.
  3. They damage boat motors, hulls and equipment by cutting and cluttering them with their small, sharp shells.
  4. They litter lakesides with their razor-sharp shells, ruining the safety and beauty of local beaches.

While zebra mussels grow to around 1-1½ inches, they start out as microscopic larvae. This allows them to move undercover to a new location by boat “hitchhiking”: attaching either to a boat’s hull or floating in water trapped inside. Zebra mussels are experts at this infiltration process. So far, 11 lakes and five Texas river basins are already classified as infected, another eight have been classified as positive, while two more have been classified as suspect.

They have been proven so destructive and costly to combat that aiding and abetting these critters is punishable by law. So how can you join NTMWD, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the ranks of boaters fighting to save our lakes?

 

Use some muscle of your own to:

  • Clean! Where: every crack and corner of your boat and trailer. Make sure your craft is free of mud, plants, and critters—Try using car wash spray nozzles if you need high-pressure help. Also, be careful not to release live fish (including bait) from one area into another. Once done, double check that your prop, anchor, dock lines, live wells, bilge, motor, hull, rollers, bunks, and axels are all rinsed and ready for drying.
  • Drain! What: all water from your boat (and everything in it including bait buckets and live wells) before leaving each different water area. If you’ve been out on a lake with zebra mussels or think your vessel might have some attached, contact TPWD at (800) 792-4263 to see if you need your boat professionally decontaminated with a pressured, hot water cleaning process.
  • Dry! How long: Let your boat bask in solitude long enough to dry out completely before another outing. The average drying time after an excursion in mussel-free waters is around 30 days and may be even shorter depending on location and conditions. You may need to dry out longer after visiting a mussel-infested area: visit http://www.100thmeridian.org/emersion.asp to check the drying time necessary to safely launch your craft in another location.

Locals discovered just this past month that Lake Travis is now infected with “an established, reproducing population” of the zebra mussels. Only a few weeks before, the Guadalupe River had also been officially declared a mussel-infested waterway.

“It’s two new river basins with infestations this year,” explained Monica McGarrity, director of TPWD’s Aquatic Invasive Species team, who called the discovery disheartening. “The longer we can stave off new infestations the longer we can prevent potential recreational impacts or costly impacts to infrastructure.”

While local mariners, park authorities, and fisheries work to minimize their damage, the spread of zebra mussels remains a real threat. By working together to battle these shellfish invaders, we can preserve and protect our Texas lakes for generations to come. Learn more at TexasInvasives.org.