PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 1, 2012

Chester Moore column: Zebra mussels spreading in Texas

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —   Zebra mussels are one of the biggest concerns facing Texas fisheries and waterways.



    The non-indigenous nuisance has already been found in Lake Texoma and Ray Roberts.



    Since Texas is new to the zebra mussel fight we wanted to give you a look at what experts around the country have to say about their impact and how they are spread.



    Perhaps the most well documented impacts are native mussels, which are an important food source for species like blue catfish.



    Zebra mussels are anchoring themselves by the thousands to native mussels making it impossible for the native mussel to function according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).



    “As many as 10,000 zebra mussels have attached to a single native mussel. Our natives have all but disappeared in Lake St. Clair and the western basin of Lake Erie.”



    Zebra mussels are filtering the Great Lakes at an amazing rate, making the lake very clear according to USGS officials.



    “Most people assume that this increased visibility in the water must mean the water is "cleaner". Not true. All they have done is filter out all the algae which normally would be food for native microscopic organisms.”



Interestingly the USGS Great Lakes regional branch said they have some positive impacts.



    “As the lakes clear, the brighter light levels cause aquatic plants to increase in number and size. This increased plant growth can be beneficial to some fish such as northern pike and to yellow perch.”



    Studies so far have shown no significant negative impact on fish populations in zebra mussel lakes. Most of the studies have been conducted in northern waters so the jury is still out on how it might affect largemouth bass for example in Texas waters.



    According to TPWD one zebra mussel can produce 30,000 to a million offspring in just one year.



    Zebra mussels grow quickly and in some cases can become sexually mature in 3-12 months, living for two to three years.



TPWD asks boaters to clean their boat or trailer of all vegetation, mud and algae, then to drain all water from motors, livewells, bilge, and other sources of water retention.



    In addition they want boaters to let boats and boating equipment dry for about a week between uses in different water bodies as anything that retains water has the potential to host the larvae.



    Officials in the north are considering another source of spreading: waterfowlers.



    “After hunting, take a few minutes to clean plants and mud and drain water from duck boats, decoys, decoy lines, waders and push poles,” said Christine Herwig, Minnessotta DNR invasive species specialist.



    “It’s the key to avoiding the spread of aquatic invasive species in waterfowl habitat.”



    DNR recommends that waterfowl hunters switch to elliptical, bulb-shaped or strap decoy anchors and that waterfowl hunters should also drain water from boats and equipment.



     Waterfowl hunters should remember that they must cut cattails or other   plants above the water line when using them as camouflage for boats or blinds.



    Retrievers are even being targeted as a potential source of spread but there has no verification as of yet.



(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.)