Containing The Species

SD Game, Fish and Parks is concerned about spread of zebra mussels

YANKTON, S.D. – The first one was spotted back in 2015, and they’ve been causing problems near Yankton ever since. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks say the zebra mussel population continues to rise at Lewis and Clark Reservoir. The invasive species is actually hard to spot right now. But conservation officers say that’s why they’re so concerned about the species being transferred to other bodies of water.

Along with boaters and swimmers, zebra mussels are enjoying what Lewis and Clark Lake has to offer. With the warming water temperatures, experts say this is the time of year when they start reproducing.

“They can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs at a time,” says Lewis and Clark Recreation Area District Park Supervisor Shane Bertsch.

The problem is, Bertsch says, “their larvae is invisible to the naked eye.”

So boaters exiting the reservoir could be transferring the invasive species to other lakes they visit without even knowing it.

“Even a very small amount of water being moved could be a potential very large problem,” says Game, Fish and Parks Conservation Officer Dan Altman.

When the mussels grow, they attach to hard surfaces and then clump together.

“They clog the intakes and then they have to have divers go down and unclog those,” explains Bertsch.

The small invaders are also costly to boaters.

“They can get in through the intakes on outboards or a sterndrive boat; or in your big house boats where they can affect the engine, air conditioners, toilets, stuff like that,” explains Heath Denney, the Lewis and Clark Marina General Manager.

Denney says removing the mussels is not easy.

“We use hot water or acid to get the zebra mussels off,” he says. “The ones that don’t come off with hot water, like in some of the belly units, you have to literally scrape at them.”

It’s a task the workers in Yankton are used to, but they don’t want others throughout the state to experience it; which is why conservation officers are asking boaters to do one thing.

“If somebody pulls their boat out, the first thing they need to do is pull their plugs out before they get on the highway and not put them back in,” says Altman. “Therefore we know water is not getting transported away from the lake.”

There are laws regarding transferring bait, as well. If a fisherman buys bait and mixes it with lake water, they have to leave the bait behind, and they are not allowed to pour it back into the body of water.

For local boaters, GFP has created a boat registry to help prevent the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species. Participants can elect to enroll annually in the program, which will provide them with limited exemptions to transportation and possession regulations, through a transportation zone. The zone boundary includes the Yankton-Bon Homme County line between the Missouri River and 304th Street in Yankton County.

Game, Fish and Parks says it would cost billions of dollars to poison zebra mussels in the Lewis and Clark Lake, which is why they’re focusing on containing the species instead.

For more information on zebra mussels, click here.

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