Zebra mussels are certainly not new to the Grand River Dam Authority, or to many lake users, however as the weather begins to warm and boats begin to hit the waters, it is a good to revisit the tiny creatures.
Once referred to as “public enemy number one” on the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) aquatic nuisance species list, these non-indigenous mussels have been on the radar of the Oklahoma Zebra Mussel Task Force since the early 1990s.
Of course, long before that, they were causing trouble in the Great Lakes region and along other waterways across the nation.
The mussels are small; most are only the size of a thumbnail. They have an elongated D-shape shell with a zebra-like pattern of stripes.
Adult mussels can grow to 1.5” to 2” in length. With tiny, threadlike filaments they can attach to water intake structures, boat hulls, reefs, buoys, docks and other submerged objects.
They can also reproduce very rapidly (a female can lay up to a million eggs in a season) and have no natural predators.
So to help prevent their spread across the water, GRDA offers the following tips for boaters. Please keep this in mind, especially if you plan to have your boat in different bodies of water throughout the year.
- Boats should not be left in the water for extended periods of time. With regular use, engine heat should keep mussels from colonizing inside most engine parts.
- Always drain the bilge water, live wells and bait buckets.
- Inspect the boat and trailer immediately upon leaving the water.
- Scrape off any mussels found. Do NOT return them to the water.
- If possible, dry the boat and trailer for at least a week before entering another waterway.
- Wash boat parts and accessories that contact the water using hot water (at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit), a ten percent solution of household chlorine bleach or a hot saltwater solution. Do not wash the boat at the ramp where these solutions could pollute the water. Always finish with a clean rinse.
Finally, for more information on zebra mussels or to report a possible sighting in GRDA waters, contact the GRDA Ecosystems Management Department at (918) 782 4726.