Across the nation, invasive species are threatening aquatic habitats. Many lakes, rivers, ponds and streams are threatened by species such as Asian carp, zebra and quagga mussels, sea lampreys, hydrilla and spiny waterfleas. These invasives can devastate ecosystems and damage equipment.
One way anglers with boats can help is participating in the Clean Drain Dry Initiative to reduce the risk of transporting plants, animals and diseases. We may not be able to eradicate species once they are introduced, but we can work together to stop them from spreading into new areas.
The concept is really quite simple.
CLEAN your boat, trailer, motor, waders and anything else that gets wet while boating or fishing. Remove visible aquatic plants, mussels, other animals and mud before leaving the body of water you’re visiting. Then go to a commercial car wash and use a high-pressure washer to help blast off anything that might be clinging to gear. If you have been boating in a part of the country with zebra or quagga mussels, you should have your watercraft cleaned with hot water to make sure all mussels are not only off, but dead.
DRAIN all water from your boat, bilge, motor and livewell by removing the drain plugs and opening all water-draining devices away from the boat ramp. Regulations require this when leaving accesses in many states and provinces.
DRY everything at least five days before going to other waters or spray/rinse recreation equipment with high pressure and hot water (120 degrees F or higher).
More than 2,500 partners across the nation have teamed up to spread the word about the importance of the Clean Drain Dry Initiative to stop the spread of invasive species. And in recent weeks, at least two states have ramped up their efforts to put a halt to the spread of two devastating invaders.
In Texas, boaters are being reminded that their actions are critical to help stem the spread of invasive zebra mussels. Despite recent flooding that some feared might spread the dangerous nuisance species, experts say that boaters who clean, drain and dry their boats, trailers and gear before traveling from one Texas waterway to another are still key to containing the costly problem.
Recent rains have helped refill drought-parched reservoirs, rivers and bays across Texas, but experts say this could potentially help spread the zebra mussels downstream. Zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, are suspended in the water column for a month or so after spawning, and they are readily transported downstream with flowing water. This is especially true now, at a time of year when zebra mussels are spawning, because there are likely many veligers in the water and they can be moved a long distance downstream in the flows Texas is now experiencing.
“However, despite the danger of flood distribution, zebra mussels are also susceptible to rough conditions caused by floods, such as water turbulence, turbidity and low oxygen levels,” said Brian Van Zee, Inland Fisheries Regional Director in Waco for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “So these flood conditions could potentially help by causing high levels of zebra mussel mortality. Right now it’s hard to say what impact the flooding will have on zebra mussel populations. We probably won’t really know for months as we continue monitoring efforts.”
Van Zee said that while flooding can spread zebra mussels downstream within the same river basin, the only way zebra mussels would likely move to another basin would be via boaters or interbasin transfers of water through pipelines from one lake or river basin to another. Right now, the Red Trinity and Brazos river systems are the only ones where zebra mussels have been found. Zebra mussels also have been found in seven lakes: Texoma, Ray Roberts, Bridgeport, Lavon, Lewisville, Belton and Waco.
“All the other water bodies in the state are still uninfested, and boaters’ actions are still absolutely vital to help prevent zebra mussels from spreading,” Van Zee said. “Boaters getting informed and taking action to help is still our best defense.”
Boaters won’t be unsupported. A coalition of river authorities, water districts and municipalities across the state, led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is investing more than $400,000 in a zebra mussel public information campaign, the largest such investment in public awareness since zebra mussels were discovered in Texas in 2009.
Anglers in Ohio are being asked to help stop the spread of Asian carp through a new “Trash Unused Bait” campaign. Highway billboards, wanted posters and newspaper advertisements distributed throughout the state advise anglers how they can help.
“Asian carp are on the doorstep to the Great Lakes,” said John Navarro, aquatic invasive species program administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). “As juvenile fish, Asian carp look very similar to gizzard shad and other baitfish, so it’s critical that anglers put unused bait in the trash to prevent further spread.” Both bighead and silver carp are established in the Ohio River watershed but have not been detected in the Lake Erie watershed.
Most bait in Ohio comes from local dealers who could unknowingly distribute young Asian carp and other potentially invasive species to anglers. In addition to asking for help from anglers, ODNR initiated an outreach program to help bait dealers identify Asian carp at the retail end of the supply chain.
Bait collected for personal use is another way invasive species can spread. Catching baitfish in one body of water and fishing with it in another body of water is legal, but dumping unused bait is illegal because it is places a healthy body of water in potential danger. Wildlife officials encourage all anglers to “trash unused bait” to prevent accidental release of Asian carp and other nuisance species.
“Educating anglers on the importance of preventing invasive species spread is critical,” said Pat Conzemius, conservation director for Wildlife Forever. “It’s going to take state, federal and industry partnerships to invest in education to protect our natural resources. I’m glad to see states like Texas and Ohio making that commitment.”
For more information on ways you can help stop the spread of invasive species, visit http://www.cleandraindry.org.