Fishing & Boating News

Alien Invaders

On the Dock with Rick Smith

by: Rick Smith,

Zebra Mussels
Photo by courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Depart
(Oct. 27, 2010 - Austin, TX) It seems that you cannot turn on the news anymore without hearing of someone seeing an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) or having a close encounter with some alien life form. Texas has a real life alien that has already invaded and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is asking for our help in stopping this invader. No, they're not little green men, but they are little and they rapidly multiple by the thousands causing havoc and financial losses in the thousands of dollars. To make matters worse they look innocent and can hitch a ride to infect other areas of Texas. They are zebra mussels and they are no joke.

The TPWD fisheries division has been waging environmentally safe chemical warfare in North Texas against these invaders. Discovered in Lake Texoma on the Texas/Oklahoma border in April 2009, these fingernail size bivalves propagate rapidly and create real problems with their surrounding environment by clogging water inlet pipes, covering boat bottoms (increasing fuel usage and decreasing performance) and threatening other aquatic life including game fish.

Last month 32 TPWD personnel spent a week trying to stop the expansion of zebra mussels by dosing potassium chloride in Sister Grove Creek that flows through Grayson and Collin counties and empties into Lake Lavon, which so far is free of the mussels. Brain Van Zee, regional fisheries director said "If we don't stop them before they get to Lake Lavon, the whole Trinity River basin is at risk." Altogether 21,150 pounds of potassium chloride was systematically poured one coffee can full at a time around the clock to maintain a dosage level fatal to the zebra mussels but not injurious to other species. TPWD workers put in 12 hour shifts, dosing the creek every 15 minutes from 8 pre-selected locations.

The project required permits from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since Lake Lavon is part of the North Texas Municipal Water District. Van Zee added "We're waiting on more data, but we have found some (zebra mussel) mortality at a couple of points along the creek. Right now I'm cautiously optimistic." Due to research by the Virginia Department of Game it's known that potassium chloride will kill zebra mussels, but this is the first known experiment in a flowing body of water. Van Zee went on to say "Unfortunately, it (potassium chloride) wouldn't work in Lake Texoma because it's too large a body and the zebra mussel population is too strong.

You can join the fight to stop this invasion by learning what the species looks like and cleaning any mussels, vegetation or foreign objects from your boat including draining all water from the motor, livewells and bait buckets. Also dry out the boat and trailer for at least a week before launching back into the water. If you plan a trip to Texoma, Van Zee recommends "Boaters should wash their boats and trailers at a commercial car wash using hot, soapy water or allow their boat and trailer to dry for at least a week to prevent zebra mussels from spreading beyond Lake Texoma."

For additional information on zebra mussels and other invasive species check out the website