Divers have found zebra mussels in Pelican Lake, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported Thursday, July 12.
The DNR divers inspected five different places on the lake Monday, July 9, and located single zebra mussels in two of those five locations, said Dan Swanson, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) specialist for the DNR.
Zebra mussels are known for their ability to reproduce in high numbers, producing 100,000-500,000 eggs a year. Their sharp edges are capable of cutting fishing line andcan cause problems when they're stepped on in swimming areas. In large numbers, zebra mussels can take away food for other fish.
Swanson said that finding only two mussels on five dives indicates that the population is a small and "pioneering infestation." Nonetheless, the zebra mussels are there.
Questions over whether or not zebra mussels were present on Pelican arose last fall after a single zebra mussel was found on a boat lift by a dock crew.
Swanson and a DNR crew searched other lifts and boats that had been pulled from the lake, but didn't find any other zebra mussels. The DNR also made the Pelican Lake Association aware of the finding, but no other mussels were found last fall.
"We thought last fall there was a chance that was the only one out there. But now we have positive identification," Swanson said.
Both the zebra mussels found on Monday's dive were attached to native mussels. Swanson said divers inspected around 100 native mussels on each of their dives. Rocks and plants were also searched, with no zebra mussels found.
The positive identification of zebra mussels on Pelican means the lake will be listed on the DNR's Infested Waters list. Along with that listing comes stepped-up regulation and signage.
More signs will be put up at all boat launches on the lake, and inspectors will be present at the launches more often.
Inspectors ask boaters questions about how long their boats have been in the water, and could request to use the decontamination unit to clean the boat.
Decontamination units pressure wash boats with 140 degree water in order to remove and kill invasive species.
Swanson said boaters on Pelican will need to take extra care inspecting their boats to ensure they don't transport mussels to other locations.
Currently it is against state law to transport any AIS, including zebra mussels. Citation penalties in the state for breaking AIS laws were recently doubled.
Boaters must drain all water from boats, including pulling the drain plug, opening water draining devices and draining live wells. Drain plugs must be unplugged while a boat is being transported on public roads.
Bait buckets need to be drained when exiting a lake with AIS. Anglers can keep unused bait, so long as the water is replaced with tap or spring water.
A new law was also enacted requiring that any dock or lift moved from one lake to another must sit on land for 21 days before it enters another lake.
Dock companies and marinas are also now required to have an AIS training certification in order to operate.
Swanson said that the zebra mussels were most likely transported into the lake by a dock or lift.
Swanson also said that he helps measure the zebra mussel population on Gull Lake, and that Pelican's zebra mussel population is nowhere near the number being found on Gull.
When asked if he could forecast how quickly the zebra mussel population could grow, Swanson said it is impossible to tell.
"Each lake is its own lake, has its own chemistry. Time's going to tell," he said.
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