You have heard about whirling disease and New Zealand mud snails. Now meet a new threat—the zebra mussel. Responsible for millions of dollars in damage to waters, shorelines, crafts, irrigation pipes, water treatment facilities and power plants in 20 states and two Canadian provinces, zebra mussels are present in the Missouri River in South Dakota and are heading our way.
In a preemptive move this summer, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will inspect and help all organized fishing tournament participants to wash boats and trailers at wash stations set up near launch sites. The washing and inspections will make sure all boats are free of exotic hitchhikers and help anglers learn what to look for when inspecting their boats in the future.
Zebra mussels can blanket entire shorelines with their sharp shells and foul smell, ruining a day at the lake or on the river and threatening the Montana tourist economy. They stick to boat hulls, fittings, plants. They can invade bilges, live wells and motors and the fact they survive out of water for several days means they can be transported from infested waters fairly easily.
Zebra mussels also consume the same food as some of our game fish and could negatively impact game fish such as yellow perch and walleye.
Zebra mussels are every recreationist’s concern—and everyone can do something to help stop or slow their spread. Here is information useful to all recreationists in preventing the spread of zebra mussels.
How to identify a zebra mussel:
* Zebra mussels look like small clams with a dark D-shaped shell and light-colored stripes (hence the name zebra).
* Most are under an inch long, but they can be up to two inches long.
* The adults usually grow in clusters attached to hard surfaces.
* The young mussels on the surface of boats look like black pepper and feel like sandpaper.
How to help:
Before leaving any water body:
* Remove all plants, sediment and tiny organisms that cling to your boat and trailer.
* Drain all water from your boat, including from the motor, live well and bilge. Do not transfer any water from one water body into another.
* Never release live bait into a water body or transport aquatic animals from one water body into another. Always discard of unwanted bait with household trash in the landfill. Likewise, dispose of fish carcasses with trash.
* Wash your boat, trailer and all fishing gear and equipment. High-pressure hot water is best.
* Air-dry your boat and equipment for as long as possible between fishing trips.
If you find a zebra mussel:
* Note the date and location where the mussel was found.
* Take the mussel with you and store it in rubbing alcohol.
* Contact your regional FWP office or call the FWP Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator at 406-453-2275 immediately.