Inspecting docks, boats, boat lifts can detect invasive species, protect Wisconsin’s waters
Courtesy of Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc.
WISCONSIN – “This is not dirt! This is a serious case of zebra mussels in various sizes. This is my peddle boat,” exclaimed Tyne Hoffman of Lake Helen. During the fall of 2019, zebra mussels were found in Lake Helen, just northeast of Stevens Point.
Fall is a good time for waterfront owners to monitor for aquatic invasive species (AIS) while they remove their docks, boats and boat lifts for the season. This is an easy time to look for invasive species like zebra mussels.
Zebra mussels are small, non-native mussels (up to approx. 1.5 inches long) that prefer to attach to hard surfaces. The young are microscopic but as they feed throughout the summer they form hard shells and attach to all sorts of surfaces. Surfaces can include aquatic plants, rocks, sticks, boat hulls/motors, boat lifts and docks.
Why are zebra mussels bad? Zebra mussels filter water and feed on organisms that are the bottom of the food chain for many other native species. While doing this, they clear the water, which allows sunlight to reach further down. More sunlight increases plant and algae growth.
As the mussels grow, they colonize on hard surfaces. These colonies can clog up water intake pipes, boat motors and any system that needs water to operate.
Furthermore, the sharp shells can be hazardous when handling docks or when walking along the shoreline.
“When taking out docks and boats for the winter, take time to look for anything attached to areas that were in the water” says Chris Hamerla, Regional AIS Coordinator with Golden Sands RC&D Council. “These items have been in the water all summer long, so if zebra mussels are in that waterbody they may have attached to it. If you notice something unusual, report it to your local AIS Coordinator or DNR.”
Chris Hamerla may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-343-6215 ext 704.
With thousands of waterfront property owners in Wisconsin, monitoring for AIS like zebra mussels can be a simple task. If you see anything unusual this fall when taking out docks or boats be sure to report it.
The following steps are required by law to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:
- INSPECT boats, trailers and equipment for attached aquatic plants or animals
- REMOVE all attached aquatic plants and animals
- DRAIN all water from boats, vehicles, and equipment, including livewells and buckets containing fish
- NEVER MOVE plants or live fish away from a waterbody
- DISPOSE of unwanted bait in the trash
- BUY minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer
Only use leftover minnows when either 1) fishing with them on the same body of water or 2) on other waters if no lake/river water or other fish have been added to the container.
To learn more about invasive species and their impacts to Wisconsin’s waters and economy, visit www.goldensandsrcd.org/aquatic-invasive-species or www.dnr.wi.gov/lakes/invasives.