Zebra Mussels _ Clean Your Boat

Zebra Mussels covering  bushes on Upper Bull Shoals Lake _ all image courtesy of the AGFC

Since I’m guessing about 80+% of our readership is river oriented, the issue of zebra mussels in Bull Shoals Lake probably hasn’t been high on your agenda.

But after briefings at a meeting of Buffalo River Concessionaires this week, it seems like we are all going to be getting more familiar with the topic.

Since zebra mussels were spotted in Bull Shoals Lake in 2007, apart from a few signs around the lake and the odd media story, as when the AGFC closed the Pot Shoals hatchery on the Lake, it’s been pretty quiet, until lake fishers and authorities began remarking on a population explosion last year.

The Bull Shoals population was also found to be flourishing deeper than expected, meaning the beds were spread even below the power station intakes.

Basically the assessment from Federal and State officials was that juvenile zebra mussels, especially after the high flows were and will continue to be released into the river system _ and dock and boat owners should be made aware of the issues.

Firstly cleaning of boats moving from the White River or Bull Shoals to uninfected waterways like Norfork Lake, the Buffalo River or further afield and secondly to educate boat and dock owners on the White about steps to minimize potential damage from any infestation

Zebra Mussels are a freshwater shell fish, which has become a hot topic Invasive Species across North America since it was first spotted in 1988. Not big, (half and inch to an inch and a half long), the main issue is due to the rapid population growth and density it achieves. The zebra mussels are best known for clogging water intakes, infesting docks, boat hulls and motors, where-ever it can attach. The shells are sharp and can cut feet, hands and fishing line.

Efficient filter feeders zebra mussels will out compete small & juvenile fish for phytoplankton. On the other side the same traits have seen lake fisheries in other areas clean up, and a boom in bottom feeders. Drum, blue catfish, yellow perch and Redear are all known zebra mussel eaters.

The life span of a zebra mussel is four to five years. A female zebra mussel begins to reproduce within 6–7 weeks of settling onto a hard surface.  Up to a 1 million eggs can be released. Free-swimming microscopic larvae, called veligers, will drift in the water for several weeks and then settle onto any hard surface they can find. Veligers can survive for extremely long periods in bilges or livewells.

New signage being installed at access on Bull Shoals by the AGFC

According to the briefing, Veligers find it hard to grab hold of a boat moving over the surface, though anchoring up for extending periods increases the risk. So normal running and drift fishing, won’t have major risks of collecting Veligers, particularly if the trailer is dried out well afterward, and any weeds or mud removed. If you need to use it in a hurry on another water a spray down with a 10% bleach solution will work, or water over 104F.

A bigger problem is the standing water that can often be hard to drain out of drift boats or white river jons. Here the simple solution is adding some bleach to kill off any bugs before moving to new water

Boats used daily for long periods, or boats kept in docks in the White, may been some more serious attention. The advice was to run you hands over what should be gelcoat, if you feel things like grains of sand, they are likely to be veligers and time for some serious bleach work.

It’s also a good idea, with jet or prop motors, to blast all of the water out of the impreller/pump system before you shut it down for storage. Zebra mussels have been known to infest motors internally as well as externally.

It’s pretty simple really, clean your boat and try and dry it off after outings, and treat standing water.

K-Dock on Bull Shoals after the Lake levels fell out