State biologists urging anglers to help prevent spread of destructive mussels
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Biologists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife say they continue to find new signs of aquatic invaders in Colorado waters, including New Zealand mudsnails, which showed up in East Delaney Butte Reservoir this summer.
They also found Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive aquatic week in the reservoir at Eleven Mile State Park, and rusty crayfish, discovered in 2009 in the headwaters of the Yampa River, have been recently confirmed in the reservoir at Stagecoach State Park, near Steamboat Springs.
“We have had success with our boat inspection programs to prevent invasive species, but there are a few aquatic nuisance species that can spread via methods other than boats,” said Elizabeth Brown, an invasive species coordinator with parks and wildlife. “The fact that we’re finding new populations means we have to work harder to engage the public to do their part to clean and dry all their gear and equipment as well as their boats to protect our waters.”
For anyone wondering what the big deal is about a few weeds, snails and mussels, recent reports from Lake Michigan might serve as a cautionary tale. According to an Aug. 13 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, invasive mussels have all but wiped out what was once a thriving commercial fishery in one of the largest lakes in the world.
For the first time since the 1800s, there are no commercial fishing vessels in Lake Michigan, which once supporting robust populations of lake trout, perch, sturgeon and lake herring. In 1900, according to fishery records, the lake produced 41 million pounds of fish.
Then the invasive quagga mussel arrived, probably attached to the bottom of a cargo ship. Today, according to Great Lakes fishery experts, they cover the bottom of the lake almost from shore to shore, perhaps numbering as many as 900 trillion. Each tiny mussel can filter a quart of water per day, taking out the plankton that forms the base of the aquatic food chain, leaving behind sterile water.
Colorado may not have a commercial fishery, but the state’s reservoirs support an economically important recreational fisheries, with hundreds of lodges and tackle shops depending on visiting anglers for revenue. An uncontrolled spread of the invasive mussels in the state could devastate those fisheries.
In areas where invasive mussels have become established, they have altered fishing, littered beaches with sharp shells, clogged pipes and damaged underwater structures.
“Invasive species are very effective at hitching a ride to new places on everything from boats to waders to hiking boots,” Brown said. “Recreationists can stop the spread of these costly invaders by cleaning their equipment in between each and every use. The majority of Colorado’s waters are still free of invasive species and through a comprehensive education program we hope to keep it that way.”
The education efforts began in 2004 following the initial discovery of New Zealand mudsnails in Colorado. The effort intensified in 2007 when invasive zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Pueblo.
Some invasive species have shown the ability to live for several weeks out of the water in nothing more than a crevice or clump of mud. Invasive species threaten fisheries, ecosystems and water management equipment.
The most important thing anglers can do is to remove all mud, plants and organic material from their waders and equipment after every use. Anglers are advised to then submerge waders and gear in a large tub filled with a mixture of half Kitchen Formula 409 and half water for at least 10 minutes. Debris should be scrubbed from surfaces and a visual inspection should be done before rinsing. Items can also be soaked in water greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 10 minutes. Waders or boots can also be stored in a freezer overnight between each use or can be dried completely for at least 10 days before using them in another body of water.
Visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife invasive species web page for more information.
Filed under: biodiversity, Colorado, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado State Parks, Environment, Summit County news Tagged: | aquatic invasive species, Colorado fishing, Colorado parks and wildlife, Eleven Mile State Park, Environment, Lake Michigan quagga mussels, quaqqa mussels, rusty crayfish, Summit County News