CLARION, Iowa – “It did not surprise me when it happened. I knew once they got to Clear Lake, I figured it was just a matter of time before we would get them down here,” says lakeside resident Larry Delano.
He is referring to zebra mussels, the invasive species recently found in his backyard lake.
“I believe it was either Tuesday or Wednesday and I noticed the DNR folks out here. I believe they were shocking and counting fish. Shortly after that I heard that they had also found the zebras in the lake and it kind of broke my heart,” says Delano.
It’s heartbreaking, because these mussels do nothing but harm to bodies of water all over the U.S.
“What happened on Clear Lake, once zebra mussels established and infested, they started showing up on structures such as dock posts, navigation buoys, and most negatively they’re impacting the beaches,” says DNR Conservation Officer Ken Lonneman.
That’s because once these mussels die, all that’s left is the shell and there are lots of them that blow up on beaches.
“They’re very sharp, you can cut your hands and feet on those zebra mussels,” says Lonneman.
They’re easy to transport from one body of water to another because you can’t always see them.
“A boater might not be aware that the water in their live well or the water in their bilge has the microscopic larva in it and they can still transport zebra mussels,” says Lonneman.
This larva has also been detected in Lake Cornelia’s water supply. So, some precautions are necessary, and now required by Minnesota and Iowa law.
“In Iowa, a law went into effect last year that requires all boats leaving a public water body to completely drain all water sources of their boat,” says Lonneman.
Those water sources include draining live wells, bait buckets, and draining water left in the bilge by pulling the bung plug. It’s also important to wash and dry your boat after a day on the lake. If these procedures are not followed, violators could pay up to $500 in fines.
This is a normal procedure for Delano when he goes fishing, but he sees many folks just hook up and go.
“I sit here and I’m very close to where they launch and retrieve their boats and a lot of them, they just hook up their boats and trailer and they strap it down and they take off,” Delano says.
Delano believes that if more people would follow the law, they wouldn’t be having this problem.
“I mean you live on a lake you’d like the lake to stay like it’s always been,” he says.
The DNR has not yet confirmed if there is a larger population of zebra mussels in Lake Cornelia, but we’re told that they spread very rapidly. A female can produce as many as one million eggs per summer.