Chances are you’ve heard the slogan. But do you actually know how to Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat?
Texans are flocking to the waters as rising temperatures continue to soar, and families and friends look for ways to get some fresh air and sunshine. While everyone is encouraged to enjoy the fresh air on a boat or personal watercraft, make sure the trip doesn’t include an unexpected visitor.
Zebra mussels are one of the top concerns for Texas lakes, according to a recent release from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
These microscopic terrors are found in 30 lakes across five river basins in the Lone Star State as well as in river reaches downstream of infested lakes, according to TPWD. They litter shorelines with sharp shells, impact recreation, harm aquatic life, damage boats and clog water intakes. On top of the harm, the transport of aquatic invasive species can result in legal trouble for boaters. Transporting prohibited invasive species in Texas is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to $500 per violation, according to TPWD.
“Boaters can help keep zebra mussels and other invasive species from being moved and harming more lakes by taking a few minutes to properly clean, drain and dry boats and equipment before they leave the lake,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD senior scientist for aquatic invasive species management, in the recent news release. “Taking just a few minutes for these simple steps can make a huge difference in our efforts to protect and preserve Texas lakes for future generations.”
Currently, zebra mussels have not been found in the three Brazos River Authority reservoirs: Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Limestone and Lake Granbury. However, there are plenty throughout the Brazos River basin. All it takes is a trip between an infested lake and a noninfected lake with an unclean PWC to do irreversible damage.
A small mussel, with a maximum shell size from 3.5 - 4 centimeters, they are known to have caused alarming declines in populations of fish, birds and native mussel species. They can disrupt a city's entire water supply system by colonizing the insides of pipelines and restricting the flow of water, according to Texas Invasives.
So how do you help stop the spread? Clean, Drain, Dry.
• Clean: Inspect your boat, trailer and gear and remove all plant material, mud and foreign objects. Clean the anchor, anchor line, motor, any fishing gear, everything.
• Drain: Remove all water from the boat, including the motor, bladders, bilge, livewells and bait buckets. And drain your boat before leaving the ramp. Remove the drain plug before towing to allow the boat to drain completely.
• Dry: Dry your boat, trailer and everything that’s in it for at least a week. Open all compartments and allow the boat and trailer to dry.
If the boat and trailer cannot be dried for at least a week, wash them with high-pressure, hot soapy water. Adult zebra mussels are able to close their shell and survive out of water for several days.
And don’t forget to dispose of unwanted bait, fish parts, worms, and packing materials, in the trash and not dump them in the water or on land, according to the BoatUS Foundation.
Stay vigilant throughout the process. Invasive species can get stuck on trailers or trapped between the boat and bunks. Zebra mussels can attach to wet-slipped boats that are moved to another lake.
Boat movements have long been recognized as the primary route for overland transfer of zebra mussels, according to Texas Invasives.
Transport of zebra mussels may occur in all sizes of watercraft, includes kayaks, canoes, and inflatable rafts.
Female zebra mussels can produce up to one million eggs per summer, according to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhiker! Campaign.
“There’s no doubt that Texans love their lakes,” said John Findeisen, TPWD Brookeland Aquatic Habitat Enhancement team lead in the news release. “But we also need Texans to help protect their lakes, and the best way to do that is by properly cleaning, draining and drying boats and equipment every time they leave the water.”
The following Texas lakes are classified as “infested” with zebra mussels: Austin, Belton, Bridge-port, Canyon, Dean Gilbert, Eagle Mountain, Georgetown, Granger, Lady Bird, Lewisville, Livingston, Lyndon B. Johnson, Marble Falls, Pflugerville, Randell, Ray Roberts, Stillhouse Hollow, Texoma, and Travis, according to Texas Invasives.
Lakes Dunlap, Fishing Hole, Grapevine, Lavon, McQueeney, O.H. Ivie, Placid, Richland Chambers, Waco, Walter E. Long, and Worth, as well as river reaches downstream on the Colorado, Guadalupe, Lampasas, Leon, Little, Red, and Trinity rivers, are classified as “positive” for zebra mussels.
Lake Ray Hubbard is classified as “suspect.”
For more information, go to TexasInvasives.org.