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Clean, drain and dry to slow spread of zebra mussels

All of the Highland Lakes, including Lake Marble Falls, are infested with invasive zebra mussels, which can damage water structures, boats, and bare feet. Learn how to slow the spread. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Zebra mussels have fully infested the Highland Lakes of Buchanan, Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls, and Travis, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Infestation means these lakes have an established and reproducing population of the invasive species. If you're boating in the Highland Lakes, or any body of fresh water in Texas, help slow the spread by remembering to CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY your watercraft.

First, inspect your boat and remove all plants, mud, and debris. Second, drain all of the water from the boat and gear. Last, open all compartments to let everything dry completely for at least a week, if possible. If this last step can't be done, the TPWD recommends washing your boat and its compartments using high-pressure water at a car wash or from a hose with a spray nozzle.

It is virtually impossible to detect zebra mussel larvae with the human eye, so they are often unintentionally transported between bodies of water. Cleaning, draining, and drying are the best ways to slow the spread. Once established in a lake, zebra mussels cannot be controlled or eradicated, according to the TPWD.

DAMAGE AND FINES

While individually tiny at 1½ inches long full grown, zebra mussels amass in huge colonies and block water intakes, cover docks and other water structures, latch onto boats and motors, and create treacherous conditions for bare feet in the water and along the shoreline — their shells are hard and sharp! Swimmers and waders should wear water shoes in infested lakes.

Boaters who intentionally or unintentionally spread zebra mussels can face legal trouble. Transporting prohibited aquatic invasive species in Texas is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to $500 per violation, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. By law, boaters must drain all water from their craft and onboard receptacles, including bait buckets, before leaving or entering a body of fresh water as well as remove invasive plants from the boat, trailer, and towing vehicle.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For a quick lesson on how to clean, drain, and dry your boat, watch a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department video on its YouTube page. To learn more about zebra mussels and other invasive species in Texas, visit the TPWD's Stop Invasives webpage.

You can also report sightings of zebra mussels in lakes that are not listed as infested, positive, or suspected by calling the TPWD at 512-389-4848 or emailing photos and location information to aquaticinvasives@tpwd.texas.gov.

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