Zebra Mussels In North Dakota Lakes, Will It Really Be That Bad?
Okay, I know I'm going to take some heat on this, but here goes. We've been hearing about zebra mussels for a long time now. How they will destroy ecosystems, ruin beaches, clog up water intakes, compete with native species, etc. You've seen the commercials and billboards from North Dakota Game and Fish, "Clean, Drain and Inspect." Zebra mussels are a problem, but is it really all doom and gloom? More on that in a moment.
Zebra mussels have just been found in a new North Dakota lake. According to KX News, zebra mussels have been confirmed in Twin Lakes east of the city of LaMoure, North Dakota. The mussels were spotted by a land owner floating on a log. What's interesting is that the North Dakota Game and Fish are just finishing up a boat ramp on this lake. So, the invasive species probably wasn't brought in by another boat, unless it was by an existing landowner.
UPDATE: I was able to contact my landowner friend who owns land on Twin Lakes, and he did confirm the lake has had a boat ramp for awhile now. He wasn't exactly sure how long it's been but it's been a few years anyway. His words. This changes nothing and the gist of the article. Zebra mussels can be transferred by birds, that has been documented. This article is about asking the question, "will zebra mussels really ruin a lake?" Please read on.
Another possibility is that zebra mussels were transported to Twin Lakes by birds. According to Researchgate, waterfowl can transfer zebra mussels at the larvae stage. In the case of Twin Lakes, this is a huge migrating stop for ducks and geese. I've hunted it myself. Humans are considered the primary transporter of zebra mussels, but a lake like Twin, with very little outside boat traffic, it makes birds a likely candidate. What are we going to do about millions of migrating waterfowl each year? Not to mention other shorebirds.
I'm very familiar with zebra mussels. I have a cabin on Enemy Swim Lake, which is zebra mussel free at the time of this article. It's located about 5 miles south from Pickerel Lake in northeast South Dakota, that now is infested with zebra mussels. Fish and Game are doing their best to keep zebra's out of Enemy. They have cabin owner volunteers and interns from fish and game requiring all watercraft to be inspected before launching. Will it really make much of a difference? I admire what they're trying to do. I know I do my part to prevent it, but I sometimes think that eventually nature will take its course.
Will zebra mussels really ruin a lake? There's a lot of big claims and theories out there. No doubt it will affect your beach life. You will have to wear water shoes, because zebra muscles can be sharp and could cut your feet. I know I swim with my water shoes normally anyway, as I don't like creepy crawlies touching my feet in the water.
Will zebra mussels cause your lake property values to crash? To be honest, no sign of that anywhere. Much of Minnesota's lakes are infested with zebra mussels. People are still spending millions on dollars for cabins on Minnetonka, Pelican or Detroit Lakes area lakes. Even Pickerel Lake, next to my lake has people snatching up some very expensive cabins. According to swnewsmedia, there's no link between a drop in property values and zebra muscles.
Zebra mussels will actually clear up the water they infest. This might actually improve the fishing, depending on the lake. Species like Smallmouth Bass, Perch, Walleyes and even panfish are known to gorge on zebra mussels. You might catch bigger fish because of this. With cleaner water means you will have more sunlight and more vegetation in the lake. Again, this is thought to improve the size of the fish. Fish will have more places to hide and grow bigger. It may make anglers have to adapt to new strategies to catch fish. In some cases it could make fishing more difficult.
As far as will it destroy the ecosystem of lakes? I'm going to come right out and say it. I think this is highly exaggerated. I'm not a biologist and don't claim to be one. Zebra mussels have been in the Great Lakes since the 1980's. The Walleyes and Smallmouth Bass have never been bigger. People are still catching fish and lakes are still alive.
Let's face it, even the highly prized Walleye is an invasive species to most lakes in our area. They're not native, but have thrived for the most part in our shallow prairie lakes. Do I want zebra mussels in our lakes? No, of course not. However, I'm being realistic. Sometimes you have to look for the good with the bad.
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