Zebra mussels have been found in Brainerd's Rice Lake, a discovery that's "extremely serious for the Mississippi River," said Gary Montz, zebra mussel coordinator for the DNR.
Gil Millette, a 14-year-old Brainerd boy, found a single mussel last Sunday on a bait bucket hanging from his family's dock on Rice Lake, a 400-acre impoundment on the Mississippi River. Gil showed the mussel to his father, Hank, who took it to the Brainerd DNR office Monday. Three DNR staffers searched Rice Lake near the Millette property and found more of the invasive mussels.
"The presence of zebra mussels poses a major risk to the river downstream," Montz said. "It's likely they're established in other parts of the river or adjacent backwaters."
Zebra mussels are now present in the St. Croix River, Mississippi River south of the Twin Cities, Zumbro River, Lake Mille Lacs and Crow Wing County's Lake Ossawinnamakee and Pelican Brook.
Karen Millette, Gil's mother, said Ed Feiler, lake management specialist for the DNR, told her the mussels might have got into the Mississippi River through its connection to Ossawinnamakee. Its outlet, Pelican Brook, flows into the Pine River, which flows into the Mississippi. But, Montz said, "we'll never really know" how the mussels got into Rice Lake.
Zebra mussels have serious impacts on lakes and rivers because they kill native mussels, the DNR said. Fish are affected because the mussels filter water and remove the plankton and invertebrates fish need to survive. Swimmers are cut by the sharp shells. Businesses and utilities that use Mississippi River water are affected when mussels block pipes and reduce water flow.
Ironically, this most recent discovery occurred during the state-proclaimed Invasive Species Awareness Month.
"It points out the importance of stopping aquatic hitchhikers by cleaning boats and not transporting water from infested waters," Montz said.
According to the DNR, boaters should take the following precautions to prevent the spread of zebra mussels:
Carefully remove all aquatic plants from watercraft, trailers and equipment.
Drain all water from live wells, bilges and bait buckets before leaving a boat ramp.
Wash boats in hot water or let them dry thoroughly for five days before launching on another lake or river.
Follow the above precautions for any recreational equipment, including docks, rafts and other gear.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862.
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