Zebra mussels invade Whitefish chain of lakes
The recent discovery of adult zebra mussels in Cross Lake, part of the 14-member lake Whitefish chain of lakes, has been confirmed by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) aquatic invasive species biologist.
Preliminary searches of connected waters have resulted in the confirmation of additional zebra mussels in Lower Hay Lake and suggest the infestation is not isolated to Cross Lake.
This designation on the Whitefish chain of lakes represents a new, overland infestation and underscores the need for continued diligence in complying with the state's invasive species prevention protocols, according to DNR leaders.
To date, DNR aquatic invasive species (AIS) inspectors and conservation officers have reported 3,808 contacts with boaters and other water recreationists which have resulted in 369 violations, nearly a 10 percent violation rate. Failure to remove the boat plug is the most often cited violation.
"Although more people are getting the message and following our AIS laws," said Ken Soring, DNR enforcement director, "there is still a 10 percent violation rate. That means one out of every 10 boaters is not taking the necessary precautions to avoid spreading AIS."
"Conservation officers will continue to enforce AIS laws to protect our valuable natural resources with the expectation that all water recreation users must take personal responsibility for following all AIS laws. Prevention of the spread of AIS is dependent on individuals taking on this responsibility," said Soring.
Fourteen lakes in the Whitefish chain of lakes will be designated as infested waters and signage is being posted at all public access. That does not mean each lake is confirmed to be infested, but that zebra mussels have been detected in a lake accessible by boat from those accesses and spread is likely between those connected waters.
Designated waters in Crow Wing County include:
Whitefish chain of lakes
--Big Trout Lake.
--Little Pine Lake.
--Lower Hay Lake.
--Big Pine Lake.
--Pine River, Crow Wing County, from base of Cross Lake Dam to the confluence with Pelican Brook (upper limit of existing designated infested waters).
Volunteers from the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association (WAPOA) are helping install signs and notifying area homeowners and businesses. "These findings, while disappointing, do not alter WAPOA's mission of conservation for future generations," said WAPOA President Dave Fischer. "We will continue working closely with the DNR on steps to prevent the spread to other lakes and to halt the introduction of new infestations here."
Anglers, boaters and other recreationists are reminded to remove all aquatic vegetation and drain water from all water equipment, remove the drain plug from boats before leaving the boat landing and travel only with the drain plug removed.
The 2013 Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton added $7.5 million to the DNR's base budget for the AIS program.
More information about zebra mussels, how to inspect boats and other water-related equipment, and a current list of designated infested waters is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/ais.