Aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and hydrilla, pose a threat to the economy and natural resources of numerous waterways throughout the United States. Anyone who uses water – for work or play – can help stop the spread of these invasive species. These species are transported in boating, fishing, and recreational equipment to new areas where they can quickly take over. Please help prevent the transport of aquatic invasive species by remembering to CHECK, DRAIN, CLEAN, and DRY equipment.
What are Aquatic Invasive Species?
Certain non-native aquatic species can spread unchecked due to lack of predators, natural adaptations, and ideal habitat conditions. These plants and animals, called aquatic invasive species, are typically not considered a nuisance in their native range but become a problem when introduced into a new environment. Some of the aquatic invasive species of concern found in Oklahoma are hydrilla, a plant native to Central Africa, and zebra and quagga mussels, small mollusks native to Eastern Europe. Lake of the Arbuckles has a known infestation of hydrilla, which has been monitored for further spread within lake boundaries. There are currently more than 20 water sources in Oklahoma with known infestations of zebra mussels, including nearby Lake Murray and Lake Texoma.
Why should we be concerned?
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) grows quickly and pervasively in freshwater environments, outcompeting native aquatic plants for space and nutrients. Dense growth of hydrilla can raise water pH and temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen. Smaller fish may use these stands as hiding spots but larger fish become uncommon due to less-than-ideal water conditions. The lack of water movement in these areas can also create an ideal environment for mosquitoes to lay eggs. The long strands of the plants can foul up boat motors and even affect irrigation and powerplant operations.
Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and Quagga mussels (Dreisenna bugensis) first appeared in the United States in the 1980s in the Great Lakes basin. Since that time, they have spread throughout the country, disrupting ecosystems and damaging recreational and commercial equipment. These two species are especially concerning as invasives for these reasons:
They grow and reproduce exponentially.
They clog water infrastructure, impacting water supply and quality.
They have significant ecological impact and alter ecosystem food chains.
They can damage recreational boats, docks, buoys, and other equipment.
Their economic impact is valued in the billions, through added maintenance to water treatment, hydroelectric, and irrigation systems.
They are very difficult to kill and there has been no known success in eradicating waterway systems populations. Once established, they are here to stay!
They spread very quickly to other water bodies in numerous ways, including on boats, anchors, trailers, fishing equipment, bilge water, live bait wells, and water currents.
How can you help?
Lake of the Arbuckles and Veterans Lake do not yet have populations of invasive mussels, and the National Park Service would like to keep it that way. Preventing the spread of hydrilla to new areas of these lakes is also a priority.
CLEAN off visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from watercraft, motor, trailer, and equipment before leaving water access. Scrub hull using a stiff brush. Rinse watercraft, trailer, and equipment with high pressure hot water when possible. Flush motor according to owner’s manual.
DRAIN water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell, and portable bait containers before leaving water access.
DRY everything for five days or more, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
CLEAN off plants, animals, and mud from gear and equipment including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear before leaving water access. Scrub off any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush.
DRAIN water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell and portable bait containers before leaving water access. Replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water when keeping live bait before leaving water access.
DRY everything five days or more, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
DISPOSE of unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash. When keeping live bait, drain bait container and replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water. Never dump live fish or other organisms from one water body into another.
Visitors who may have discovered new aquatic invasives or new areas of infestation in the state of Oklahoma are encouraged to report to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Early notification can help prevent further spread. Do your part to protect our waterways!