, Muskogee, OK


June 12, 2014

Make mussel containment a priority

An expert once likened the possible zebra mussel infestation in water pipes coming out of a lake to plaque build-up in a person’s carotid artery.

Power plant equipment and public water intakes and pipes can be disrupted by this tiny invader.

Authorities have always cautioned the public about picking up hitchhikers on the highways. Now we need to be diligent and make sure no aquatic hitchhikers are riding along when we leave our waters after fishing or boating expeditions.

I am speaking of the zebra mussel and its cousin, the quagga mussel.  

They are both invasive freshwater mollusks or clams that infest waters in large numbers, attaching to any hard surface, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Although they are native to the Caspian and Black Sea areas, the zebra mussel expanded through shipping canals throughout most of Europe and Great Britain by the 1830’s.

They were first discovered in North America around the Great Lakes region in 1988.

A few years after that, the mussels had made their way down the Hudson and Illinois, to the Mississippi then the infestation was seen to  include areas of  the Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers of Oklahoma.

These unwelcome guests are small, from microscopic size up to two inches in length. They usually are found in clusters.

Zebra mussels can release up to 1 million eggs in a lifetime.

The mussels attach themselves to almost anything such as boats, trailers, live wells, bilge pumps, bait buckets, aquatic plants, and any kind of aquatic recreational equipment. Then, they hitch a ride to the next body of water your equipment enters.

They are a costly nuisance for anglers and boaters. Zebra mussels can ruin your equipment and clog cooling systems in motor boats.

To protect our waters, if you have had your boat in infested territory, it is important to remove all plants, animals and mud and then thoroughly wash everything including all crevices and hidden areas on your boat and equipment.

Drain your boat. Eliminate all water before leaving the area, including wells, ballast and engine cooling water. Allow time for your boat to completely dry before launching in other waters.

As a friend of mine who is retired from the Corps of Engineers said, “They are pretty to look at, but what they can do is ugly.”

Fortunately, the majority of water areas are not yet infested with these hitchhikers. Let’s work to protect our waterways.

John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. To reach him with news or comments, call (918) 348-9431 or email him at

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