Zebra mussels are going to ruin all of our lakes right?

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 are now in several North Dakota lakes and rivers, and you can bet more will be added the future. 

They include the Red River, Lake LaMoure, Lake Ashtabula, Lake Elsie, the James River, and the Sheyenne River all in eastern North Dakota.

So far western North Dakota has been spared, but you can bet zebra mussels are coming.  Here's a map and more on ANS-infested waters in North Dakota.

Humans are considered the primary transporter of zebra mussels, but there are other spreaders.  According to Researchgate, waterfowl can transfer zebra mussels at the larvae stage.

What are we going to do about millions of migrating waterfowl each year?  Not to mention other shorebirds, reptiles, and even mammals.

I'm very familiar with zebra mussels.  I have a cabin on Enemy Swim Lake in South Dakota.  We've had zebra mussels present in the lake now going on 3 years.

Enemy Swim is located about 5 miles south of Pickerel Lake in northeast South Dakota.  Pickerel Lake has had zebra mussels for close to 5 years now.

Despite joint efforts from Fish and Game, cabin owner volunteers, and interns from Fish and Game with inspection points at the boat ramp, zebra mussels still found their way into my lake. I know we all did our 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 of 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 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 whether zebra mussels will 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.

Zebra mussels have been in Minnesota lakes now for decades and the cabin owners I know say nothing has changed except a little extra cleaning on the docks when they pull them out each year.

Let's face it, even the highly prized Walleye is an invasive species to 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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