War on Zebra Mussels Escalates with Proposed North Texas Rules on Boating, Fishing

Texas Parks and Wildlife unveiled proposed new rules Thursday to slow the advance of rapacious zebra mussels, which have hitchhiked their way as far south as Lake Lewisville with the help of oblivious boaters.

The invasive Eurasian mollusk propagates so rapidly that they stopper public water-uptake pipes, coat the hulls of boats and ruin their motors and can cause declines in game fish like catfish and striped bass by hogging all the phytoplankton bait fish rely on. They can eliminate native mussel species by colonizing their shells and suffocating them.

They're such effective filtration devices that they clear the water, allowing sunlight to penetrate to greater depths. It sounds like a benefit, but it isn't. Greater clarity causes the water to warm, potentially rendering it uninhabitable to certain species. Zebra mussels pose a huge threat not just to the ecosystems within our lakes, but to our water infrastructure as well. And in these dry times, we can ill afford to lose any.

To keep them out of the rest of North Texas' lakes and reservoirs, TPWD is proposing some pretty common-sense rules for a 17-county area. Boaters coming to or leaving any public waters would be required to drain all water from their vessels -- that means sailboats, jet skis, fishing boats, everything. No water can remain in your bilges, bait tanks, motors or anything else that comes in contact with the water.

If you catch a fish, you can't transport it in water from the lake. If you catch your own bait in a lake, it can only be used in that lake. Even if you buy it from a shop near the lake, it can be used only there.

Click here for a list of the counties that would be affected by these rules and the dates and locations of public meetings. If you'd like to submit a comment to TPWD, you can do that here.

Expect action on these new rules at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission's November 7 meeting.