To look at them, you wouldn’t think they could scare anyone large enough to crush them with the heel of a shoe. But quagga and zebra mussels have put fear into just about anybody who has anything to do with managing the flow of water.
Given the ability of these diminutive creatures to plug water intakes and related infrastructure, those fears are understandable. But some measures taken to prevent the spread of mussels between waterways are beginning to significantly impact anglers and recreational boaters who frequent western waters.
Boaters traveling from Southern Nevada into Utah or California, for example, can expect to be stopped and have their vessels inspected. During its 2008 session, the Utah legislature passed a bill giving law enforcement officers the authority to stop and inspect any vehicle and boat that might be carrying quagga or zebra mussels. This includes vehicles and boats traveling down a road or highway, leaving parking lots or anywhere else the vehicle or boat might be.
The officers must have reasonable cause to believe the vessel might have been used on waters known to be infected with either mussel species or believe that the vessel is carrying mussels.
If you have a Nevada registration number and decal on your vessel, guess what? Because there is a high probability that your boat has been on the water somewhere along the lower Colorado River system — where quaggas are plentiful — there is a high probability that you will be stopped and your vessel and vehicle inspected before you are allowed to launch anywhere in the Beehive State.
Utah’s mussel law also requires that “any boat that has been on an infested water must be decontaminated before it enters Utah or is launched on any water in the state.” The state legislature also provided to pay for state-owned decontamination equipment.
Following the discovery of quagga mussels at Lake Mead in January 2007, one of the first steps California authorities took to prevent their spread from the Colorado River system into the state was to initiate vessel inspections at check stations along the state line.
Since the initial discovery at Lake Mead, quagga mussels also have been found in 17 California waterways, and zebra mussels have been located in yet another. That has local municipalities and water management agencies getting into the mussel-management picture. Some have closed lakes and reservoirs to recreational boating traffic in an effort to prevent infestation. Even Lake Casitas, known for giving up huge largemouth bass and one of California’s most popular bass fisheries, has been closed to boat traffic.
To date, there are no such closures in Nevada. But to keep the mussels from spreading into interior waters, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has asked boaters and anglers to clean, drain and dry their boats whenever they move from one water to another. Boats should be washed with hot water inside and out. Water intakes and pump systems also should be inspected and cleaned.
• ETHANOL ISSUE — A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the problems ethanol-enhanced gasoline was creating for boaters whose older vessels were fitted with fiberglass fuel tanks.
Reader Karyn Schmidt wrote in an e-mail, “Found your column about ethanol-enhanced fuel very interesting. … With the new fuel, we’ve been experiencing many problems with vapor-lock, especially in hotter weather. Our serviceman has seen other instances of the same problem. It’s quite ‘inconvenient’ to stop the engine, and then not have it start again. Luckily, it hasn’t been in ‘life or death’ situations.”
I’d say so.
• BIG GAME TAGS — The Clark County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife will be discussing NDOW recommendations for 2008 big-game tag quotas during a meeting scheduled Tuesday at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Training Room 3.
Also on the agenda are proposed revisions to state boating regulations and hunt area boundaries, as well as an update on a sportsman’s request for additional goose transplants at the Overton Wildlife Management Area.
Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is published Thursday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.