AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging boaters and paddlers planning to get out on the water this summer to do their part against aquatic invasive species threatening Texas lakes.
TPWD says that over the past year, species like zebra mussels and giant salvinia have continued to spread to new areas in Texas, including in lakes in Central Texas.
"Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off to boating season in Texas, and while we want everyone to have a great time, we also want them to avoid giving free rides to invasive species and helping them travel to new lakes," said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director. "The best way to prevent the spread of destructive invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment – every time."
While zebra mussels and giant salvinia remain some of the biggest threats, other highly invasive species can also be spread or introduced by in-state and out-of-state boaters, including water hyacinth, Eurasian watermilfoil, hydrilla, and quagga mussels.
Giant salvinia, a highly invasive, free-floating aquatic fern that can double its coverage area in less than a week is one of the major threats as it produces thick mats that make fishing, boating, swimming, and other water recreation nearly impossible.
Giant salvinia is currently present on 23 East Texas lakes and numerous rivers, creeks, and marshes between Houston and Beaumont. While giant salvinia is currently not limiting angling or boating access in Texas public waters due to the ongoing efforts to manage this invasive plant, there is still a chance of plants hitchhiking from one lake to another on a boat, trailer, or other equipment.
Zebra mussels, a non-native shellfish that attaches to hard surfaces, damage boats and infrastructure for water supply and control, alter lake ecosystems and cause harm to native species. They also litter shorelines with hazardous, sharp shells that impact lakefront recreation.
Zebra mussels are found in 31 Texas lakes across six river basins, as well as in river reaches downstream of infested lakes. The TPWD and partners monitor lakes around the state for early detection of zebra mussels, but once they’ve been introduced and become established in a lake, nothing can be done to control or eradicate them.
TPWD says that boaters need to remove all plants, mud, and debris from boats, trailers, vehicles, and gear and drain the water from all equipment and onboard receptacles before leaving the lake. In addition, boats should be dried completely before visiting another lake, preferably for at least a week.
Washing the boat and compartments using a carwash or spray nozzle on a water hose can help to reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species if drying is not possible.
If you have stored your boat in the water at a lake with zebra mussels, it is likely infested with zebra mussels and poses an extremely high risk for moving this invasive species to a new lake. Boaters can call TPWD at 512-389-4848 for guidance on decontamination before moving their boat to another lake.
Transporting prohibited invasive species in Texas is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to $500 per violation. Boaters are also required to drain all water from their boat and onboard receptacles, including bait buckets, before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water and to immediately remove all invasive plants from the boat, trailer, and tow vehicle before leaving a lake.
Anyone who finds invasive species in lakes where they haven’t been found before or who spots them on boats, trailers, or equipment being moved can help identify and prevent new introductions by reporting the sighting to TPWD at 512-389-4848 or by emailing photos and location information to firstname.lastname@example.org.