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Zebra mussels prompt stiffer regulations

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, September 14, 2013

In the ongoing effort to combat the spread of zebra mussels, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved last month a new array of proposed rules for public comment.

Among other things, the rules require all boats operating on public water in 17 northeast Texas counties – including Wise – be drained after use.

Three hearings have been scheduled next month to solicit input from the public on the new rules. They are:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Fort Worth at Cabela’s, 12901 Cabelas Drive
  • Tuesday, Oct. 8, in Denison at the Denison SNAP Center, 531 West Chestnut
  • Wednesday, Oct. 9, in Garland at Bass Pro Shops, 5001 Bass Pro Drive

All meetings are set to begin at 7 p.m.

The commission is expected to take action on the proposed change at its Nov. 7 meeting.

Zebra mussels got a foothold in Lake Texoma in 2009 after migrating down from the great lakes. Last year, they were found in Lake Ray Roberts and the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. More recently, zebra mussels have spread to Lake Bridgeport on the West Fork and into Lake Lewisville.

They expand their range by hitching a ride on trailered boats that have been immersed in waters where they have established populations.

The rapidly reproducing mussels, originally from Eurasia, can have serious economic and recreational impact to Texas reservoirs. They can clog public-water intake pipes, harm boats and motors left in infested waters by covering boat hulls, clog water-cooling systems, annoy boat-dock owners by completely covering anything left underwater, and make water recreation hazardous because of their sharp edges.

From an environmental standpoint, zebra mussels are filter feeders, which means they compete with baitfish such as shad for available forage. Any impact on baitfish in turn can affect their predators – game fish such as bass, striped bass and catfish. Zebra mussels are also very harmful to native mussel populations because they will colonize on their shells and essentially suffocate them.

The commission’s action in their Aug. 21 meeting is the result of additional rule-making authority granted to the TPW commission through House Bill 1241, passed last spring by the 83rd Legislature.

Under the proposed regulations, persons leaving or approaching public water in the affected counties will be required to drain all water from their vessel before leaving the lake. This would apply to all types and sizes of boats, whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats or any other vessel used to travel on public waters.

In addition to Wise, the proposed rule will apply on all public waters in Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Jack, Kaufman, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Stephens, Tarrant and Young counties.

Applicable in all areas where boats can be launched, the regulation would require the draining of live wells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water intake systems coming into contact with public waters.

Activities that would be affected under this proposal are:

  • live fish could not be transported in water that comes from the water body where they were caught;
  • personally caught live bait could only be used in the water body where it was caught; and
  • no off-site tournament weigh-ins would be allowed if live fish are being transported off a body of water in one of the affected counties.

Anglers would be allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait in water provided they have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body could only be used as bait on that same water body.

Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day would not require drainage and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies.

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