Boats on LakeAcross the United States an increasing number of lakes are requiring that all vessels be inspected prior to launching. Not for booze, not for life jackets, but for mussels. Mussels, not muscles, so don’t worry about wearing a tank top. Your bare guns are still allowed on the lake. However, any freeloading mollusks that you may have accidentally brought along aren’t welcome.

In the 1980’s, Quagga and Zebra mussels established themselves in the Great Lakes. Originally from Eurasia, this highly invasive species has spread across the United States, transported by the watercraft of unknowing boaters. Today, Quagga and Zebra mussels have been identified in a number of lakes throughout the country, and officials are doing their best to put a stop to the spread.

The Problem

One Quagga mussel can produce over 500,000 larvae in the span of one year. And that’s just one. As more mussels establish themselves in a lake, they quickly colonize on hard surfaces including rocks, dams and any pipes used for water transportation or electricity generation. Besides permanent features, mussels are also happy to latch onto your boat, clogging motors and hitching a ride to the next body of water you visit.

However, the issue doesn’t stop there. As Quagga and Zebra mussels grow in numbers, the amount of food required to sustain them also grows. These mussels primarily feed on microscopic animals and plants that live in lakes by filtering water through their systems. Although it may not sound like a big deal, when mussels take too much of the planktonic particles out of lake water, it can severely affect the environment and restrict the ability of native species to survive in the lake.

While it all sounds very scientific, it comes down to this: invasive mussels will muck up a lake in no time, jack up your boat and clog systems within the lake. They’re bad news.

The Solution

Jurisdictions that have determined their lakes to be at-risk are requiring that watercraft be inspected for Quagga and Zebra mussels prior to entering the water. However, the exact rules differ from lake to lake. Some reservoirs require that all boats be inspected, while others only mandate inspections for vessels considered “high risk.” The term “high risk” typically refers to vessels that are transported between multiple lakes.

Inspections must be paid for by the boat owner, at a rate of $10 to $50, depending on the size of the boat and lake you’ll be launching at. Inspection stations are usually located near the lake, however, when visiting  a lake mandating inspections you may want to check the hours of the station to ensure that they’re open.

During the inspection itself, the inspector will be checking to see that your boat has been cleaned, drained and dried out since its last use and looking for any signs of mussels that have latched on. What can you do to ensure it goes smoothly? Be prepared and be proactive. After pulling your boat out of a lake, always drain the vessel and allow it to dry out completely. Also take the time to give boats and jet skis a good wash. By catching any sneaky mollusks at home, you’ll be sure to pass inspection and stop the spread of mussels.