August 2, 2019
It doesn’t get much better than spending a summer day on a lake or river in South Dakota. Recreating on the water always seems to be the perfect backdrop for family memories and laughter. It’s one of the great things about our state.
But when we launch our boats into the water, it’s important to remember that we all have a role to play in keeping our waters safe and free from invasive species that wreak havoc on these favorite places.
A few weeks ago, my department of Game, Fish and Parks confirmed zebra mussels in Lake Sharpe near Fort Thompson. Zebra mussels are a small freshwater mollusk that attach to hard objects to live. The mussels reproduce rapidly and move quickly. They can clog irrigation lines and damage boat motors and docks. Their sharp shells can wash up on shorelines in large numbers making recreation difficult or even dangerous when taking your family to the beach for the day.
Right now, surface water infrastructure like water intakes or irrigation systems are more impacted than fisheries, and zebra mussels can be especially hard on water systems. In some areas of the country, they have been found in densities of over 700,000 individuals per square meter.
The mussels also have the potential to harm aquatic ecosystems. The species is a filter feeder that consumes plankton in water. Each individual is capable of filtering up to one liter of water per day, removing food for native mussels and fish.
To minimize the spread of these creatures, the Game, Fish and Parks Commission has taken immediate action by adopting emergency rules to name Lake Sharpe and Lake Francis Case as containment waters to help mitigate the spread of the mussels. We’re taking this issue very seriously, and as we work to determine the extent of the infestation, it is important for us all to recognize the role we play in combating the spread of these mussels.
The only way for mussels to move from lake to lake is if people accidently carry them in or on their boats. Before too long, South Dakota waters will be at their peak water temperatures for young mussels, called veligers, to spread. If you’re spending time on Lake Sharpe or Lake Francis Case, or any other body of water in South Dakota, make sure you pull your boat plug before launching and upon exiting the lake or river. It only takes one boater or angler who has forgotten to pull their plug or check their boat before and after launching to spread any type of aquatic invasive species. It’s up to each of us to work together to protect our natural resource treasures.
If you are new to fishing or just bought a new or used boat, know the rules and ask questions if you are unsure of what you should be doing. Game, Fish and Parks staff are always there to help and are just a phone call away. If you don’t think this impacts you, you’re wrong. If you use South Dakota’s lakes and rivers to boat, fish, hunt or for any other form of recreation, you need to care about the devasting impacts of aquatic invasive species. I don’t want the next generation of anglers and boaters to have to solve this issue when we can do something about it today.
South Dakota’s water bodies are here for all of us to enjoy – for today and for the next generation. We must all take care of them together.