Lake Brownwood, Medina Lake, and Inks Lake Now Fully “Infested” with Zebra Mussels
AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has designated Lake Brownwood, Inks Lake, and Medina Lake in the Colorado and San Antonio River basins as ‘infested’ with invasive zebra mussels. Infested status signifies that there is an established, reproducing population of zebra mussels in the lake. The designation results from recent sampling efforts that revealed evidence that zebra mussels in Lake Brownwood and Medina Lake are now fully established and reproducing and detection of a new infestation in Inks Lake.
“As zebra mussels are continuing to spread westward and southward to new areas in Texas and as those lakes become fully infested, nearby lakes have an increased risk of being invaded. It is vital that boaters take steps to clean, drain, and dry boats to help slow the spread. Boats owned or recently purchased that have been stored in the water must be decontaminated before moving them to another lake to prevent the spread of these highly invasive mussels,” said Monica McGarrity, Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species.
TPW detected Zebra mussel larvae in plankton samples, samples of microscopic aquatic organisms collected in November at Lake Brownwood near Flat Rock Park and Lake Brownwood State Park. On June 1, the Brown County Water Improvement District found two zebra mussels on a pontoon boat at a marina. Later in the week, the water improvement district also saw a giant impact of zebra mussel at Goat Island near the state park and another at a fifth location, a buoy on the main lake. Due to the presence of zebra mussels in multiple sizes and at several locations within the lake, there is a strong indication of an established, reproducing population of zebra mussels, and they designated Lake Brownwood as fully infested.
They found zebra mussel larvae in plankton samples collected by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) at Inks Lake this spring. They found Larvae near the dam and Highway 29 crossing in April, followed by a second detection at the Highway 29 site in May. June surveys conducted by the LCRA near the dam and at an upstream site just downstream from Buchanan Dam revealed a total of seven zebra mussels of multiple sizes. It indicates the establishment of a reproducing population, and Inks Lake is now designated as fully infested. Lake Buchanan, which is upstream of Inks Lake, became overrun in 2020. With inevitable downstream dispersal, the chances of Inks Lake becoming infested were extraordinarily high, so they closely monitored the lake.
A sighting by a member of the public in February and subsequent surveys uncovered a total of three zebra mussels at multiple sites on Medina Lake, leading to an initial designation of the lake as ‘positive’ for zebra mussels.
In late May, a lakefront landowner reported finding a more significant mussel count at their dock on the lake near Elm Cove and provided a specimen. As a result, the Bandera County River Authority & Groundwater District conducted intensive shoreline and snorkeling surveys, locating numerous zebra mussels at sites near Echo Point and Elm Cove. The most recent discoveries, combined with the initial sightings in February, revealed numerous mussels of different sizes in multiple locations, indicating the presence of an established, reproducing population, and Medina Lake is now designated as fully infested.
“Unfortunately, zebra mussels have now spread to 32 Texas lakes, with 27 fully infested, but there are far more lakes that still haven’t been invaded and are at risk. Each boater taking steps to clean and drain their boat before leaving the lake and allowing compartments and gear to dry when they get home can make a big difference. It protects our Texas lakes,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director.
People often transport zebra mussels on or in boats. Boaters play a critical role in preventing them from spreading to new lakes. Zebra mussels attach to boats and anything left in the water, including anchors, and can survive for days out of the water, often hiding in crevices where they may hide easily. Their larvae are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, and you can unknowingly transport them in residual water in boats. Texas urges boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats and gear before traveling from lake to lake. Remove plants, mud, and debris, drain all the water and equipment, and then open up compartments once you get home and allow everything to dry completely for at least a week if possible.
If you have stored your boat in the water at a lake with zebra mussels or purchased a boat stored on one of these lakes, it is likely infested with zebra mussels and poses an extremely high risk for moving this invasive species to a new lake. Before moving your boat to another lake, call TPWD at (512) 389-4848 to guide decontamination. In addition, other equipment stored in infested lakes, such as barges, docks, hoists, pumps, etc., are other potential vectors for spreading invasive species. So those items also need to be thoroughly decontaminated before transporting to another water body.
The transport of aquatic invasive species can result in legal trouble for boaters or transporters. 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 freshwater.
Additionally, anyone who spots zebra mussels on boats, trailers, or equipment moving should immediately report the sighting to TPWD at (512) 389-4848.
TPWD and partners monitor for zebra mussels in Texas lakes. Still, anyone who finds them in lakes where they haven’t been before should report them immediately by emailing photos and location information to AquaticInvasives@tpwd.texas.gov.
A status map showing all lakes where they have found zebra mussels in Texas is online at tpwd.texas.gov/ZebraMussels. For more information on properly cleaning, draining, and drying boats and equipment, visit the TPWD YouTube channel for a short instructional video.
You can find marinas and owners or buyers of boats stored in the water on lakes with zebra mussels on the TPWD website. To learn more about zebra mussels and other invasive species in Texas, visit tpwd.texas.gov/StopInvasives.
New Program Expands Fishing Access across Texas, Supports Freshwater Fish Habitat Projects
AUSTIN – The new Habitat and Angler Access Program (HAAP) will award grants to develop and increase shoreline and bank fishing access and restore and enhance fish habitat in Texas’ public inland waters. August 20 is the deadline to apply for grants under the new Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) program funded from the sale of freshwater fishing licenses.
The program will enable the TPWD Inland Fisheries Division to support habitat and angler access improvement projects led by eligible groups such as local municipalities, water authorities, educational institutions, and other civic and conservation organizations. TPWD will be requesting applications for the HAAP starting June 21.
“The Habitat and Angler Access Program is an exciting opportunity for us to collaborate and support partners interested in expanding fishing opportunities and bettering the quality of fisheries for Texans,” said Michael Homer Jr., fisheries biologist for the TPWD Inland Fisheries Division. “The program is intended to identify and implement projects with the highest potential to enhance freshwater fisheries resources and improve bank and shoreline access in public waters.”
Grants awarded up to $50,000 may support individual fish habitat improvement and angler access projects on public ponds, large reservoirs, streams, and rivers. The HAAP will support fish habitats improvement projects such as bank and shoreline stabilization projects, installation of erosion control features, deployment of artificial habitat structures, and dredging excessive silt and organic materials from reservoirs with high potential for quality fishery development.
Bank or shoreline-based angler access projects that HAAP possibly supports include developing or improving fishing piers and installing fish-attracting features (e.g., underwater dock lighting and habitat structures). Also, the creation of jetties and the construction of non-motorized boat launch for kayaks, canoes, and other small watercraft for fishing access.
Please see the Habitat and Angler Access Program on the TPWD Grants Page for more information or to apply. Organizations interested in partnering with TPWD on a potential project are strongly encouraged to coordinate with their local Inland Fisheries Management biologist. You can obtain additional information regarding the program by contacting FishGrants@tpwd.texas.gov.
Eligible applicants are encouraged to apply at any time during the submission period. However, all applications must be received no later than August 20, 2021. Approved projects will have a completion deadline of August 31, 2023.