In the state’s ongoing effort to combat the spread of invasive zebra mussels, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved expanding rules requiring anyone leaving or approaching public waters in 30 counties in Central and North Texas to drain their boats at its meeting on January 22.
Anglers and boaters leaving or approaching public water will be required to take all reasonable steps to drain all water from their vessel, including live wells, bilges, motors, and any other receptacles or water intake systems. This applies to all types and sizes of boats, whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, or any other vessel used on public waters.
The new rule applies to all public waters in Archer, Bastrop, Bell, Bosque, Burnet, Clay, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Hamilton, Hays, Henderson (west of Highway 19), Hill, Johnson, Leon, Limestone, Llano, McLennan, Navarro, Robertson, Somervell, Travis, Wichita, and Williamson.
Similar rules are in effect for 17 counties in North Texas — Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Jack, Kaufman, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Stephens, Tarrant, Wise, and Young.
The Commission’s actions also modified rules that affect participants in fishing tournaments holding off-site weigh-ins. The changes allow anglers participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body during a single day to transport live fish in water from that water body to an identified weigh-in location, provided all water is drained from their vessels before leaving the weigh-in location. Anglers will be required to possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that would identify them as participants in a tournament.
The rules to add the 30 counties and the allowance for off-site tournament weigh-ins will take effect in late February or early March.
Anglers are 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 does not require drainage and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies. Marine sanitary systems are not covered by the new regulations
“Unfortunately, zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, are not visible to the naked eye,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries regional director based in Waco. “You could be transporting them on your boat and not even know it. This is why it’s particularly important to always Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat and gear before heading to another water body.”
Zebra mussels became established in Texas in Lake Texoma in 2009. Over the last two years, zebra mussels have been found in Lakes Belton, Bridgeport, Lavon, Lewisville, and Ray Roberts. They can expand their range even farther by hitching a ride on trailered boats that have been immersed or moored in waters where they have established populations.
The zebra mussel is a small, non-native mussel originally found in Eurasia. It has spread throughout Europe, where it is considered to be a major environmental and industrial menace. The mussel appeared in North America in the late 1980s and within 10 years had colonized all five Great Lakes and the Mississippi, Tennessee, Hudson, and Ohio River basins.
The rapidly reproducing mussels, 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 under water, and make water recreation hazardous because of their sharp shells.
For more information on zebra mussels and how to clean, drain and dry a boat, visit http://www.