The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 21, 2013

Exotic species mussel in on Clear Lake

Some very large muskies call northern Iowa’s Clear Lake home, so it’s always possible that finned lightning might strike an unsuspecting angler.

But since most anglers there are targeting walleyes or yellow bass with light line and no leaders, those encounters usually are brief, ending with bite-offs when the sharp-toothed predators inhale a bait.

But lightning like that doesn’t strike very often, so after about the third or fourth time I and my brothers, Dan and Rick, lost tackle while fishing there last week, we began to wonder what exactly was going on.

That question was answered when I reeled in one time to check my bait.

Dangling from the hook was a cluster of fingernail-sized zebra mussels I somehow had hooked and dislodged from the submerged rock pile we were fishing.

Closer inspection revealed the cluster of a half-dozen adult zebra mussels tightly bound together had razor-sharp edges.

Rather than bite-offs, the Lindy-style sinkers we were using would lodge in the zebra mussel-encrusted rocks where the tight line was easily cut by the sharp edges.

The popular boating and fishing destination seven miles west of Mason City was discovered to have an infestation of zebra mussels eight years ago.

We have fished the lake regularly since then and except for the colonies of zebra mussels visible on dock pilings, boat lifts, the artificial weed bed filaments constructed of heavy monofilament we would occasionally snag, we hadn’t noticed much of an impact.

Fishing remained — and remains — pretty good.

But evidently, the zebra mussels now have reached sufficient numbers now to cover the rock piles we fished, easily slicing through any monofilament dragged across them.

In an effort to stem the further spread of zebra mussels, which also have been detected in the Iowa Great Lakes, laws that went into effect on July 1, 2013, that largely mirror Minnesota’s efforts to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species — the draining of live wells, removing drain plugs, and bait disposal.

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