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For the first time, a North Dakota lake is found with zebra mussels

Reservoir near Valley City first North Dakota lake to be infested with invasive mussels

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Zebra mussels on a piece of pipe taken from an infested waterway. The Minnesota DNR on Monday, March 11, confirmed zebra mussel larvae have been found in Upper red Lake. Forum News Service file photo.

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Zebra mussels have been confirmed in Lake Ashtabula near here, according to a press release from the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish.

Lake Ashtabula is the first North Dakota lake in which the invasive species have been discovered. Adult zebra mussels were discovered in the Red River in 2015.

Zebra mussels, native to the Black and Caspian seas of western Asia and eastern Europe, multiply rapidly and quickly change the makeup of lakes because they filter water. The fingernail-sized mussels can cause damage to native fish, plant and mussel species. Their sharp edges can cut the feet and hands of swimmers, cause problems for boat motors and damage infrastructure.

Game and Fish said an angler discovered a suspected zebra mussel last week and turned it in to department aquatic nuisance species coordinator Jessica Howell, who confirmed it as an adult zebra mussel.

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Subsequent inspections of Lake Ashtabula, a 5,200-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-operated impoundment on the Sheyenne River, also found well-established populations of zebra mussels of various ages throughout the lake.

“This situation shows how important it is for boaters, anglers, swimmers and skiers to be aware of aquatic nuisance species and to take precautions to prevent their spread,” Howell said in a press release. “Everyone who uses this lake now plays a key role in stemming the spread of these mussels to uninfested waters.”

Game and Fish has classified Lake Ashtabula, and the Sheyenne River downstream all the way to the Red River, as Class I ANS infested water. Emergency rules will go into effect immediately to prohibit the movement of water away from the lake and river, including water for transferring bait. Notices will be posted at lake access sites and popular shore-fishing spots along the river, according to the press release.

Zebra mussels came to the United States in the 1980s in the ballast of cargo ships. They were first discovered in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River in 1988 and quickly spread to the Great Lakes and major rivers. About 180 lakes and wetlands in Minnesota have been confirmed with zebra mussels, according to that state's Department of Natural Resources. Another 167 bodies of water are listed as infested because they are closely connected to a waterway where zebra mussels have been found.

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A zebra mussel. Forum News Service file photo

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A zebra mussel. Forum News Service file photo

Related Topics: FISHING
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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