One of the real gems of Otter Tail County’s impressive array of freshwater lakes has joined a growing list of waters infected with zebra mussels.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed multiple adult and juvenile zebra mussels in Eagle Lake, a 907.4 acre lake in Eagle Lake Township, 20 miles southeast of Fergus Falls.
The clean, cool, blue-green waters of the beautiful lake have made it a favorite with swimmers, boaters and lake home residents for decades. The beauty of the lake can be seen from multiple points, including State Highway 78. A township park and a DNR boat landing on the south side of the lake gives the public access. Eagle Lake also offers multiple species of gamefish including black crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, rock bass, northern pike, walleye and yellow perch.
A lake property owner removing equipment from the lake for the season contacted the DNR after finding what were confirmed to be adult zebra mussels on a dock and related equipment being removed for the season. DNR staff conducted equipment searches and found seven juvenile zebra mussels in a second area of the lake, about three-quarters of a mile from the location of the original report.
Eagle joins a list of approximately 45 Otter Tail County lakes, rivers and reservoirs infested with the invasive species. It was confirmed in early September that a single zebra mussel was discovered in East Battle Lake, located 12 miles northeast of Eagle Lake. A lake property owner removing equipment from the lake for the season contacted the DNR after finding an adult zebra mussel attached to a dock post. DNR divers did not find any additional zebra mussels after searching 20 other pieces of equipment that had been removed from the lake and 350 objects in four areas of the lake. Neighboring West Battle Lake has carried zebra mussels for two years.
“If you look at where the invasive species are they are in the popular lakes that get used often,” Otter Tail County invasive species specialist Spencer McGrew told the Daily Journal in July.
About 7% of Minnesota’s more than 11,000 lakes are on the infested waters list. Less than 3% of Minnesota lakes are listed as infested with zebra mussels.
Lake property owners should carefully check boats and trailers, docks and lifts, and all other water-related equipment for invasive species when removing equipment for seasonal storage.
It is especially important to follow Minnesota’s law and keep docks and boat lifts out of the water for at least 21 days before putting them into another body of water. This state law is central to the training DNR-permitted lake service provider businesses receive.
Anyone transporting a dock or lift from a shoreline property to another location for storage or repair may need a permit, to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
The DNR recommends these steps for lake property owners:
Look on the posts, wheels and underwater support bars of docks and lifts, as well as any parts of boats, pontoons and rafts that may have been submerged in water for an extended period.
Hire DNR-permitted lake service provider businesses to install or remove boats, docks, lifts and other water-related equipment. These businesses have attended training on Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species laws and many have experience identifying and removing invasive species.
People should contact an area DNR aquatic invasive species specialist if they think they have found zebra mussels or any other invasive species.
Minnesota law requires boaters and anglers to:
• Clean watercraft and trailers of aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species,
• Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
• Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody:
• Spray with high-pressure water.
• Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds).
• Dry for at least five days.
Zebra mussels can compete with native species for food and habitat, cut the feet of swimmers, reduce the performance of boat motors, and cause serious damage to water intake pipes.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources contributed to this article.