Zebra mussels confirmed in Cass Lake in Cass County

Zebra mussels have been confirmed in Cass Lake located in Cass County in northwestern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

A citizen discovered the zebra mussels earlier in the week while collecting shells on the beach on the southeast corner of Cedar Island. The area is a popular beach and swimming area where people park their watercraft to swim and fish.

Three hollow (dead) zebra mussels of varying sizes (ages) were collected. The samples were given to a DNR creel clerk who submitted them to the DNR area fisheries office in Bemidji where they were verified to be zebra mussels.

Following the identification, DNR staff conducted a search on Cass Lake around the northwest and southeast points of Cedar Island. The crew inspected more than 200 items along 565 feet of shoreline and 2,500 square feet of lake habitat and found zebra mussels in a variety of sizes.

“This is the first confirmed adult zebra mussel find in the Bemidji area,” said Nicole Kovar, DNR invasive species specialist.

Cass Lake will be designated as zebra mussel infested. The reach of the Mississippi River between Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish will also be designated as zebra mussel waters with this discovery. Lake Winnibigoshish was designated as infested with zebra mussels in 2013 due to the discovery of zebra mussel veligers.

Buck Lake, Andrusia Lake, Wolf Lake, Pike Bay, Pug Hole Lake, Kitchi Lake, Little Rice Lake and Big Rice Lake and their respective connecting rivers will also be designated as zebra mussel infested. While no zebra mussels have been found in these lakes, they are heavily used by boaters traveling from Cass Lake.

When a report is made to the DNR, the first step is to confirm that is an invasive species by obtaining the sample from the individual who discovered it. Once identified, DNR aquatic invasive species (AIS) staff immediately survey shorelines and lake bottoms near the reported discovery sites in an attempt to confirm the infestation. Sometimes divers are used to search deeper waters. 
Kovar offers these suggestions to those who may think they may have made a discovery:

  • Place specimen in a bag or other container to keep it intact.
  • Take a photo of the suspected invasive species.
  • Mark on a lake map or GPS the exact location where specimen was found.
  • Contact a local DNR office immediately to arrange transport to the office. DNR regulations allow transport of vegetation and animals to field offices for identification purposes.
  • Email a photo and the location of possible discovery to a local DNR office.

“We appreciate the reports we receive from citizens,” Kovar said. “The DNR and citizens of the state are in this together and we need to work together to deal with AIS issues.”

Unless it is a sample being transported directly to a DNR office for identification, Minnesota law prohibits the possession or transport of any AIS in the state. AIS include, but are not limited to, zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas. Boaters and anglers need to continue to follow the law when using this and other popular lakes to avoid spreading AIS to new waters.

Preventing the spread of invasive species takes personal responsibility. Before leaving any water access or shoreland boaters must remove all aquatic vegetation, dispose of bait, drain water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.

More information about zebra mussels, how to inspect boats and other water-related equipment, and a current list of designated infested waters is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/ais.


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