Thursday, December 29, 2011


From WATERWORKS, an Outdoors Column by Gordon Prickett for 1/4/2012, Aitkin Independent Age

Who could have known that there would be five weeks of ice - so far - with hardly any snow covering our lakes? Or that the sub-zero temps would hold off so that the ice wouldn’t get thick? But this has given us a unique opportunity to watch ice ridges and cracks form, and to listen to the groaning and booming of the ice, circling the shore. In seventeen winters I’ve never heard such a percussion performance from our lake. But now let it snow! Let it snow!


One of the toughest of the aquatic invasive species (AIS) to detect or prevent in our lakes and rivers is Zebra Mussels. They look like small clams with a yellowish or brownish “D”-shaped shell, from 1/4 to 1 ½ inches long. They have dark- and light-colored stripes like a zebra. Zebra Mussels grow in clusters and firmly attach themselves to solid objects - docks, boat lifts, boat hulls, water intake pipes, and rocks. They grow in shallow algae-rich water, less than 30 feet in depth.

This is an excellent time to go down to the shoreline and crawl around and under your dock and boat lift, while they are pulled up on shore. Without having any snow to interfere with a careful examination, look over the surfaces that were underwater all summer. Young Zebra Mussels on a smooth surface feel like fine sandpaper. If you find something suspicious, call the DNR at 218-927-3751.


With new state regulations against transporting lake water in bait buckets and live wells, there will be stepped-up enforcement when the ice goes out. The service providers who handle docks, boat lifts, and who store watercraft will be trained and certified in the future, in order to identify and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. The Aitkin County Lakes and Rivers Association (ACLARA) has arranged training sessions by the DNR for AIS awareness in 2011, and will continue to do this in the new year.

It is not only the points of public access that need to be checked, however. At every dock, and with every lake visitor who tows his boat from another lake, there is a potential for harmful invasives to enter our county lakes.


One of the roles of ACLARA is to assist folks around a lake who have an interest in organizing a lake association where one does not exist. It is not too early to start planning for the 2012 season. You can call me at 218-927-2267, and we will be happy to get together with you.

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