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Inks Lake infested with zebra mussels

Inks Lake in Burnet County

Inks Lake was added to the growing list of Texas lakes fully infested with invasive zebra mussels after reproducing populations were detected in the lake earlier in June. Staff photo

Inks Lake joined the growing list of Texas lakes fully infested with zebra mussels. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department confirmed in a news release that the invasive species has established a reproducing population in the Burnet County lake. 

Now, all of the Highland Lakes — Inks, Austin, Travis, Marble Falls, LBJ, and Buchanan — are fully infested.

Lake Buchanan was determined to be fully infested in 2020. Since the large lake is directly above Inks in the Colorado River chain of lakes, authorities feared it was only a matter of time before the smaller lake became infested. 

Earlier this spring, Lower Colorado River Authority staff collected plankton samples from Inks Lake that contained zebra mussel larvae. The larvae were found near Inks Dam and the Texas 29 crossing in April. In May, the LCRA again detected larvae near the Texas 29 crossing.

LCRA staff conducted another survey in June, including near Inks Dam and just downstream of Buchanan Dam. This time, they found seven zebra mussels of different sizes, indicating a reproducing population had been established in Inks Lake.

Zebra mussels
While zebra mussels are small individually, they can attach to things, including boats, in large groups and cause costly damages. Photo by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

TPWD officials also announced that Lake Brownwood and Medina Lake are fully infested as of June. This brings the number of fully infested Texas lakes to 27. Zebra mussels have been detected in at least 32 lakes.

TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director Brian Van Zee said there are “far more lakes that still haven’t been invaded and are at risk.”

“As zebra mussels are continuing to spread westward and southward to new areas of Texas, and those lakes become fully infested, nearby lakes have an increased risk of being invaded and it is vital that boaters take steps to clean, drain, and dry boats to help slow the spread,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD’s aquatic invasive species senior scientist. “Boats owned or recently purchased that have been stored in the water must be decontaminated before moving them to another lake to prevent the spread of these highly invasive mussels.”

Though zebra mussels are small individually, at less than one inch when fully grown, they tend to form large colonies on natural and man-made structures in the water. These colonies can damage water intakes, boats, and docks. The mussels can also survive for days out of the water. Their hard, sharp shells can injure people and animals. Larvae are microscopic and undetectable to the naked eye. 

Currently, there is no known way of effectively controlling zebra mussel populations. However, people can slow the spread by cleaning, draining, and drying their boats and gear before traveling from lake to lake. They should remove plants, mud, and debris; drain all water from the boat and gear; and then open compartments to allow everything to dry completely for at least a week, if possible.

To learn more about preventing the spread of zebra mussels, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s invasive species webpage. Anyone who spots zebra mussels on boats, trailers, or equipment that is being moved should immediately report the sighting to the department at 512-389-4848.

For more information on properly cleaning, draining, and drying boats, view the TPWD’s short, instructional video.