ANYONE WHO HASN’T VISITED LAKE Michigan in a few decades would be shocked to see it now.
Before the 1980s, it was greenish and visibility was practically nil. Now it resembles the Caribbean with its star- tlingly blue color and clarity. If this sounds like a good thing, it’s actually fool’s gold, because it was caused by one of the most dramatic cases of exotic species invasion ever seen in the U.S. The
culprit is the tiny zebra mussel, which is native to Russia and was inadvertently introduced into Lake St. Clair, near Detroit, and has spread across the Midwest and beyond. Their numbers are staggering: up to 100,000 can live in 1 square meter, and each one can filter about a quart of water a day, which means every couple of days, the entire volume of the lake passes through them, robbing many native species of food.
Trailerboating is all about the free- dom to take your boat anywhere you can launch it, but with this privilege comes responsibility. Many invasive species hitchhike in the bilges and livewells or on the exterior of boats and trailers. New wakesport boats that have huge ballast tanks pose
an additional hazard. Many lakes have inspections and hot-water spray stations to prevent the spread of pests. At many popular sites, the procedure can delay your launch by hours as you wait in line.
There are many steps you can take to prevent the spread of exotic species. First, as soon as you get your boat on the trailer, pull the drain plug and drain anything else that holds water
— ballast tanks, livewells, etc. — to let potentially critter-contaminated water evacuate. Next, inspect your trailer and boat’s exterior for vegetation such as the exotic milfoil, which can choke out lakes. It has done that to Lake Monona, where I learned to waterski in Wisconsin. PWC riders should start
their engines briefly to expel any water stored internally, and boaters should thoroughly flush their engines as soon as possible. If you’ve boated in known contaminated waters, head to a car wash and spray down your boat and trailer with hot water and let them dry in the sun for five days.
More than $5 billion a year is spent to combat invasive species, but most efforts to “fix” a broken lake prove futile. I was a judge for the NMMA Innovation Awards at the Miami Boat Show, and we gave the Environmental Award to Wake Worx’s Mussel Mast’R Aquatic Invasive Species Filter System.
Owners of wakesport boats can prevent contamination from zebra and quagga mussels by filtering the water before it goes into ballast
tanks. Even better, many inspection station workers are aware of this innovation and allow boats with this device to skip the hot-water treatment required for other boats. It’s a start. BW