Invasive species like Quagga and Zebra mussels and New Zealand Mud Snails are spreading at a rapid clip to lakes and streams throughout the West, and because of the threat these non-native critters pose to our water ways, you may soon find launching at your favorite lake more of a logistical hassle than ever before.
Local authorities are taking the threat very seriously, as these invaders are a really bad deal. In short, they are filter feeders which can completely alter entire ecosystems by removing phytoplankton from waterways — the stuff from which all other life begins. Also, they clear up the water, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper, causing a proliferation of aquatic plants that can change species dominance.
To battle these guys, some lakes have completely banned all outside watercraft, while many others are requiring increasingly thorough inspections before you launch. Take one of my favorite fishing spots for example, Lake Tahoe. There, you have to pay for a complete inspection prior to launch (it was $30 for my little 14-foot skiff).
Once inspected, you get a sticker that must be placed on the port side of the vessel, admidships. The Coast Guard, Sheriff and TRPA boats are all on the lookout for vessels without the stickers and the fines are steep!
Next, you get a little numbered tag on a cable that’s strung through your bow eye, winch strap eye and around your trailer. If this thing is in tact, you’re free to launch…if not, it’s back to the inspection station.
Obviously, you have to pop this baby off to get the boat off the trailer. When you get back to the ramp, the inspectors will attach another one. It’s really not all that big of a deal…and if it helps contain the spread of invasive species, I’m all for it. The problem for anglers with this whole situation is it has forced all launch ramps and marinas around the lake to install gates so that folks can’t launch without first being inspected. Best case scenario: ramps will open at 7AM.
Considering some of the best mack, rainbow and brown action occurs well before that time, you may be outta luck. You can check with the marina nearest you about slips and buoys, but those are super expensive. I ended up buying a season pass, which at $250 wasn’t exactly chump change, but it gets me a key to the gate so I can launch whenever…provided, of course, I’ve been inspected and tagged prior.
You are going to see this more and more on lake across the West as these unwelcome visitors continue to spread. To read more about invasive species, click HERE