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DNR confirms zebra mussels in Meeker County's Lake Minnie-Belle

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported Monday that zebra mussels have been found at different locations in Lake Minnie-Belle in Meeker County.

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Zebra mussels cover a small stone pulled from Green Lake along the shoreline in Spicer. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo

LITCHFIELD — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed reports of zebra mussels in Lake Minnie-Belle, near Litchfield in Meeker County, the agency reported Monday.

A DNR-trained watercraft inspector reported finding a zebra mussel on a settlement sampler deployed on a private dock on the southeast side of Lake Minnie-Belle. Settlement samplers are solid surfaces placed in the water that people can regularly check for attached zebra mussels.

The inspector subsequently found a second zebra mussel on the wheel of a dock, a third on a settlement sampler on the northeast side of the lake, and a fourth attached to a boat lift.

“Given that zebra mussels have been found at two sites in different areas of the lake, it is likely that there is an established zebra mussel population in Lake Minnie-Belle,” said DNR aquatic invasive species specialist Eric Katzenmeyer in a news release.

“Disheartening,” said Julene Schatz, chair of the Lake Minnie-Belle Improvement Association, of the news. The association has been working hard to educate the public and prevent the arrival of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species. Working with Meeker County, the association contributed its own funds to help provide additional hours of inspections at the public accesses to the lake, she told the West Central Tribune.

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The improvement association "fought tirelessly" to prevent the arrival of zebra mussels to Lake Minnie-Belle, said Ariana Richardson, aquatic invasive species coordinator for Meeker County. She told the Tribune that the lake was identified as susceptible to the arrival of zebra mussels due to its popularity. It attracts many boaters and anglers. Inspectors were on duty whenever there was word of unofficial fishing tournaments on the lake.

The association had placed 10 traps at locations in the lake this year to monitor for zebra mussels. They were recently pulled out, and a microscopic examination indicated the possible presence of zebra mussel veligers, which are too small to be seen with the naked eye. As a result, additional work was undertaken to check for the presence of adult zebra mussels as docks were removed this past week.

The 596-acre lake is a popular destination in the county, known for its clear water and fishing opportunities.

Schatz said the improvement association remains committed to working with Meeker County and lake users to do what it can to manage the infestation, and prevent the arrival of other undesired species.

Richardson said the county will focus efforts now to prevent the spread of zebra mussels from Minnie-Belle to other lakes, as well as monitor their impact on the lake.

Minnie-Belle is now the third Meeker County lake with zebra mussels. They are also present in Washington and Stella Lakes.

The DNR reminds lake property owners to carefully check boats and trailers, docks and boat lifts, and all other water-related equipment for invasive species when removing equipment for seasonal storage.

While it’s always important to look for invasive species, it is especially beneficial at this time of year. Several new zebra mussel confirmations in recent years were initially reported by people removing docks, boats and boat lifts.

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Minnesota law requires that docks and lifts remain out of the water for at least 21 days after removal from a waterbody before they can be placed into another body of water. In addition, anyone who transports a dock or lift from a shoreline property to another location for storage or repair may need a permit , to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Whether or not a lake is listed for any invasive species, Minnesota law requires boaters and anglers to:

  • Clean watercraft and trailers of aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.

  • Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.

  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody:

  • Spray with high-pressure water.

  • Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds).

  • Dry for at least five days.

Zebra mussels can compete with native species for food and habitat, cut the feet of swimmers, reduce the performance of boat motors, and cause expensive damage to water intake pipes.
People should contact an area DNR aquatic invasive species specialist if they think they have found zebra mussels or any other invasive species that has not already been confirmed in a lake.

More information is available at mndnr.gov/ais .

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