Outdoor: Zebra mussels found at Cunningham Lake

A zebra mussel looks like a D-shaped clam, with alternating light and dark bands. Adults form large, dense colonies attaching themselves to any hard surfaces like this dock line rope, at Offutt Base Lake.

Microscopic young zebra mussels called veligers were found by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in a water sample collected at Glenn Cunningham Lake in late May. So, why would this be a concern to any of us, you might ask?

Zebra mussels are believed to have arrived in North America as a stowaway in freshwater ballasts in commercial vessels from Europe sometime around 1986. The mussel was first discovered in the Great Lakes in Lake St. Clair in June 1988. Since then, the transport of the zebra mussel throughout much of North America has taken place and it has spread to many waterways in the U.S. and Canada.

A zebra mussel is an aquatic invasive species that looks like a D-shaped clam, with alternating light and dark bands. Young zebra mussels are too small to see with the naked eye, so they can easily be transported unintentionally. Most zebra mussels are less than an inch long at maturity. Adults form large, dense colonies attaching themselves to any hard surfaces. Once this happens damage to boating equipment, docks, dams, water treatment plants, irrigation pipes etc. can occur. These mussels also filter large quantities of plankton from water, decreasing the food supply for native species. Mussels increase water clarity, which increases unwanted vegetation and their sharp shells can create a hazard in swimming areas.

The counterpart to the zebra mussel is the quagga mussel. This mussel lacks a flat edge like the zebra, but is usually pale and may have colored bands or bars, sometimes with a few stripes. The characteristics of both species are about the same, and both can have the same detrimental impacts in waterways. Quagga mussels have not been found in Nebraska to date.

Larval stage and adults can spread between waters when transported in the simplest of ways; bait buckets, live wells, bilge water or attached to a boat hull, motor, trailers and other equipment, even life jackets. Zebra mussel larvae and adults can survive out of water for up to 30 days making them easily transmitted if recreationalists and anglers travel to different water bodies with boating equipment. Boats include any vessels that come in contact with the water, paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and paddleboats can all become transporters of unwanted mussels and other invasive and harmful hitchhikers.

These mussels could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and possibly close down access to state waters for recreation opportunities. They clog water intake pipes and filters, reducing water pumping capabilities for power and water treatment facilities and irrigation pipes.

There are no effective treatments to control zebra mussels once they have infested a water body other than draining it to allow the mussels to either dry out or freeze.

There are four bodies of water infested with zebra mussels in Nebraska. The Missouri River has an expanding zebra mussel population along its entire length downstream of Gavins Point Dam. Boats using the river are the likely source of introduction. Lewis and Clark Lake and Lake Yankton near Yankton, South Dakota, and the Offutt Base Lake in Bellevue all have established zebra mussel populations.

There are two suspect bodies of water, which means only a single water sample has been found to contain zebra mussel larvae. These waterbodies include Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, Carter Lake in Omaha, and now Glenn Cunningham Lake in Omaha.

In Nebraska, most major reservoirs are sampled yearly for zebra mussels. All water bodies that are suspect to invasive mussels have five samples collected in May and June and two per month in July, August and September. If no adults or additional larvae are found after three years of sampling, the suspect lake will be delisted. The lake will be listed as an infested water body if an adult zebra mussel is found.

Field sampling for adult zebra mussels will be completed on Glenn Cunningham Lake’s boat ramps, rocks and other hard structures over the next several weeks. Until an adult is found, Glenn Cunningham Lake will be considered a suspect body of water.

It is important not to transport any lake or river water, mud or plant material away from its source as that could transport aquatic invasive species to another body of water.

Boaters and anglers are encouraged to use the clean, drain and dry protocol on all boats before launching in another waterbody to prevent the spread of invasive mussels. Zebra mussels are a real threat to Nebraska waters. As responsible recreationalists and anglers, please do your part and help protect our precious Nebraska water systems.


After boating, before you leave the launch, remove all visible plants, animals, fish and mud from your boat, trailer or other equipment and dispose of in a suitable trash container or on dry land. Don’t transport any potential hitchhiker, even back to your home. Remove and leave them at the site you visited.


After boating, before you leave the launch. drain water from bilge, live wells, ballast tanks and any other locations. Invasive viruses, zooplankton and juvenile zebra mussels and Asian clams can be transported in even just a drop of water.


Before you arrive at the launch to go boating, dry your boat, trailer and all equipment completely. Drying times vary depending on the weather and the type of material. At least five days drying time is recommended.

For more information about zebra mussels, visit neinvasives.com or read the 2018 Nebraska Fishing Guide. Report any suspected observation of zebra mussels to Game and Parks at 402-471-5553.

Dutch oven workshop

A Dutch oven workshop is Saturday at Lake Maloney SRA from 9 a.m. to noon.

The public is invited to discover ways to prepare outdoor meals and learn tricks of the trade. The workshop is open to all ages. Dishes made at the event will be available for sampling. The workshop is free and all equipment and supplies are provided. A valid Nebraska Park Entry is required to enter the SRA.


Come join Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for Carp-O-Rama at Lake Maloney’s main boat ramp July 15. The free event is open to the public and runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Try your hand at carp fishing, view demonstrations on how to prepare carp from line to table and enjoy a free shore lunch with Dutch oven cobbler for dessert.

Learn the art of recording fish images on fabric with paint at the fish printing booth. This ancient Japanese art form or Gyotaku is a great way to keep a memory of the fish caught.

NGPC staff will be on hand to answer any questions you might have as well. A park permit is required and those over 16 wanting to fish need a Nebraska fishing permit. Both will be sold at the lake.

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