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John Hageman, Published August 15 2013

AIS found on boat exiting Lake Bemidji

BEMIDJI, Minn. – A watercraft inspector discovered zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil on a boat trailer exiting Lake Bemidji earlier this month, though they didn’t originate here.

The zebra mussels and watermilfoil appeared to be dried and dead, said Henry Drewes, regional fisheries manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He said if that’s the case, DNR officials wouldn’t expect the incident to result in an infestation, something that Beltrami County has thus far been able to avoid.

“What it tells you, though, is that boats coming from infested waters, despite all the publicity, people are still not being vigilant enough about cleaning their watercraft before they move them,” Drewes said.

Drewes said he wasn’t sure if any follow-up testing or inspections of the water will be conducted. But had the invasive species still been alive at the time of their discovery, there definitely would have been some kind of testing, he added.

The boat discovered Aug. 2 had recently been in the Twin Cities in Lake Minnetonka, one of the most infested waters in Minnesota. The boaters were from North Dakota and visiting family.

“I think it also illustrates the mobility of people and their equipment,” Drewes added.

The boaters cleaned the boat and were issued a $500 fine by a DNR conservation officer.

“The boat had been out of water, they claim, for 10 days,” said Stacey Sharp, the DNR’s enforcement captain for the northwest region. “At some point, we’re probably going to get (Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels) in Lake Bemidji. We hope we never do, but at some point we probably will.

Some nearby lakes haven’t been as lucky.

The DNR announced in January that zebra mussel larvae were discovered east of Bemidji in Lake Winnibigoshish. Eurasian watermilfoil have been in Leech Lake near Walker for 10 years, Drewes said.

More recently, zebra mussels have been confirmed in Lake Mary near Alexandria and Lake Lida near Pelican Rapids.