Effective Dec. 10, new regulations are in place for 17 Northeast Texas counties, intended to prevent the transfer of Zebra mussels to non-infested lakes. The agency is considering expanding the regulations to 30 additional counties, including Comanche. 

The regulations require all boats leaving or approaching public waters in the affected counties be drained, including "livewells, bilges, motors, and any other receptacles or water intake systems coming into contact with public waters." Movement from one loading ramp to another on the same lake, in the same day, does not require draining between ramps. 

Additionally, live fish cannot be transported in water that comes from the water body where they were caught and personally caught can only be used in the body of water from which it was caught. Fishermen with commercially purchased live bait must retain a receipt indicating the location where purchased.

Special rules are being considered for fishing tournaments with off-site weigh-ins, but as of now, off-site weigh-ins are prohibited if live fish are being transported in water from one of the affected counties.

Possession or transportation Zebra mussels in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense, punishable by fine of up to $500. A second offense is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 180 days.

Zebra mussels were first discovered in the U.S. at the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s. The first in Texas were found in 2009, at Lake Texhoma. Due to their small size and the microscopic size of their larvae, eradication is impossible, once established in a body of water. 

The feeding habits of the Zebra mussel threatens aquatic ecosystems, including diminishing the food supplies of indigenous bait fish. They cling, in large colonies, to items left in the water, such as water distribution system intakes, flood gates, boat hulls, outboard motors, outdrives, trailers, and docks. Their shells are very sharp, making them a danger to those participating in recreational water activities. 

Calls to the local Parks and Wildlife biologist were not returned, as of press time, but there do not appear to be any reports of Zebra mussels in Lake Brownwood at this time.

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The Parks and Wildlife recommends the following methods to prevent the spread of Zebra mussels:

CLEAN

Inspect your boat, trailer and gear and remove all zebra mussels, vegetation and foreign objects that are found.

DRAIN

Drain all water from the boat, including the motor, bilge, livewells and bait buckets, before leaving the lake.

DRY

Open all compartments and livewells, and allow the boat and trailer to sit completely dry for a week or more* before entering another water body.

If you find zebra mussels on your boat or if it has been kept on a lake known to have zebra mussels it needs to be properly decontaminated at a marina or by a boat mechanic to ensure all zebra mussels are removed and to prevent damage to your boat.

*If you can not leave your boat and trailer out of the water for a week to kill microscopic zebra mussel larvae, you will need to wash your boat, trailer and gear at a commercial car wash using high-pressure and hot (140 degrees F) soapy water.

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The 17 counties currently affected by the new regulations are Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Jack, Kaufman, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Stephens, Tarrant, Wise, and Young. 

Expansion is being considered for Archer, Bastrop, Bell, Bosque, Burnet, Clay, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Hamilton, Hays, Henderson (west of Hwy 19), Hill, Johnson, Leon, Limestone, Llano, McLennan, Navarro, Robertson, Somervell, Travis, Wichita, and Williamson counties.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is accepting public comment on the proposed action online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/proposals/201401_water_draining.phtml. 

Comment may also be made in writing to Ken Kurzawski, TPWD Inland Fisheries, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744, by email at ken.kurzawski@tpwd.texas.gov, or in person at any of the following two public hearings.