The Parks and Wildlife Commission recently approved a rule requiring anyone leaving or approaching public waters in 17 North Texas counties to drain their boats to prevent the spread of invasive zebra mussels.
Anglers and boaters leaving or approaching public water will be required to take all reasonable steps to drain all water from vessels, including live wells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water intake systems that resulted from contact with public water, according to a news release. This applies to all boats, whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats or any other vessel used on public waters. The rule applies to public waters in Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Jack, Kaufman, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Stephens, Tarrant, Wise and Young counties.
As a result of this rule, live fish could not be transported in water that comes from the water body where they were caught, which could impact off-site tournament weigh-ins, according to the release. Personally caught live bait could be used only in the water where it was caught.
Anglers would be allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait in water provided they have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait in water purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body could only be used as bait on that same water body.
Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day would not require drainage. The rule also includes exemptions for emergencies and governmental activities involving collection of water. Marine sanitary systems are exempt from the regulation.
The rule will take effect in late December or January.
The nine-member commission also voted to publish a proposed rule in the Texas Register for public comment that would add 28 other Central and North Texas counties in the boat-draining mandate, including Bell and Coryell counties where zebra mussel adults were recently found in Lake Belton. That rule could be considered by the commission at its next regular meeting in January.
The zebra mussel is a small, non-native mussel originally found in Eurasia. It has spread throughout Europe, where it is considered to be a major environmental and industrial menace. The animal appeared in North America in the late 1980s and within 10 years had colonized all five Great Lakes and the Mississippi, Tennessee, Hudson, and Ohio River basins. Since then, they have spread to additional lakes and river systems, including some in Texas.
Additional counties being considered for boat draining requirements include Archer, Bell, Bosque, Burnet, Clay, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hays, Henderson (west of Highway 19), Hill, Johnson, Leon, Limestone, Llano, McLennan, Navarro, Robertson, Somervell, Travis, Wichita and Williamson.