The spread of zebra mussels into more Minnesota lakes and rivers was confirmed August 28th by Department of Natural Resources when they announced that the invasive mussels have invaded Lake Ore-Be-Gone in Gilbert. After a report of mussels in the former iron ore mine that’s now a popular fishing lake, DNR divers confirmed adult mussels had infested an area near the lake’s boat landing. This is the first time zebra mussels have been found in a mine pit lake and the farthest north they have been found in Minnesota.
In the Northland, only Pike Lake near Duluth and Lake Superior and the St. Louis River estuary in the Twin Ports are known to be infested with the invasive mussel. It’s not clear how the mussels got into Gilbert Pit Lake, although the 223-acre lake is popular with visiting scuba divers and trout anglers — both groups of which also may frequent infested waters of Lake Superior.
DNR divers have found up to 8,000 zebra mussels per square foot in some places on Mille Lacs, but their impact on the lake’s ecosystem remains unknown.
Boaters, anglers and divers who use Lake Ore-Be-Gone are urged to be extra-thorough when decontaminating their boats, trailers, anchors and other equipment when leaving the water. State law makes it illegal to move live fish or water out of infested lakes.
Zebra mussels, native to Europe, are believed to have moved into the Great Lakes in the ballast of oceangoing ships. They first were found in Minnesota in the Duluth harbor in 1989 and then began to explode in numbers in the Twin Ports harbor by 1998. They also have moved north into Minnesota through the Mississippi River system and have been moved by humans into several Twin Cities, western and central Minnesota waterways.
- Clean off all aquatic plants, zebra mussels and other prohibited invasive species.
- Drain water from bilge, livewell, motor, ballast tanks, and portable bait containers before leaving water accesses or shoreline property.
- Keep drain plugs and water-draining devices open when transporting boats and equipment.