May 2008

Courtesy Lake Cuyamaca

TOM'S TROUT -- Tom White proudly shows off the 8-pound rainbow trout he caught at Lake Cuyamaca, Calif., in March. In May, Arizona anglers traditionally enjoy fishing for Mt. Lassen trout and the bass will all be on their nests this month as well. However, Arizona boats may not be as welcome as usual this year because of the Quagga and zebra mussel problem.

Beyond Arizona

Quagga Mussel Threat Poses Problems For Boaters Heading To California
By Mike Harris
AZBW Southern California Bureau Chief

If you’re planning a boating or fishing trip to a California lake, better make a telephone call first, because while you will be welcome, your boat might not.

The reason why your boat might not be allowed to launch is the quagga and zebra mussels, non-native invasive species that are quickly spreading along the Colorado River. These tiny mussels breed so rapidly that they can upset the normal aquatic food chain and plug water- intake systems.

The California Department of Fish and Game is quite blunt about the problem: “Their establishment in California waters could result in an environmental and economic disaster.”

Mussels Impact SW Boaters

The mussel threat is impacting boaters through the Southwest. Some prevention measures are drastic, such as Lake Cuyamaca’s decision to temporarily not let any private boats launch there, to tough quarantine and inspections rules, such as those at Diamond Valley Lake Marina.

“The hardest thing for boaters right now is that every lake in California is different regarding mussel rules,” said Jeff Leatherman, Diamond Valley Lake Marina manager. “The best advice I can give boaters is to get hold of the lake personnel before they go and ask them about their restrictions, or go on their Web site and see what regulations are posted.”

Leatherman, who manages the marina at one of the best bass lakes in Southern California, said Diamond Valley Lake’s rules mandate a boat that’s been at the Colorado River recently, for example, be kept out of the water for a period of days before being brought to his lake.

“Let’s say a boat’s been at Lake Havasu, been in the water for the day but taken out that night. It has to be out of the water for seven days and be totally dry,” he said.

“If it was stored overnight in the water, then it has to be out of the water for 12 days and is totally dry before coming to diamond Valley Lake.”

That’s the first step.

Arizona Boats Get Extra Checking

“For boats that have Arizona tags, we check them a little more thoroughly than California boats, but we check every boat that comes here,” he added. “We inspect the bottom, pull plugs, look for any sign of growth.”

Leatherman said the inspection takes only about five minutes. Diamond Valley Lake also has some boat motor restrictions, but that’s another matter.

“The problem right now is anything connected to the Colorado River,” he said. “From Lake Mead down to Lake Havasu, the river is infected with quagga muscles.”

At San Diego’s Lake Cuyamaca, the management decided to take a more drastic measure: no private boats allowed on the lake.

Lake Manager Willard Lepley is trying to find a solution other than quarantine.

“I don’t want to do like some other lakes do where they have a 14-day moratorium on boats,” he said.

Lepley is trying to bring a wash-down station to Lake Cuyamaca that would use a hot-water, power-wash system to clean boat bottoms, motors, and live wells.

How Hot?

“Right now we’re dancing with the Department of Fish and Game about what an acceptable pressure would be,” he said. “I don’t want to hit someone’s boat with 1800 PSI. “What we're talking about is around 300 psi, 180-degree water and a high chlorine content.”

Lepley is still allowing personal float tubes, but they have to be dry and clean. They’re also inspected before being allowed in the water.

Lepley said he’s hoping to allow private boats back in the water by Memorial Day weekend, but don’t hold him to it. The lake is in the process of repaving its parking lots, and he wants to add a concrete catch basin at the same time.

Other lakes in California are quickly addressing the invasive mussel problem.

Santa Barbara County supervisors on March 25 announced tough restrictions for Lake Cachuma. As an example of how tough the regs are, all out-of-state boats will be quarantined on-site for 14 days before launch.

The quagga and zebra mussel problem comes at a tough time for anglers because at both Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet, and at Lake Cuyamaca, the fishing is really good right now.

May For Mt. Lassen Trout

“In May, Arizona anglers will want to come after our trout because we will continue stocking Mt. Lassen trout,” he said. “We will have four loads of trout coming in, planting on May 12, 19, 26, and on June 2. And, the bass will all be on their nests in May. It will be great.”

Leatherman said Diamond Valley Lake anglers also have been enjoying good catches of bass and trout. The bass are biting on their beds with anglers reporting some of their all-time best fishing days so far this year.

For more information about the invasive mussel threat facing Arizona and California boaters, visit and