Lake Worth is officially at "infested" status.
The nearly 3,500-acre lake has been classified as infested with invasive zebra mussels, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Zebra mussels were first found in Lake Worth in small amounts in 2016. This is the first time it has been labeled as fully infested.
It's the 34th Texas lake reported to have the mussels and 28th with the infestation designation.
Zebra mussels, which grow to about 1.5 inches and develop a zebra-striped shell, "cause tremendous environmental and economic damage," according to texasinvasives.org. "Zebra mussels can damage boats by encrusting boat hulls, clog water systems used in boat motors, air conditioners and heads, and cause navigation buoys to sink."
They've also been found at Lake Grapevine and Eagle Mountain Lake, which feeds water to Lake Worth.
An infestation can take over habitats from native species, which damages lake ecology and affects fish populations. One zebra mussel can produce up to 1 million microscopic larvae. An infestation can hinder water recreation and potentially threaten water supplies if the species colonized in water filtration systems.
Lake Worth, which is located in the northwestern corner of the Fort Worth city limits, was created in 1914 as a reservoir and for recreation.
Infested status signifies that there is an established, reproducing population of zebra mussels in the lake, according to TPWD.
"This finding that Lake Worth is fully infested is not unexpected," TPWD's Raphael Brock said. "There are two infested reservoirs upstream that can send zebra mussel larvae downstream to Lake Worth during high water events such as we've seen this spring to then settle in the lake."
But he also urged boaters to follow TPWD guidelines and regulations to limit further spread to other reservoirs in the area and state.
Zebra mussel larvae are microscopic and often attach to boats and anything left in the water, including anchors. The larvae can survive for days out of the water, hiding in crevices.
"Each boater taking steps to clean and drain their boat before leaving the lake and allowing compartments and gear to dry completely when they get home can make a big difference in protecting our Texas lakes," TPWD's Brian Van Zee said.
Boaters are urged to clean, drain and dry their boats and gear before traveling from lake to lake.
The TPWD urges boaters to remove plants, mud and debris, drain all the water from the boat and gear, and then open up compartments once you get home and allow everything to dry completely for at least a week if possible.
The TPWD says if your boat has been stored in the water at a lake with zebra mussels it is likely infested and "poses an extremely high risk of moving this invasive species to a new lake."
TPWD suggests calling for decontamination guidance before moving your boat to another lake at 512-389-4848. Anyone who spots zebra mussels on boats, trailers or equipment that is being moved is urged to immediately report the sighting to TPWD. If you see zebra mussels in water where they haven't been reported before, TPWD asks that you report it by emailing photos and location information to aquaticInvasives@tpwd.texas.gov.
Transporting prohibited invasive species in Texas is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to $500 per violation. Boaters are also required to drain all water from their boat and onboard receptacles, including bait buckets, before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water.(c)2021 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.