September 2, 2009

Zebras

Inspired by Capt. Drew of the Vermont Brownliner Brigade, I developed a few prototypes for a zebra mussel imitation based on my Darth Clam pattern. Drew has so graciously volunteered field testing these flies on the zebra mussel infested Lake Champlain.

unwelcomed cousin
Zebra mussels are an invasive species that were unintentially introduced to North America in the ballast water of ocean-going ships in the Great Lakes. These nuisance species are notorious for attaching to boat hulls, docks, and anchors, clogging intake pipes, and displacing native mussel species.

zebra herd
striped zebra
One unexpected result of zebra mussel infestations is their proclivity to filter algae from the water column at an outstanding rate. Several infested lakes actually saw increases in yellow perch populations, as the filtered water allowed sunlight to penetrate greater depths resulting in increased native algae growth at lower depths. Ultimately, this highly efficient removal of phytoplankton can deprive other native aquatic species of food.

zebra variant
zebra variant
Zebra mussels have few natural predators in North America, though it has been documented that several species of diving ducks, crawfish, and fish forage on them. Of note, diet studies on freshwater drum in Lake Erie have shown a significant portion of their diet consisting of zebra mussels. Other molluscivorous fish of interest are the Greater Redhorse, Common Carp, White Sucker, Shovelnose and Lake Sturgeon, and Lake Whitefish.

I don't advocate the spread of invasive species, though when in Rome, fish as the Romans do. Fish a zebra.

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