Thousands of anglers across the state are poised to dip their waders into cold-water Michigan lakes, rivers and streams beginning Saturday, looking to tempt a prize brookie, a colorful rainbow or sleek German brown trout.
As they move from one spot to the next, anglers can unknowingly help spread a devastating invasive species, the New Zealand mudsnail.
“If you are going to fish different streams, be sure to clean your waders and boots,” said Jeff Gerwitz, a member of the Vanguard Chapter of Michigan Trout Unlimited, supporting Oakland County’s Paint Creek. “Some people don’t think it’s a big deal or concern, and they don’t take the time to clean and inspect between sites, but now we’re finding these mudsnails in more and more places.”
New Zealand mudsnails were first discovered in the U.S. in Idaho’s Snake River in 1987. Since then, infestations have spread throughout the western states and into areas of the Great Lakes.
Their discovery in the Pere Marquette River in August 2015 marked the first detection in a Michigan inland waterway. Within the next year, mudsnail populations were confirmed in the Boardman and Au Sable rivers.
By 2017, they were found in the Manistee River and the Pine River near the Tippy Reservoir.
Greg Potter of Marshall has been involved with Trout Unlimited’s Kalamazoo Valley chapter for over 25 years and until recently served as the organization’s state education director. He is worried about the impacts of New Zealand mudsnails in Michigan.
“Any time we change the environment, it’s going to do something,” he said. “Mudsnails affect the lower end of the food chain for fish, edging out insects and larvae that fish eat. We’re going to see effects from that.”
These tiny, brown to