Boating season is here and so are the zebra mussels

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 7:32 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - The boat docks the Forest Service puts into various Black Hills lakes and reservoirs are now being placed for the season. After a long winter, it seems that those docks are going to be busy.

The boat docks are in and after careful consideration of when to install the docks at Pactola Reservoir, Wednesday was the perfect combination of weather and water level to install the docks.

“Everyone wants to know when the ice comes off and when we are pushing in the docks, but we have to wait for water levels,” said Black Hills National Forest recreation management specialist Cecilia Lepa. “With Pactola fluctuating so much, we don’t want the docks to sink, and we don’t want them to be underwater, so we want to make a good judgment call.”

The owner of Pactola Pines Marina has been preparing for the visitors to come since the winter season.

“It’s a whole lot of work; you know, everything sits dormant for the winter months,” said Pactola Pines Marina owner Angie Weaver. “April comes along, and it’s time to get everything ready. We have to get the docks ready, the boats ready, and the store ready. So, it’s a lot to get ready, but it’s worth it.”

That winter wait has given her a slip-holder waitlist important for business.

“Very long waitlist right now, it’s over 100 people long,” said Weaver.

If you’re one of those individuals on that waitlist or planning to go boating this season, the US Forest Service reminds people to be prepared on those boats.

“While you’re going out on the boat, make sure you pack a life jacket, and that includes kayaks and stand-up paddle boards too; life jackets are really important; pack enough water and sunscreen; wear a hat and sunglasses; and just kind of be prepared for changing weather,” said Lepa.

As more people start using the lake for boating activities, the Forest Service and South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks are teaming up to remind visitors to take precautions to prevent the spread of zebra mussels. An invasive species that has been slowly spreading throughout the lakes and reservoirs around the Black Hills.

“We want to make sure that they clean their boat when it comes in and goes out and that they drain it, so pull the plugs out, drain the water that’s in the boat, and then also dry the boat every single time. Cleaning, draining, and drying every time will help prevent the spread of the zebra mussel and hopefully help prevent our lakes from being infested with those,” said Black Hills National Forest public affairs officer Scott Jacobson.

If you want to learn more about this invasive species and how you can prevent their spread in South Dakota’s ecosystem you can go to the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks website.