SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Protecting South Dakota lakes and rivers from further spread of zebra mussels, Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species is off to a better start this summer, according to a state Wildlife Division official overseeing the efforts.

Fisheries program administrator Jake Davis briefed the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Friday about the 2023 campaign that kicked off with an AIS awareness week May 22-28 ahead of Memorial Day.

The primary focus remains educating boaters through emails, videos, newsletters and social media, according to Davis. “The message is going to be consistent: Clean, drain, dry,” he said.

Inspection crews are more fully staffed this summer than a year ago, he said, including the addition of a roving crew in northeastern South Dakota that will move around as fishing activity changes.

Roadside boat inspections will be the main thrust among the many bodies of water in eastern South Dakota, while a crew works the Missouri River. The goal for the half-dozen major reservoirs in western South Dakota is inspection crews daily at up to nine access points.

Two seasonal supervisors are coordinating the east and west crews this summer and also working with local entities such as county conservation districts and lake associations.

“We’re really functioning pretty well,” Davis said.

The numbers through June 5 totaled nearly 3,000 inspections compared to about 2,400 through the same time a year ago. So far 53 citations and 43 warnings have been issued.

State fishery staff are checking waters for signs of invasive species as part of their lake surveys. About 40 have been completed, with a goal of 150.

Fisheries staff have been in contact with 32 lake associations and some have received settler samplers to check for the presence of the larval stage of zebra mussels, known as a veliger.

Davis said a variety of state, federal and local agencies and groups are helping, such as AIS material the Revenue Department distributes with boat registrations, and signs posted around Lake Poinsett and neighboring bodies of water.

“We’re open to any partnership we can,” he said.

Fifteen waters now have zebra mussels and about four dozen have some type of invasive species, according to Davis.

The bottom line?

“It’s still early. As of right now, we have not documented any new infestations in 2023,” Davis said.

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