Mussels will change Glen Lake
B y Chris Olson
April 15, 2004
Until last year, it was thought that the Glen lakes had
escaped the fate of other inland lakes in Leelanau County
and most of the lakes in Michigan. It had no zebra mussels.
That’s no longer true.
The zebra mussel, a non-native species that has slowly
spread throughout the Great Lakes basin, is fast becoming
a part of the food chain in Big Glen and Little Glen lakes.
Golf balls with zebra mussels on them were found last
year by members of the Glen Lake Lake Association in Fisher
and Little Glen lakes. The arrival of zebras was later
confirmed by the staff of the Leelanau Conservancy Watershed
Council, which monitors water quality in Lake Leelanau,
Glen lakes, Cedar Lake, Lime Lake and Little Traverse
Tim Keilty, water quality specialist with the Conservancy,
estimates that zebras had been present in the lake for
about a year. He said the existence of the mussels was
already established in all other large inland lakes in
Keilty and the watershed staff are working on ways to
control zebra mussels—or at least monitor them—once established
in a body of water.
Glen Lake was the last lake in Leelanau to be infected
largely due to the efforts of the Glen Lake Lake Association.
Ed Rickers, a member of the association, said the group
has maintained an active program to keep invasive species
such as the zebra mussel and the Eurasian watermilfoil
plant out of Glen Lake. From spring into fall, two volunteers
were posted at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
boat launch off Day Forest Rd.—some times for 12 hours
straight. They helped to wash down boats and trailers
before allowing them to launch, and warned boat owners
about the spread of invasive species.
But as it has throughout Michigan, zebra mussels found
their way into the lakes, likely attached to the underside
of a boat or motor well.
According to Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant Extension
Agent with the Grand Traverse Michigan State University
Extension Office, zebra mussels can live for several days
out of the water in cool, humid conditions.
“Unfortunately once the zebra mussels are established
in a body of water, they will continue to grow in colonies
based on the availability food,” he said. Breederland
said there is no known way to turn back the clock on mussels
once in infected lakes.
The mussels feed on tiny, living particles in water.
On the positive side, they have a tendency to increase
But their long-term effect on a lakes’ food chain has
yet to be fully determined.
“Eventually once the colonies are built up, the zebra
mussels will become a food source for other fish. Yellow
perch in particular seem to feed on them, so you could
see an increase in that population,” he said.
The mussels will have a nuisance impact on humans, including
clogging up water intake pipes and covering the lake bottom
with their sharp shells.
“The basic message is things will change, but the fishery
won’t be decimated,” Breederland said. “Is it a good thing?
No. After all, this is a non-native, invasive species,
and they were never intended to be in this part of the
The round goby fish, another invasive species, is also
gaining attention. While the small fish have not moved
into area inland lakes, Breederland said they are becoming
more common in Grand Traverse Bay.
“They have started into some of the larger downstate
rivers, especially in the Flint area. They spread fast
and eat other fish eggs. They could have a big impact
if they get established in inland lakes around here,”