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COLA Column: Let's keep our eyes on the water

Help! We're surrounded by Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS).

That message was the focus of the second Riverside Methodist Church AIS Event on March 20.

Zebra mussels and other AIS have infested lakes in neighboring counties all around us and a new invader, Starry Stonewort, is to the south and north of Hubbard County.

Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (HC COLA) has been instrumental in keeping our lakes for the most part free of AIS. HC COLA strives to inspire anglers, boaters and lakeshore property owners to become involved and raise the level of awareness and observation around Aquatic Invasive Species.

Hubbard County has some of the cleanest, clearest lakes in Minnesota. To many Minnesotans, water and lakes are a major part of our lives — whether fishing, swimming, boating or just relaxing. Lakes are where we gather to share family stories, listen to a loon's mysterious call or spend time fishing our favorite fishing hole.

As we plan for recreating on our lakes this summer, we need to remember that our lakes are a shared interest, because the lakes belong to everyone.

AIS can impact our enjoyment of these precious natural resources and also threaten Hubbard County's tourism and property values. We all need to think about our responsibility for protecting our lakes from the threat of AIS.

What can an ordinary angler or boater, who doesn't live on a lake, do to help shield our Hubbard County lakes from the AIS infestations that surround our county?

Personal responsibility is the key to preventing the spread of AIS. Everyone can help! You can become a casual observer, watching for AIS when you are recreating on our beautiful lakes in Hubbard County.

In recent years, HC COLA has been promoting early detection of AIS to help detect a new infestation before it becomes widespread and established lake wide or spreads to other lakes in our area.

As a key strategy to increase our capacity for early detection, HC COLA promotes opportunistic (casual) approaches to increase our "eyes on the water" watching for AIS. Opportunistic searches are casual, non-structured efforts to look for AIS as time permits. They can be conducted at any time by anyone using our lakes. Anglers, boaters and lakeshore property owners using the lake can check their fishing line for evidence of spiny waterfleas, check vegetation on fishing hooks for attached zebra mussels or keep an eye out for AIS at public accesses.

Children and adults can watch for zebra mussels while collecting shells on sand beaches.

People living on the lake can casually turn over rocks, check plants that have washed up on shore or check docks and lifts for AIS when they are removed from the water.

You can learn to identify AIS on HC COLA's website at

In" target="_blank">www.hubbardcolamn.org/identification.html.

In

2016, HC COLA developed a new, online survey to focus on enhancing our communication network to foster our AIS detection and zebra mussel monitoring actions. We invite anglers, boaters and lakeshore owners that have an interest in protecting our lakes to participate in our 2017 online survey.

How can you get involved with early detection of AIS?

You can volunteer to help in any of the following roles:

• Be a casual observer.

• Take the AIS identification course on Friday, June 9 at 4 p.m.

• Join our zebra mussel monitoring online survey.

• On Aug. 5, you can participate in a Starry Trek, a statewide one-day search for Starry Stonewort.

• If you live on a lake, you can suspend a zebra mussel settlement sampler from your dock.

If you have any questions about being an early detector and/or want to participate in any of the above events, please email us at hccolamn@gmail.com or call Sharon Natzel at 763-355-7908. Remember, volunteering is easy! You can help protect our lakes, while enjoying your favorite waterbody.

While angling and boating on Hubbard County lakes, we encourage you, your family and friends to clean, drain and dry your boat, when moving about the county to your favorite fishing hole. If you fish on an infested lake, we encourage you to decontaminate your boat at the free decontamination station at 812 Henrietta Ave. S. in Park Rapids near the Hubbard County Transfer Station. This service is available from fishing opener through Labor Day. Regular hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 12 noon to 5 p.m. All other times are by appointment. Call 218-252-6738.

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