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Image of Mussel Dog on Boat Ramp

“Mussel Dogs” help to stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

Author: Public Works
Date: 7/19/2018 3:11:13 PM

Boaters should be prepared for mussel dogs to help with boat inspections at local lakes.

For the next couple of weekends, mussel sniffing canines are helping public officials at Lake Nacimiento to inspect vessels for invasive aquatic species – otherwise known as Quagga and Zebra Mussels. “Mussel dogs”, as they are called, sniff around boats, alerting handlers of the presence of mussels and dramatically decreasing the time it takes to inspect boats.

To expedite the inspection process, boaters are encouraged to follow these simple guidelines when entering or leaving any water way:

• Inspect all exposed surfaces – small mussels feel like sandpaper to the touch

• Wash the hull of each watercraft thoroughly

• Remove all plant and animal material

• Drain all water and dry all areas (including the lower outboard unit)

• Clean and dry all live-wells and dispose of any unused bait in the trash

• Empty and dry any buckets and compartments

Boaters who are caught on the lake without a signed inspection form on board could be faced with fines up to $2,000. Vessels visiting San Luis Obispo County lakes will not be allowed to launch if they have visited a mussel infested lake within the last 30 days or fail the vessel inspection. 

Zebra and Quagga Mussels “hitch” rides on boats, and travel to other lakes, causing damage to a lake’s natural environment, boating and water equipment.  Once a lake is infested, it can be expensive to get rid of mussels.  Preventing their spread is the best course of action.  

The County of San Luis Obispo appreciates boaters’ assistance in protecting local water resources.  The public can assist in educating others about the importance of responsible boating by remembering to CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY all boats and equipment before visiting local lakes and being prepared to have boats inspected prior to launching.  

For further information on invasive mussels, the County of San Luis Obispo’s Mussel inspection program, and the current listing of infested lakes visit:, or