I got my California “Mussel Free” sticker……now what

So you were charged $16 extra dollars on your California boat registration for 2014 and have another sticker to decorate your boat with. What does it mean and where does the sticker go, where does the money go, does this mean I can launch anywhere in CA and why?

First off you are required to pay the fee and display this sticker if you launch your boat in any fresh waterways in California. If your boat is solely launched in salt water you can apply for an exemption from the fee and the sticker. Once you have paid the fee and received the sticker it needs to be displayed in line with the CF number and vessel registration number on both sides of the boat.


The sticker does not mean your vessel is mussel free. It means you have paid a fee that will be used by the Division of Boating and Waterways to fund grants for reservoirs to implement education, inspection and decontamination programs throughout the state. Some of the money will be for the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife Department (CDFW) to use for activities solely for the purpose of stopping the spread of quagga and zebra mussels. At the present time every waterway has their own policies and procedures before a boat launches. These processes vary and range from a sign in the parking lot that says “Don’t Move A Mussel”, self inspections, answering a few questions and getting a sticker for a particular lake, having a full inspection and or decontamination stations. EVERY lake does it’s own thing so be sure to check a waterway before you go there to find out what they require and if there are fees associated. The CDFW website has a lot of helpful information on it also.

The idea behind the grants is to help reservoirs to implement programs to keep quagga and/or zebra mussels from being spread to their mussel free waterway. These programs will most likely be made up of staffing inspection and education programs, help paying for infrastructure to keep boats out that haven’t had an inspection (like gates), and decontamination stations for boats. Since once quagga and zebra mussels are present there is no way to get rid of them, these programs are important. The mussels can live for up to 30 days with moisture which is the reason why it is so important to have your boats dry. The veligers (mussel babies) are microscopic. Let’s hope that multiple programs are put together that recognize each others inspection processes. That way once you have had an initial inspection and get banded on your way out, if the band is acceptable at the next lake, you will be able to launch without another inspection.