'Got a Quagga alert here!'


I don't know what it is with me getting through border stations. Last year it was Helga, the Canadian Border Mistress. This year — Ruthie the Mussel Detective at the California border.

Between Amistad and the Delta, we had an off week in the schedule. Kerry and I headed west after my Debacle on the Border to spend a few days in Havasu City.

Have a friend there who knows a thing or two about tweaking propellers by the name of John Gibbs. One of those semi-legendary guys in the Southwest that has been around a few days and figured out all those little things that make a boat go fast. He also knows a few things about catching bass.

It was either he or his son, J.J., who told us about the border check station and Quagga mussels. Never heard of a Quagga. Quaggas are evidently one of those invasive species we all loathe for various reasons. They are a smaller cousin to the Zebra mussel, of which we have in several of our lakes and rivers in Arkansas.

Like the Zeb's, the Quag's came over on a slow boat from the Ukraine/Caspian Sea area. Commie mussels, maybe? The Quaggas have infiltrated the Colorado River system and California is getting serious about trying to keep them out of Left Coast waters. Good for them.

After spending a few days with the Gibbs', we headed out before dawn for the Delta. Just before the sun came over the horizon behind us, we crossed the Colorado River and entered the realm of the Lefties. Just past the "Welcome" sign and the dreaded 55 mph sign, we rolled up to the check station.

As I rolled down the window, Ruthie strolled out of the check shack and eyed our rig. Her co-worker (didn't catch his name), yelled "Got a boat over here!"

"Got a boat over here!" the cry was repeated down the check station line.

Holy crap, is it a crime to tow a boat into California? Is this a foreign country?

"What's the big deal with the boat?" I asked Ruthie.

"It's only a big deal if you've been in the Colorado River. Where are you guys coming from?"

"We were at Amistad in Texas last week and spent the passt few days at Havasu with…"

"Quagga alert! Got a Quagga alert here!" Ruthie screamed. Yes, I do mean screamed. At 6:20 in the morning. At the top of her healthy lungs.

"Quagga alert!" went the cry down the check line.

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to step out of the vehicle and uncover the boat."

I thought she was going to ask me to assume the position.

You have to understand, it's a big deal to take the cover off the Basscat. This cover has, like, 53 straps down the sides as well as a rope around the perimeter. Once you get it on the boat, it doesn't move. You just have to be a tarpaulin engineer to get the thing on there.

"We need to examine the transom and the livewells" Ruthie informed me as we walked to the pink Puma.

That helps; now I only have to unbuckle 21 of the straps and the rope.

I get the cover off the boat and Ruthie squeals "Ooh, I love the pink!" Nice. Glad I could brighten your morning.

Ruthie and I crawled up in the boat as her cohort examined the transom and trailer bunks. We both kneel on the back deck, livewell lids open and peer, butts in the air (did I mention that Ruthie was a healthy girl?), into the bowels of the Basscat. I swear I hear my wife laughing in the cab of the 3500.

"That water in the bottom is what we need to get rid of. That's the kind of stuff they can live in for a long time."

"Need a towel over here!" she screamed. Why does she have to yell at 6:20 in the AM?

Cohort produced a towel and Ruthie proceeded to soak up the six teaspoons of water in the bottom of the livewell.

"Ooh, there's a crawdad pincher. Let's see if there are any quaggas attached to it," she said with just a touch of giddiness. No quaqggas.

Cohort finished his examine of the exterior. "All clear!" he stated with authority.

Ruthie wrung her towel out over the side of the boat and got the last two drops out of the livewell.

"Is this the only livewell?"

"Only one in this boat." Thankfully.

So a disappointed Ruthie crawled over the side of the Puma, no Quaggas in hand. She thanked me for my cooperation, handed me a pamphlet on the little devils, and told me to have a nice stay in California.

I buckled up the 21 straps and cinched the rope on the boat cover. Crawled back in the cab of the HD to find my wife still giggling. She had been watching the whole ordeal on the monitor via the rear view camera on the back of the Lance camper. Nice.

Didn't have the heart to tell Ruthie that, yes, the Basscat was in the water at Lake Havasu for all of, ooh, maybe 30 minutes as Gibbs and I tried some different props one day. Out of those 30 minutes, 28 were spent at speeds hovering around the low 70's.

I really wanted to ask Ruthie just how fast those little boogers could swim. But I didn't. We kicked the Duramax and headed west across the Mojave.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his Web site at www.kfshort.com.