INDUSTRY – More than two dozen volunteer snorkelers and scuba divers of all ages spent Saturday plucking a tenacious aquatic mollusk from the shallows of Clearwater Lake at Allen’s Mills.
The Clearwater Lake Association organized Industry’s First Annual Chinese Mystery Snail Round-up, which proved to be a popular summertime sport with many turning out to try their luck at finding them or to simply watch the snails pile up on the landing.
The snails, about ping pong ball size, were mostly collected by divers in the shallow cove at the head of the lake next to the public beach. The invasive snails were first spotted in Clearwater Lake 15 years ago and tend to frequent depths of between 2 to 20 feet of water.
First brought to the U.S. as an exotic food source in the late 19th century, the snails were subsequently introduced into wild by people dumping aquariums into lakes and streams. The hardy snails are also good at attaching themselves to boat hulls or bait buckets and do multiply rapidly. In addition to competing with native snails for food and space, the aquatic invaders can clog screens and pipes. They also can carry a number of non-native parasites that are a threat to native species.
Bailey Smith, 13, of Industry, arrived with her snorkel, goggles, bucket and mesh bag promptly at 10 a.m. Slowly floating across the shallow cove, she set about pulling the snails from rocks and sand and stashing them into her bag. The snails put up little resistance. As her collection grew heavy, she brought her catch for weigh-in and a total was added next to her name. Then she went right back for more without a break.
“It’s really easy,” she said between dives.
At the weigh-in, a big board of 15 names were registered in the 13 and under category and nearly the same number was listed for the older set. Divers with Mainely Scuba of Wilton worked in deeper water just off the breakwater.
Each load of snails was weighed, listed and dumped into two big wheelbarrows. While the snails hid inside their shells, both children and adults surrounded the piles to get a better look the curious catch. Industry Selectman Lee Ireland said he was especially pleased with the number of children who turned out to participate in the first-ever snail roundup.
With a barbecue lunch provided to all of the volunteer participants, some suggested a snail festival should be held every year in Industry.
By the weigh-in’s end at 2 p.m., a total of 504 pounds of snails were harvested.
Prizes were awarded for heaviest catch and biggest snail caught. In the adult category, heaviest total snail harvest went to Scott Hall of Farmington, with 212 pounds hauled up. Maya Smith, 9, of Wilton, took the 13 and under award for total heaviest harvest at 60 pounds. Biggest snail caught was landed at 1.2 ounces by Josh Ireland and William Landers.
Results are for Under 13
Maya Smith 60 pounds
Keegan Paradis 23 pounds
Nick Paradis 23 pounds
William Landers 19 pounds
Scott Hall 212 pounds
Rose 56 pounds
Josh Ireland 43 pounds
Biggest Snail 1.2 ounces