Zebra mussels have sneaked into every part of Prior Lake, the first major recreational lake in the metro area to be infested, state officials confirmed Tuesday.

"Everywhere we looked this morning, we found them," said Luke Skinner, supervisor of the invasive species program for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

EXPECT INCREASED ENFORCEMENT: And the result, he said, will be stepped-up education and enforcement as officials seek to keep the infestation from spreading. "There will be new restrictions. No water movement will be allowed off the lake. Nothing in bait buckets or anything like that."

While there won't always be someone watching, he said, it's a matter of state law.

"And we do have an inspection program; we will increase watercraft inspections on the lake. A lot of that is educational; people have to be willing to do this. But we will have more enforcement from conservation officers -- not all the time, but targeted enforcement."

The state's website says "zebra mussels foul beaches, interfere with food webs, smother native mussels, clog water intakes, and are linked to fish and wildlife die-offs."

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The species made its way into the interior of this continent from Great Lakes shipping and has gradually been spreading. Prior Lake is the ninth inland lake in the state to be infested. Zumbro Lake, near Rochester, was the first, about 10 years ago. Mille Lacs was the first major recreational lake, in 2005. In 2007, a chain of smaller lakes in the east metro area -- fed by the Mississippi River and little used for recreation -- was found to be infested.

The significance of the Prior Lake finding, Skinner said, is that boats move freely to and from other recreational lakes.

David Peterson