Jelly-Like Creatures Are Scaring East Texas Campers

For the past seven or eight years, campers at Ewing Park in Angelina County have been noticing something strange floating in the lake - clumps of jelly-like substances that come in all shapes and sizes.

Even some veteran fishermen have never seen anything like it.

Some campers believe it's killing the fish.

"The hottest part of the summer is when it happens," said a Ewing Park camper.

They're not jellyfish, turtle eggs or unidentified sea creatures, they're bryozoans - big colonies of microscopic cells.

They wash up on land when there are strong winds or activity on the lake. They're also known as moss animals because they often look like moss covering things underwater.

Robert Howells, fishery research biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said, "Most of the species live in brackish and salt waters, but there are several species that do live in fresh water, including maybe about 14 or 15 species in North America. Each individual animal is only a few tenths of an inch long."

Moss animals filter water and feed off tiny organisms. They prefer quiet, still, and unpolluted waters, like small lakes.

"It'd be hundreds of them; Saturday was the worst I've seen," said a Ewing Park camper. "I mean, the beach was just lined, one right next to the other, all the way down the beach."

Bryozoans may not be pleasant to look at, but they are not the likely cause of dead fish around Ewing Park. Scientists say they are harmless.

There are almost 4,000 types of Bryozoan, but only about 50 of them live in fresh water.