Draining boats and livewells can stop invasive species in their tracks.

You may know to inspect your boat for weeds before you leave the lake, but did you know some of Wisconsin’s worst aquatic invasive species (AIS) can spread through transported water? Invaders like zebra mussel larvae or spiny water fleas – too small to readily see – can survive to the next lake when water is left in your livewell, buckets, bilge, motor or equipment.

That’s why AIS partners across Wisconsin will be reminding anglers and boaters to drain their gear this summer before hitting the road. UW-Extension’s AIS Communications Specialist, Tim Campbell, says that while many boaters and anglers are already doing a great job performing AIS prevention actions, feedback from anglers suggests that there could be some improvement. “Across the state, anglers were telling us the rules on fish and water transport just aren’t as clear to them. The DNR and our AIS partners listened, and we’re trying to help spread the word and offer a good alternative.”

Campbell explains that once your day’s catch is out of water, the fish aren’t considered live and can be safely transported home. Since fish need to be kept fresh on the road, Campbell suggests an alternative to livewells that’s already preferred by many anglers: ice.

To help anglers out, AIS partners across the state will be handing out ice packs at boat landings on June 12-14 as part of a statewide effort. “We know some folks are used to taking their catch home in livewells,” says Campbell, “but ice is a legal and better way to get those fish home. In addition to prevention the spread of AIS, tt stops any bacterial growth, and then your catch isn’t ingesting the fish toxins that concentrate in fouled, low-oxygen water on the way home, which some say affects the taste.”

Drying your boat for 5 days can help kill any AIS in residual water, but a simple disinfection process can do the job for those who plan to change lakes sooner. The DNR’s policy for when they move their boats is to mix 2.5 tablespoons bleach per 1 gallon of water, spray it on, and keep surfaces wet for 10 minutes.

“We also hear that anglers are really passionate about protecting their lakes, and will take time to remove and drain invasive species from their boats just because it’s the right thing to do. No one wants to bring zebra mussels to a new lake just because they forgot to pull the plug,” closes Campbell.

Drain those livewells and coolers!


It takes just a few minutes at the landing to keep our lakes beautiful and our fish healthy. Know the laws and follow the AIS prevention steps every time you leave the water.

INSPECT boats, trailers and equipment.

REMOVE all attached aquatic plants and animals.

DRAIN all water from boats, vehicles, equipment including livewells and buckets containing fish.

NEVER MOVE plants or live fish away from a waterbody.

DISPOSE of unwanted bait in the trash

BUY minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer. Use leftover minnows only under certain conditions*

*You may take leftover minnows away from any state water and use them again on that same water. You may use leftover minnows on other waters only if no lake or river water or other fish were added to their container.

For more information contact [local and/or DNR info http://dnr.wi.gov/lakes/invasives]

About timcampbell

AIS communications specialist for UW-Extension and WDNR.
This entry was posted in Clean Boats, Clean Waters, Education and Outreach, Invasive Species, Lakes Partnership and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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