Drain livewells and boats to prevent the spread of invasive species

Author – Molly Sequin; UWEX Student Outreach Assistant

Wisconsin boaters are good ambassadors of cleaning vegetation off their equipment before leaving the lake. However, not everyone may be aware that threatening aquatic invasive species (AIS) can travel around Wisconsin in small amounts of water. To help anglers better understand Wisconsin’s AIS laws against transporting water and live fish, Wisconsin DNR and AIS partners statewide will hold the 4th annual Drain Campaign.

It is news to some boaters that AIS like the zebra mussel and spiny water flea are microscopic, making them too small to spot on a boat at the landing. If water is left in livewells, motors, bait buckets or other equipment, these creatures can survive until reaching the next body of water the boat launches in.

Tim Campbell, UW-Extension AIS and WDNR Communications Specialist, wants to commend boaters and anglers for the work they have been doing to prevent the spread of AIS, but clear up some protocols for those who may not be as familiar with the Drain Campaign and its goals. “We already know that water-users are ardent about keeping the waters they love healthy. However, we know that there is some uncertainty about what to do with transporting fish in water,” says Campbell.

The 2016 Drain Campaign focuses on reducing that uncertainty by giving out outreach materials and providing reminders to help anglers remember to drain livewells and buckets before leaving their landing.  The campaign is happening this weekend – Friday, June 10th through Sunday June 12th.

One important piece of advice Wisconsin DNR wants to spread is the use of ice to transport fish back home. Once fish are out of water, they are no longer considered live and can be transported home legally. Campbell still sees some relying on livewells and buckets of water for transport and is here to let the public know of a much better alternative.

“Packing your day’s catch on ice for the ride back home is legal and ensures better quality fish when it’s finally time to cook up your catch,” says Campbell. “Ice prevents the spread of AIS, stops the growth of bacteria on your fish, and doesn’t allow the catch to be contaminated by other toxins that may affect the table fare of fish that can be found in buckets and livewells after a day of holding fish.” To help remind people of the importance of draining water from livewells, AIS partners statewide will be out at the launches to provide anglers with ice packs to provide alternatives to transporting their fish in water.

In closing, Campbell would like to again thank boaters and anglers for the actions they already take. “The efforts that most boaters and anglers already take to stop the spread of AIS have kept a majority Wisconsin’s lakes free of problematic invasive species. If you are already taking these steps, you can help by reminding others that it takes just a few minutes at the landing to keep our lakes beautiful and our fish healthy. “

As a reminder, 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 go to http://dnr.wi.gov/lakes/invasives


About timcampbell

AIS communications specialist for UW-Extension and WDNR.
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