Fourth-of-July is Wisconsin’s busiest boating holiday. It’s also a great time to remember whether one is paddling, fishing, jet skiing or boating, they can help protect lakes and rivers from aquatic invasive species. During the annual Clean Boats, Clean Waters Landing Blitz, July 3 – July 7, watercraft inspectors will be at boat launches to remind boaters the power to protect water resources is shared by all of who love Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers.
Aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels, pose great risks to the health of waters and fisheries. Often there are not known control options to get rid of AIS once they’re in a lake or river. Prevention is the key and it’s in the hands of visitors as wells as full time Wisconsinites. More lakes than ever are participating in 2019 with inspectors giving away Stop Aquatic hitchhikers boat towels.
“This campaign has become a mainstay of our prevention efforts, since the holiday draws both frequent and infrequent boaters to the water, allowing us to empower a lot of people,” says Bob Wakeman, statewide aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Volunteers, AIS partners and DNR boat inspectors will be on hand at landings around the state to demonstrate the prevention steps and answer questions about invasive species. Their efforts will build on the success of last year’s campaign, when volunteers inspected over 9,000 boats and spoke with over 18,000 people.
“One of the most exciting things about this campaign is the strong volunteer effort. Every year hundreds of concerned citizens participate as volunteers to help us raise awareness and empower boaters,” says Wakeman.
For those who use social media, they can help spread the word about the importance of aquatic invasive species prevention by posting photos and messages using #CleanBoatsCleanWaters.
Invasive plants and animals, like Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny water fleas and zebra mussels, can spread easily by hitching a ride on boats and other equipment, including trailers. They can also hide in the water in livewells, bait and fish buckets and motors, so it’s important to drain them and to pull the plugs to drain boats. Because many invasive species can also be hidden in mud, it’s vital to clean off anchors. Always take the following simple steps before leaving a boat landing:
• Inspect boats, trailers and equipment for attached aquatic plants or animals.
• Remove all attached plants or animals
• Drain all water from boats, motors, livewells and other equipment
• Never move live fish away from a waterbody
• Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash
• Buy minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer
• Only use leftover minnows when either 1) fishing with them on the same body of water or 2) on other waters if no lake/river water or other fish have been added to the container.
Following these steps also helps boaters comply with Wisconsin state law, which prohibits the transport of aquatic invasive species.
To learn more about invasive species and their impacts to Wisconsin’s waters and economy, visit DNR.wi.gov and search “Invasive Species.”