Check Nuisance Species Off Your List

Leier Doug
Doug Leier

By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.

Traveling isn’t much of an obstacle these days when it comes to a good day of walleye fishing.

The past couple of years, the combination of lower fuel and transportation costs along with good walleye, pike, panfish and bass fishing expectations, means more anglers than ever are apt to wet a line in different lakes, reservoirs and rivers, from day to day and weekend to weekend.

Pretty much everyone who travels to fish has some sort checklist, from making sure you have your new fishing license in hand or stored on your mobile device, to having the rods and tackle box in the vehicle, to knowing for sure that the boat is tied down and the trailer bearings are in good shape.

Another important checklist involves the aquatic nuisance species requirements that are in place to reduce the potential for spreading invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and others from one water body to the next.

It’s pretty safe to say that anglers who love their fish want to do the right thing. The spread of zebra mussels, for example, is a serious threat to all waterways, and anglers want to preserve the health of their favorite fishing spots for the next generation.

But wanting and doing are not always the same thing, which is why the rules and regulations are in place. Even with those laws that have come on the books in North Dakota over the past decade or so, unintentional transport is still a possibility, but the following regulations significantly reduce the potential:

Current regulations require:

●     All aquatic vegetation must be removed from boats, personal watercraft, trailers and fishing equipment such as fishing poles, bait buckets, lures and waders before leaving a body of water. That means “vegetation free” when transporting watercraft and/or equipment away from a boat ramp, landing area or shoreline. Time out of the water needed to remove aquatic vegetation at the immediate water access area is allowed.

●     All water must be drained from boats and other watercraft, including bilges, livewells, baitwells and motors before leaving a water body.

●     All drain plugs that may hold back water must be removed, and water-draining devices must be open on all watercraft and recreational, commercial and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces during any out-of-water transport.

●     Transportation of fish in or on ice is allowed.

●     Live aquatic bait or aquatic vegetation may not be transported into North Dakota.

●     All legal live aquatic organisms used by anglers, including legal baitfish (fathead minnows), amphibians (salamanders and frogs), invertebrates (crayfish and leeches) and insects must be purchased and/or trapped in North Dakota.

●     Anglers may not transport live bait in water away from the Red River. All water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore or remove their boats from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the river, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal.

●     In all other waters not infested with Class I ANS species, anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of five gallons or less in volume.

At the moment, North Dakota does not have many waters where aquatic nuisance species are established. While there’s not much we can do to eliminate those infestations, everyone can do their part to keep them contained by following the rules and regulations every time you leave the water.

(Featured Photo:  KNOW YOUR FOE.  The zebra mussel has been responsible for making fishing tougher across the upper Midwest, not only by changing water clarity, but worse, by disrupting entire ecosystems through the removal of phytoplankton that prey species need to survive and ultimately feed game fish. NDG&F Photo)

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