Boaters Urged To Take Steps To Prevent Spread of Disease and Aquatic Invasive Species

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MADISON – Practice good hygiene.

That sound advice that mothers, teachers and doctors give to help prevent the spread of illness is equally important this year for anglers and boaters to help keep Wisconsin lakes and fish healthy, state invasive species experts say.

The discovery of hydrilla, a new invasive aquatic plant in Wisconsin waters, on top of last year’s detection of a new fish disease that’s deadly for a broad range of game fish, panfish and bait fish, underscore the need for boaters and anglers to take a few simple steps to prevent accidentally spreading these invaders to new lakes.

To make sure they are doing everything they can to prevent introducing VHS, zebra mussels, or Eurasian water-milfoil to a favorite lake or river, anglers and boaters should:

Buy bait fish only from a Wisconsin bait dealer.

Drain lake or river water from boat, live wells and bait containers before leaving a landing.

Do not move live fish away from any water, except for live minnows purchased from a Wisconsin bait dealer and kept under certain conditions.

Inspect your boat and trailer and remove all fish, mud and plant matter.

Such steps are critical because the main way that invasive species and diseases spread to new waters is aboard boating and fishing equipment,” says Jeff Bode, who leads Department of Natural Resources aquatic invasive species efforts. “While most boaters take pride in cleaning their rig, we need everyone to take the steps to assure they’re not part of the problem,” he says. “Do not leave a lake or river with water, plants or live fish in or on your boat, trailer or boating and fishing equipment.”

Water left in boat bilges, live wells and bait buckets can harbor young zebra mussels and the virus that causes VHS fish disease, as well as other invasive species. Eurasian water milfoil, an invasive plant that forms thick mats at the water’s surface, is easily snagged and carried on boat motors and trailers and a single fragment can colonize a new water.

And infected bait fish are the prime way that VHS fish disease, detected in Lake Michigan and the Lake Winnebago system waters in 2007, can be moved inland to new lakes and rivers.

State rules prohibit the movement of water, plants and live fish, with limited exceptions for purchased minnows kept under certain conditions. The VHS rules are in effect statewide to prevent the spread of VHS, and a 2001 law prevents people from launching a boat with any plants attached.

Conservation wardens and paid and volunteer watercraft inspectors will be out on the water during the fishing opener. Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark says wardens will be working with the public to create a climate of compliance with rules to prevent the spread of VHS and aquatic invasive species through a combination of enforcement, education and local partnerships.

“We all love our lakes. Help us protect them – practice good boating hygiene,” Stark said.

Sportspeople are encouraged to report violations of VHS rules, invasive species rules, and other regulations to our hotline at 1-800-TIP-WDNR.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Julia Solomon (608) 267-3531; Christal Campbell (608) 264-8976, aquatic invasive species outreach coordinator