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Doug Leier, Published April 30 2013

Leier: Anglers need to be vigilant to stop the spread of nuisance species

Fargo - Even if May just finally feels like spring for many of us, in most years by the time the month rolls around, many anglers have already enjoyed a few outings wetting a line.

Regardless of the zip code your home is in, the first spring fishing action on the Missouri River is becoming more popular, no matter if you’re traveling from Williston, Wahpeton, Dickinson or Grand Forks. It’s a testament to the interest anglers have in a good day of walleye fishing and travelling distance isn’t that much of an obstacle, especially when most of the other waters in the state are still covered in ice.

That same angler mobility and accessibility is also why the fishing community needs to do more than simply check their trailer bearings or make sure the safety chains are hooked up. Obviously, those are important when it comes to regular fishing and boating list of things to do.

The other important checklist involves the aquatic nuisance species requirements that are in place to reduce the potential for spreading invasive species like zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil or who knows what 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. They do. 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 there are rules and regulations in place. Even with those laws that have come on the books in North Dakota over the past 6 years or so, unintentional transport is still a possibility, but the following regulations significantly reduce the potential:

All aquatic vegetation must be removed from boats, personal watercraft, trailers, and fishing and hunting equipment such as fishing poles, bait buckets, lures, duck decoys, 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.

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

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

All water must be drained from watercraft prior to entering the state.

It’s easy just to put down the rules and regulations specific to North Dakota, but we also have some added suggestion for boaters, anglers and anyone spending time in and on our waters.

Power wash the exterior and interior of the boat and trailer at a commercial carwash to remove small plant fragments and remove items clinging to the hull.

Disinfect boat, livewell and baitwell, the bilge, confined spaces and other equipment, wash the equipment with water that is hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or air dry boat and trailer for several days.

Fisheries managers, enforcement officers and anglers realize that unintentional transport can still take place, from lake to lake within the state, or coming in from other states, but we all need to do our part.

North Dakota has aquatic nuisance species problems, but for the most part the state is not overrun with new infestations. We’d like to keep it that way.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com