Draining live wells, bait buckets and bilges every time they leave a boat launch or fishing access is a great way for anglers to help keep our waters healthy by stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Drain Campaign, our annual reminder, will take place on May 31-June 2, 2019 and coincides with the Free Fishing Weekend.
"It's a great thing that the majority of lakes and rivers in Wisconsin don't yet have aquatic invasive species in them, but that makes it even more important that we protect our waters from those that do," says Todd Ambs, DNR assistant deputy secretary.
Clean Boats, Clean Waters boat inspectors made up of volunteers, regional aquatic invasive species partners and WDNR staff will talk with anglers and boaters at launches around the state. At many lakes and river accesses, they will also hand out free ice packs to remind people that icing is the best way to keep fish fresh.
"Fishing success is tied to healthy lakes, rivers and streams. Anglers can help by not moving water that may contain tiny, even microscopic, species. Putting your catch on ice not only keeps the fish fresher and tastier, but it means you don't need to worry about moving AIS in your live well or bucket to another body of water," Ambs says.
Anglers are the best messengers to spread the word by passing on prevention steps to those new to the sport as well as to others who don't know the law and reasons behind it. People who use social media can also spread the word about the importance of draining livewells and other equipment by posting photos and messages using #JustDrainIt or #stopaquatichitchhikers.
The following steps are required by law to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:
- INSPECT boats, trailers and equipment for plants, animals and debris.
- REMOVE all attached aquatic plants and animals.
- DRAIN all water from boats, vehicles, and 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.
- 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.
To learn more about invasive species and their impacts to Wisconsin's waters and economy, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "invasives."