As Memorial Day weekend approaches marking the unofficial start to the peak boating season, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding boaters and anglers to “Clean, Drain, and Dry” their boats and equipment to protect Iowa lakes and rivers from aquatic hitchhikers.
Zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil are two examples of aquatic invasive species that have spread across Iowa by hitchhiking on boats, in bait buckets, and with other equipment used in the water. Bighead and silver carp are aquatic invasive species that can also spread on their own by swimming up rivers and streams. These aquatic invaders can create serious problems when they become established in our waters.
“Public awareness and action are keys to preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species,” said Kim Bogenschutz, aquatic invasive species program coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
To help raise awareness of aquatic invasive species, DNR employees will be doing watercraft inspections and invasive species education at public boat ramps across Iowa throughout the summer.
“Overland transport of boats is one of the most common ways aquatic invasive species are spread,” said Bogenschutz. “By taking some simple precautions – clean, drain, dry – boaters and anglers can help stop aquatic hitchhikers.”
• CLEAN any plants, animals, or mud from boat and equipment before leaving a water body.
• DRAIN water from all equipment (motor, live well, bilge, transom well, bait bucket) before leaving a water body.
• DRY anything that comes into contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, boots, clothing, dogs). Before transporting to another water body either:
Spray your boat and trailer with hot, high-pressure water; or
Dry your boat and equipment for at least 5 days.
• Never release plants, fish, or animals into a water body unless they came out of that water body and empty unwanted bait in the trash.
These steps are not only suggestions; they are law. It is illegal to possess or transport prohibited aquatic invasive species in Iowa. It is also illegal to transport any aquatic plants on water-related equipment. Boaters must drain all water from boats and equipment before leaving a water access and must keep drain plugs removed or opened during transport. It is also illegal to introduce any live fish, except for hooked bait, into public waters.
Signs are posted at public accesses to remind boaters to stop aquatic hitchhikers and to identify infested waters. More information about aquatic invasive species and a list of infested waters can be found in the 2014 Iowa Fishing Regulations booklet or online.