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Walleyes Forever - Aquatic Nuisance Species

Just some
of the species
we don't want
in our waters

Click here to learn more
about Zebra Mussels

Click here to learn more
about New Zealand Mudsnails

Click here to learn more
about Silver Carp

Click here to learn more
about Bighead Carp

Click here to learn more
about Grass Carp

Click here to learn more
about Eurasian

Click here to learn more
about Whirling Disease

Click here to learn more
about Ruffe

Click here to learn more
about Round Goby

Click here to learn more
about Rusty Crayfish

Boats, trailers can
attract a lot of weeds

of bighead, silver
carp leaping
as boat passes

(Long download,
but well worth seeing)

Courtesy of
Billings Gazette
and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Video Source:
Illinois Natural
History Survey

Invasive species
page links

Protect Your Waters
hitchhikers page

Protect Your Waters
prevention page
species profile pages

Wisconsin DNR EEK!
alien species pages

USGS Nonindiginous
Aquatic Species

Whirling Disease

Montana Whirling
Disease Task Force

You can help
stop the spread

You can help stop invasive aquatic species from hurting your fishing and Montana waters by being proactive in your approach to stopping their spread.

If you do travel from water to water, and especially if you travel out of state to fish, be sure to follow guidelines for cleaning your livewell, boat and trailer.

Spread the word to other fishermen about how dangerous these species are to our fishing.

Aquatic nuisance species
can harm your waters

Click here to take the Clean Angler Pledge

Unwanted invaders

Zebra mussels
cover a stick.
Photo: NOAA, Great Lakes
Environmental Research Lab

Some call them "aquatic nuisance species" and others call them "invasive species," but the bottom line is the same. These are species of animals and plants that we really don't want in our fishing waters. They damage fisheries. They can completely change our fish habitat. And once these invaders arrive, there's often nothing that can be done to get rid of them.

Montana and other western states have been battling the spread of whirling disease since 1995, hoping to slow the spread of the parasite which proves so deadly to rainbow and other trout species. In 2004, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks initiated boat checks on all tournament fishermen to try to protect the state from zebra mussels and Eurasian water-milfoil.

But possible invaders don't stop there and tournament fishermen are just a small fraction of the anglers that need to get actively involved. Live bait illegally brought into the state could include unwanted species like silver carp, bighead carp, grass carp, ruffe or round goby. Unwashed boats or trailers could bring seeds or sprouts of other unwanted vegetation.

On this page, we'll take a look at some resources to help you learn what we're up against and what you can do to protect our waters no matter where you fish.

Tourney anglers get boat checks

Montana FWP Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator

You have heard about whirling disease and New Zealand mud snails. Now meet a new threat-the zebra mussel. Responsible for millions of dollars in damage to waters, shorelines, crafts, irrigation pipes, water treatment facilities and power plants in 20 states and two Canadian provinces, zebra mussels are present in the Missouri River in South Dakota and are heading our way.

In a preemptive move this summer, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will inspect and help all organized fishing tournament participants to wash boats and trailers at wash stations set up near launch sites. The washing and inspections will make sure all boats are free of exotic hitchhikers and help anglers learn what to look for when inspecting their boats in the future.

Zebra mussels can blanket entire shorelines with their sharp shells and foul smell, ruining a day at the lake or on the river and threatening the Montana tourist economy. They stick to boat hulls, fittings, plants. They can invade bilges, live wells and motors and the fact they survive out of water for several days means they can be transported from infested waters fairly easily.

Zebra mussels also consume the same food as some of our game fish and could negatively impact game fish such as yellow perch and walleye. Zebra mussels are every recreationist's concern-and everyone can do something to help stop or slow their spread. Here is information useful to all recreationists in preventing the spread of zebra mussels.

A zebra mussel
Photo: Ohio Sea Grant
How to identify a zebra mussel:

    * Zebra mussels look like small clams with a dark D-shaped shell and light-colored stripes (hence the name zebra).
    * Most are under an inch long, but they can be up to two inches long.
    * The adults usually grow in clusters attached to hard surfaces.
    * The young mussels on the surface of boats look like black pepper and feel like sandpaper.

How to help:

    Before leaving any water body:
    * Remove all plants, sediment and tiny organisms that cling to your boat and trailer.
    * Drain all water from your boat, including from the motor, live well and bilge. Do not transfer any water from one water body into another.
    * Never release live bait into a water body or transport aquatic animals from one water body into another. Always discard of unwanted bait with household trash in the landfill. Likewise, dispose of fish carcasses with trash.
    * Wash your boat, trailer and all fishing gear and equipment. High-pressure hot water is best.
    * Air-dry your boat and equipment for as long as possible between fishing trips.

If you find a zebra mussel:
    * Note the date and location where the mussel was found.
    * Take the mussel with you and store it in rubbing alcohol.
    * Contact your regional FWP office or call the FWP Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator at 406-453-2275 immediately.

Montana fishing
bait regulations

Live fish (including live bait fish) may not be imported into or exported from the State of Montana except by a permit issued by FWP. Possession of live bait fish is prohibited on waters closed to using live fish for bait.

Only nongame species may be trapped or seined for personal or commercial use as live bait and only in waters where live fish may be used as bait. Landowner permission is required to capture live bait from privately owned ponds.

No species in the Bullhead Catfish family, yellow perch or crappie may be used as live bait anywhere in the state.

Leeches, worms, aquatic/terrestrial insects and maggots may be used for bait in any waters where live or dead bait is allowed. Leeches may be collected from waters in Montana or purchased from any Montana bait dealer. Commercial bait dealers in Montana may import leeches only from approved out-of-state sources. Anglers who wish to import leeches may import only from approved sources and must have in their possession a bill of sale from the approved out-of-state leech dealer when fishing with leeches in Montana. A list of approved out-of-state leech dealers may be obtained from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Please take all unused live bait home with you. Do not empty any minnow buckets or live bait containers at your fishing site.

Help prevent illegal introductions

At least 20 percent of illegal fish introductions documented by FWP have occurred in the past 10 years. In total there have been more than 400 unauthorized introductions in waters across the state involving 49 fish species.

Illegally introduced species can:

* harm native, wild and stocked fish populations;
* spread disease;
* impact water quality and aquatic habitat;
* increase fishery management costs by requiring planting more fishor even chemical rehabilitation to maintain or restore a fishery;
and* diminish fishing opportunities in the state.

Protect the environment from illegal fish introductions and nuisance species by taking these common sense precautions:

* don't move live fish, aquatic insects, or other aquatic organisms from one water to another for any reason;
* don't release aquarium fish into streams and lakes;
* don't release live baitfish into streams and lakes.

When FWP identifies an illegal introduction, it investigates, may prosecute the violator and will require restitution for costs of removing the introduced species and re-establishing the original fishery.

If you witness such a crime, please report it by calling TIP-MONT at 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668).

Zebra mussels foul a boat prop.

When you take the pledge, you can opt to receive, or not to receive, additional information through e-mails of the Clean Angling News. Your e-mail address will remain confidential.

Learn more at Livingston, Montana's Center for Aquatic Nuisance Species.


I pledge to "Inspect, Clean and Dry" my equipment tothe best of my ability after every on-water use.

* required information




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