Boaters and anglers can help slow the spread of invasive species

By following the Inspect, Remove, Drain, Dispose, and Spray, Rinse, or Dry protocol, boaters and anglers can help protect their favorite lakes and streams from invasive species.

Nearly everyone who spends time on Michigan’s lakes and streams has experienced some of the impacts invasive species have had on our aquatic habitats. Zebra mussels cover theStop Aquatic Hitchhikers winchpost sticker bottom of many shallow, rocky lakes and streams. Their filter feeding clears the water, leading to nuisance algae blooms and excess growth of aquatic plants. The invasive Eurasian watermilfoil is one such plant. It grows to the surface and forms dense mats that make power boating difficult and crowds out native plants. In addition to these well-known pests, hosts of other invaders are spreading through Michigan waters. 

Most of our problematic invasive species are not native to North American waters and many of these originally entered the Great Lakes through canals dug to accommodate transoceanic ships or in the ballast tanks of those ships. Others, including four species of Asian carp, were imported from overseas before escaping into North American waters. Once a species becomes established in North American waters, it can spread between watersheds through artificial connections (e.g., canals), natural intermittent connections (e.g., floodplains) or because of human activity.

Boaters and anglers should be aware that many of our worst invaders have spread from the Great Lakes to inland waters or from one inland lake or stream to another by hitchhiking along in livewells, bilges, bait buckets, or trailers. Michigan Sea Grant has been working with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network and other partner groups to help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!TM through education of boaters and anglers. Part of this project involved developing a protocol that boaters and anglers can follow to slow the spread of invasive species. By taking these simple steps, boaters and anglers can help protect their favorite waters.

BEFORE launching…BEFORE leaving:

  • INSPECT watercraft, trailer and equipment.
  • REMOVE visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels, other animals and mud before leaving any water access.
  • DRAIN water from boat, bilge and livewell by removing drain plug and opening all water draining devices. Regulations require this when leaving any body of water in Michigan.
  • DISPOSE of unwanted minnows, fish parts and roe in the trash.
  • SPRAY/RINSE recreational equipment with high pressure and/or hot water (120oF/50oC or higher), OR
  • DRY everything at least five days before going to other waters.

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