Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species

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Fishing season is finally here, but with it comes an environmental risk.

“The general spread of invasive species across the state is always one of the main problems that we have,” explained Wisconsin DNR Lake Superior Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Alex Selle. “Every year or so, we get a couple of new species that kind of pop up across the state.”

While there are hundreds of aquatic invasive species, a few are particularly notable.

“The top few, I would say, would be European frog’s bit since our first finding in the state was found last year in the Green Bay area, and then it would be Stone Wart which is actually a macro algae. That’s another individual that’s becoming more abundant in northern Minnesota as well,” explained Selle. “And then after that, your zebra mussels will always be a species of concern where lakes are present as well.”

Invasive species are often introduced to new areas by humans.

“The largest and vast majority of them are spread from human activities,” said Selle. “Whether that be maritime commerce, ballast water, transport, movement of duck hunters with dumb decoys and mud and stuff like that, trout anglers with their wading equipment, as well as just general recreational fisher fisherman or even recreational boaters moving things from lake to lake and across the state lines as well.”

To avoid bringing aquatic hitchhikers of your own to a lake, river, or stream, there are a few preventative measures you can take.

“In Wisconsin, we kind of have this four-prong approach and it’s inspect, remove, drain and never move,” explained Selle. “So that kind of first approach, whenever I go out and angle or use my boat, my personal boat for any type of activity, I make sure when I’m leaving a body of water to kind of inspect my watercraft before I leave.”

When inspecting your watercraft, look for any mussels, snails, or vegetation that may be attached.

“Make sure that you kind of get under there and look and remove all the different plants off that as well and drain any water out of your livewell or bilge areas,” said Selle.”

Lastly, never move any live bait or live fish from one body of water to another.

“Especially if it’s been used and used in that system as well,” Selle emphasized. “So if I go buy a dozen minnows from a local bait shop, I’m not using those minnows again in another body of water, if water from that body has contacted those as well. Proper disposal can be anything from a trash can or your compost pile and your garden as well.”

If you happen to see an invasive species or a plant or animal you think might not be native, reporting it to your local DNR office helps track the spread of invasive species.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, to say the least,” said Selle. “Our greatest mechanism for protecting lake superior and protecting our native or our local aquatic resources is preventing the introduction of invasive species into any of those aquatic systems”