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Boaters Urged to Help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

The Iowa DNR is encouraging all boaters and anglers to “Clean, Drain, and Dry” their boats and equipment this Memorial Day weekend to protect Iowa lakes and rivers from aquatic hitchhikers.

Aquatic hitchhikers are invasive species – everything from zebra mussels to Eurasian watermilfoil - that are transported from one waterbody to another by hitchhiking on boats, in bait buckets and on other equipment used in the water. When brought to another lake or stream, they often grow quickly and spread rapidly due to lack of natural controls.

“The best way to control the negative impacts of aquatic invasive species in Iowa is to prevent their spread to new waterbodies,” said Kim Bogenschutz, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

These aquatic invasive species can create serious problems for Iowa waters by reducing native species and making lakes and rivers unusable by boaters, anglers and swimmers.

“Boaters and anglers can unintentionally spread aquatic hitchhikers if they do not take the proper precautions - clean, drain, dry - after each time out on the water.”

  • CLEAN any plants, animals, or mud from your boat and equipment before leaving a waterbody.
  • DRAIN water from all equipment (motor, live well, bilge, transom well) before leaving a waterbody.
  • DRY anything that comes into contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, boots, clothing, dogs). Before transporting to another waterbody 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 or any aquatic plants on water-related equipment in Iowa. The fine for violating this law is $500. Signs are posted at public accesses to remind boaters to stop aquatic hitchhikers and to identify infested waters.

Boaters must also 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.

More information about aquatic invasive species and a list of infested waters can be found in the current Iowa Fishing Regulations booklet.

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