Judging by the inquiries at late winter outdoor shows, anglers and boaters are getting ready for spring. One of the most-asked questions at the DNR booth was about a new regulation requiring drain plugs to be pulled as a boat leaves a ramp.
That regulation went into effect last July, so it did not make the 2013 regulations booklet. In the 2014 version, the regulation change is summarized on page 3, but is explained more fully on page 24; “Drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport. If you want to keep live bait when leaving a water access, you must replace water in bait containers with tap or bottle water.”
Anglers leaving with fish are recommended to put them on ice, whether in a cooler, a bucket or a live well (plug must still be removed and/or opened).
The new regulation is to avoid spreading invasive species from one body of water to another; through residual water inside your boat or vegetation which remains attached to your boat, motor or trailer. Enforcement was ‘soft’ last summer. It will step up this year.
Invasive species could range from vegetation such as Eurasian watermilfoil or brittle naiad to water dwelling animals such as zebra mussels—or even minnows purchased elsewhere. Once introduced into another water body, the unwanted species can spread throughout, often with few or no natural predators or vegetation to control the spread. That crowds out native species; disrupting the ecology of the lake or stream…as well as fishing and other recreation.
Is it worth the extra few seconds to pull a drain plug or clean that aquatic plant trailing from your boat motor? It can cost a couple million of your license dollars…and three or four years of your fishing recreation to draw down a lake, kill out the invasive species, renovate it, restock it and wait for fish to grow back to catchable size.