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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is reminding boaters and anglers to check for unwanted hitchhikers on their boats and equipment this Fourth of July to help protect Iowa lakes and streams.
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 other equipment used in the water.
“Boaters and anglers can unintentionally transport aquatic hitchhikers if they do not take the proper precautions to prevent their spread,” said Kim Bogenschutz, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
When brought to another lake or stream, aquatic invasive species often grow quickly and spread rapidly due to lack of natural controls. They can create serious problems for Iowa waters by reducing native species and making lakes and rivers unusable by boaters, anglers and swimmers.
“The best way to control the negative impacts of aquatic invasive species in Iowa is to prevent their spread to new waterbodies,” Bogenschutz said. Boaters and anglers need to clean, drain and dry their boat and equipment after each time on the water.
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 2016 Iowa Fishing Regulations booklet.