Beginning March 21, 2019 watercraft users in the state are required to take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Anyone fishing with live or cut bait or practicing catch-and-release fishing will need to take precautions to limit the movement of invasive species and fish diseases.
For boaters, amendments to Sec. 41325 of Michigan’s NREPA (Act 451 of 1994), finalized near the close of the 2018 legislative season, affect both motorized and nonmotorized watercraft, trailers and other conveyances used to move watercraft
In addition to the existing law requiring all aquatic plants to be removed from boats and trailers before launching, the changes require the following, prior to transport any watercraft over land:
- Remove all drain plugs from bilges, ballast tanks, and live wells.
- Drain all water from any live wells and bilges.
- Ensure watercraft, trailer, and any conveyance used to transport the watercraft or trailer are free of aquatic organisms, including plants.
This means after trailering boats, and before getting on the road, boaters must pull plugs, draining water and remove plants and debris from all watercraft, trailers and other conveyances.
For anglers, NREPA amendments codify Michigan’s DNR’s Fisheries Order 245 regarding the release of baitfish, collection and use of baitfish and cut bait, and release of captured fish, specifically:
- A person shall not release baitfish in any waters of this state. A person who collects fish shall not use the fish as bait or cut bait except in the inland stream, or Great Lake where the fish was caught, or in a connecting waterway of the inland lake, Or Great lake where the fish was caught in, if the fish could freely move around between the original location of capture and the location of release
- A person who catches fish other than baitfish in a lake, stream. Or Great Lake where the fish was caught in, if the fish could freely move between the original location of capture and the location of release.
- Whether purchased or collected, unused baitfish should be disposed of on land or in the trash- never in the water. Any baitfish an angler collects may be used only in the waters where it was originally collected.
- Anglers who are catching and releasing fish should release the fish back into the same water or in a connection body of water, the fish could have reached on its own.
Many invasive species move from one location to another with the help of human transportation from lake to lake on boats and trailers. Just one plant fragment can start a new population.
Draining boats and cleaning trailers can limit the spread of zebra and quagga mussels, which are common in some inland lakes. A more recent invader, the tiny New Zealand mud snail, can hitchhike from river to river when mud or debris is left on kayaks, canoes, and gear.
Moving fish from one body of water to another can spread fish diseases. Fish diseases also can be spread to new locations when water carrying parasites or infections is transferred via bildes, live wells or ballast tanks.
Here are some simple rules to help boaters and anglers navigate these laws:
- Clean boats, trailers, and equipment
- Drain live wells, bilges, and all water – pull and drain plugs.
- Dry boast and equipment.
- Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
- And remember when practicing catch-and-release fishing, return the fish to the water where it was caught.