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Doug Leier: Hunters, anglers play crucial role in preventing spread of aquatic nuisance species

The threat of spread and introduction of zebra mussels can happen with just one unintentional choice.

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Rules and regulations aimed at preventing aquatic nuisance species such as these zebra mussels are for everyone.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

WEST FARGO – I try to stay consistent in safety messages, whether it’s knowing what is beyond the target before pulling the trigger while hunting, or stressing how important it is to wear a properly fitted PFD while on the water.

I also try to highlight the age-old barrier of hunters and anglers shrugging the suggestion it’ll never happen to them or how those rules are for everyone else.

In a similar mindset, the aquatic nuisance species rules and regulations are for everyone. The threat of spreading or introducing zebra mussels can happen with just one unintentional choice.

North Dakota ANS regulations

  1. All aquatic vegetation must be removed from boats, personal watercraft, trailers, and fishing and hunting equipment such as fishing poles, bait buckets, lures, duck decoys, and waders before leaving a body of water. That means "vegetation free" when transporting watercraft and/or equipment away from a boat ramp, landing area or shoreline.
  2. Live aquatic bait or aquatic vegetation may not be transported into North Dakota.
  3. All water must be drained from boats and other watercraft, including bilges, livewells, baitwells and motors before leaving a water body.
  4. All drain plugs that may hold back water must be removed, and water draining devices must be open, on all watercraft and recreational, commercial and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces, during any out-of-water transport of same.
  5. Anglers may not transport live bait in water away from any Class I ANS-infested waters. All water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore or remove their boat from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the water's edge, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal. In all other waters not infested with Class I ANS species, anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of 5 gallons or less in volume.
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Additional boat cleaning recommendations

  • Clean: Inspect and remove any plants or animals that may be present prior to leaving the immediate access area. If possible, also remove excessive mud that may harbor seeds or organisms. It is illegal to have ANS or vegetation on your equipment when leaving a water body or when entering North Dakota. Removed weeds can be discarded along the shore, and/or in trash receptacles (if available in parking lot).
  • Drain: Remove all water from all equipment prior to leaving the immediate access area. Not only is this a regulation, but water can hold microscopic organisms that may grow and damage your equipment over time. Leave drain plugs out and draining devices open during transport into or within North Dakota to avoid a ticket.
  • Dry: Although not required by North Dakota law, it’s a good idea to allow equipment to dry completely, freeze for 48 hours or decontaminate before using again. In North Dakota, typical drying times average around 7 days in the summer, but can be longer or shorter based on temperature and humidity (the cooler and more humid, the longer the drying time).
  • Decontamination of equipment is not required by North Dakota law, but it is a highly recommended step to further reduce the likelihood of spreading ANS.

Places where aquatic nuisance species can hide and hitchhike to new waters:

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  • Hitch.
  • Livewell.
  • Mud and water on floor.
  • Lines.
  • Trailer frame.
  • Boat hull.
  • Rollers.
  • Prop.
  • Axles/wheels.
  • Boat motor.
Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.
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