May was invasive species month, so we decided to spotlight invasive species in general rather than focus on one. June is going to be our Clean Drain and Dry month, since many summer vacations begin and boating season is officially in full swing. That means boats are hopping from lake to lake and back again. Although this is great fun for the boater, the reality is that they can be spreading invasive species between waterbodies causing irreparable damage to the wildlife and the recreation potential of the river or lake. The solution to this problem? Clean, Drain & Dry. If we all followed this protocol, our waterbodies would be in much better shape than they are today. It's not too late to start.
The first step is to CLEAN all visible plant matter (stems, fragments, roots, leaves) from your prop, anchor, paddles, life vests, tow ropes, fishing gear, basically everything. This visual inspection can catch about 90% of invasive plants. For invasive animals, it's a bit trickier, since many have microscopic larval stages and cannot be detected with a simple visual inspection. If you run your hand along the hull of the boat or kayak and it feels like sandpaper, there could be juvenile zebra or quagga mussels attached. Entering another waterbody could easily spread those animals. There is little a waterbody can do to fight these invaders, so it is very important to follow this protocol.
Once inspected boats must be thoroughly washed with high pressure water, heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is best, whenever possible. Rinsing the boat, trailer (bunks, especially) fishing gear, dive gear and tackle will ensure you are removing plant fragments and small animals attached to the hull of the boat.
The second step will help take care of microscopic animals hitchhiking in stored or standing water. This is the DRAIN step, which is vitally important since many invasive species survive long periods of time when kept wet. Remember to drain the bilge, motor, live wells and any other containers or compartments that hold water or standing water, FAR FROM A WATERBODY! Remove all drain plugs while transporting, but don't forget to put them in when you get to the next river or lake! Do not throw bait into waterbodies unless they were originally caught there. This is how many invasive fish get their start. Throw all bait in the trash.
The final step, DRY, will ensure you've removed all species from your vessel or gear. Take an absorbent cotton or microfiber towel and dry every part of the boat including the anchor storage compartment. If you dry all areas of stored or standing water, microscopic larvae will be removed. When you've dried everything, let your vessel sit in the sun for at least 5 days, longer during more humid times. This isn't always possible, so if you must visit another waterbody, please be sure to follow all of the steps and then thoroughly dry EVERYTHING.
Be familiar with invasive species in waterbodies you are visiting. Many rivers and lakes have Lake Hosts or Stewards who check boats for invasive species while also educating boaters about the waterbody they are entering. Pay close attention to them and remember all of the steps and spread the word, not invasive species!