MADISON - Nearly 10 percent more anglers and boaters took a key step in preventing the spread of invasive species and fish diseases last year than in previous years, spurring state invasive species experts to urge them to keep up the good work in 2014 when the inland fishing season opens May 3.
"Anglers and boaters really stepped up to the plate last year and started draining boat bilges and the containers carrying their day's catch in significantly greater numbers," says Bob Wakeman, who coordinates aquatic invasive species efforts for the Department of Natural Resources. "We're really pleased with the response and hope to see even more boaters and anglers draining their boat bilges, live wells and the containers holding their catch."
Boaters and anglers over the past decade have reported a high awareness of the state law that requires them to remove any attached plants and animals from their boats and equipment before leaving a water body to avoid accidentally spreading aquatic invasive species and fish diseases. However, awareness has been much lower among anglers and other boaters that the smallest invasive species - like microscopic zebra mussel larvae and spiny water fleas - can spread in leftover water from boat bilges, live wells and buckets.
Aquatic invasive species are non-native plants and animals that can harm Wisconsin's aquatic wildlife and economy by outcompeting native species and hampering recreation. The invaders are transported to new lakes and rivers when they hitchhike on boats, trailers, fishing equipment, machinery or other gear.
To raise awareness of draining requirements, DNR and partners launched a statewide "Drain Campaign" last summer. With help from volunteers, wardens, county staff and other partners, Wisconsin anglers heard reminders to drain water from their live wells and buckets on the radio, in newspapers, and from their local natural resources staff.