AIS In Montana And The Laziness Of Mankind by guide Jim Bob
A recent report published by Montana F.W.P showed 10 new detections of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in 10 separate bodies of water across Montana in 2022. AIS such as New Zealand Mud Snails, Flowering Rush, Eurasian Watermilfoil, Curlyleaf Pondweed, and Fragrant Waterlily were all found. I’m not going to name bodies of water due to some of these spots being sensitive, secret, and cherished but these spots range from Bozeman, to Lima, to Ronan and all over this great state. The fact that this is happening on even our most guarded pieces of water should highlight our failings as a community of guides and anglers. These AIS have been getting into the waterways simply due to laziness, lack of education, and apathy on the part of anglers, boaters, hunters and more. The blame is not on non-residents alone either, so let’s go ahead and get that out of our heads.
In 2022 AIS check stations operated by F.W.P and partnering agencies checked over 119,000 watercraft entering the state as well as crossing the Columbia River Basin defense perimeter finding over 653 contaminated boats. Out of the contaminated boats the check stations found, 53 had either Zebra or Quagga mussels both of which are detrimental species outside of their native waters. Being that these check stations are only in operation 6-8 months a year and are not 24 hours, who knows how many contaminated vessels made it into Montana waters. Although myself and plenty of others wish these checkpoints would stay open longer, it also isn’t the state governments responsibility to prevent AIS transfer, the responsibility is on you and me.
Clean, Drain, Dry……. It’s as easy to do as it is to say. Properly cleaning, draining, and drying a raft or drift boat takes all of 15 minutes on your slowest day and maybe an extra 10 for a larger fishing or skiing boat. Thoroughly Wash your boat with water (and soap ideally), Drain the water out of it, and either hand Dry it or let the sun do the work. Check for any leafy debris or mussels stuck to your boat.
As we see bans on felt soles popping up worldwide, I find myself in the “come and take ‘em” group of clumsy anglers… That said, there are good reasons for these felt bans…
Felt soles are known to harbor and carry AIS more than any other material used in wading boots. Due to the porous nature of felt and it also taking forever to dry, it carries a high risk of housing and transporting AIS and even the microorganisms linked to Whirling Disease and VHS. Again, I use felt soles personally and so do a ton of anglers, you just need to be mindful about them. Clean, Drain, Dry before moving fisheries and remember that felt takes upwards of 8 days to dry completely. My work-around for this is using boots with interchangeable soles and having multiple pairs of felt soles, that way if I decide to move fisheries I can switch to my pair that has had plenty of time to dry out. If you aren’t using interchangeable soles, 24 hours or longer in a freezer should do the trick once you’ve cleaned your boots. Clorox and other cleaners aren’t super effective when it comes to felt due to their inability to penetrate deeply enough. Felt aside, there are plenty of other wading boot sole options like rubber that have a far lower risk of AIS transmission. Really any gear you use while fishing is worth a check and clean, but mostly make sure to check your waders and boots and clean them before you move fisheries.
Whether you’re planning a trip from Michigan to Montana or simply from Bozeman to Missoula, do the right thing and wash, drain and dry your boats and equipment. We can all agree that the natural resources we have in Montana are worth protecting and we owe it to the future generations to do just that, so do the right thing. Tell your friends.