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Preventing the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

What Can You Do?

Aquatic invasive species (AIS), including diseases, are easily spread from one water body to the other. Anglers, boaters, construction workers, pond owners, gardeners, seaplane pilots, field workers - virtually anyone who works or plays in or around water can unknowingly transport these pests on their boats and equipment or allow them to spread via improper management practices. It takes only one mistake to potentially infest a new water body. To protect Montana’s waters and native aquatic species, please follow these rules and guidelines:

Image of Inspect. Clean. Dry. logo

Boaters, Anglers, Paddlers, and Seaplane Pilots

CLEAN.  Completely remove all mud, water, and vegetation before leaving the access area.

  • Inspect your boat, trailer, and all gear. Pay attention to crevices and hidden areas.
  • Remove all vegetation (by hand or sprayer).
  • Remove all mud (use a pressurized power sprayer, found at most do-it-yourself car washes).  The hot water kills organisms and the pressure removes mud and vegetation. No need to use chemicals or soap.
  • Dispose of debris in trash or on dry land away from water or ramp.

DRAIN.  Drain all water from watercraft and equipment.

  • Drain or remove water from boat, bilge, live well, engine, internal compartments, and bait buckets by removing drain plugs before leaving the access area.

DRY.  Aquatic invaders can survive only in water and wet areas.

  • Dry your watercraft and fishing equipment thoroughly; this will kill most invasive species.  The longer you keep your watercraft, trailer, waders, and other equipment outside in the hot sun between fishing trips, the better.
How to Clean. Drain. Dry. in 3 Easy Steps
Key areas to Clean. Drain. Dry. on any watercraft:


Don't Release Live Animals
  • Never move live fish, invertebrates (snails or mussels) or plants from one body of water to another without FWP authorization, and don’t release live baitfish or aquarium fish into Montana waters.  You may think you are being kind by doing so, but in actuality you are breaking the law and damaging Montana’s aquatic resources. 

Water Gardeners and Pond Owners

  • Again, never transplant aquatic plants or animals from your pond into other water bodies.
  • Follow all regulations concerning pond building and stocking.  You need a permit from Montana FWP in order to build a pond and stock it with fish.  Refer to "A Guide to Building and Managing  Private Fish ponds in Montana" for more information, including a list of fish species that are allowed or prohibited in specific drainages.
  • Do not purchase or stock prohibited species and whenever possible use native plants and animals for your pond or garden.  FWP strongly recommends only using fish from Montana hatcheries, as these are regularly tested for AIS.
  • Obtain the necessary permits for possessing controlled species of fish such as koi and goldfish.
  • Properly dispose of unwanted plants and animals.

Aquarium/Pet Owners, Teachers

  • Again, do not purchase prohibited species for your aquarium or terrarium. 
  • Red-eared sliders are now prohibited in Montana.
  • FWP has partnered with the "Don't Let It Loose" campaign to help the public find homes for displaced pets. Remember to:
    • Never transplant aquarium plants or animals into lakes, streams, or wetlands.
    • Properly dispose of unwanted plants and animals.

Field Workers in the Aquatic Environment

Waders, nets and all other field equipment used in the water:

  • Separate all individual components such as insoles, socks, booties, ankle guards and laces. Wash all components separately.
  • Remove all sediment, vegetation and aquatic animals from all equipment. Pay particular attention to the soles of waders.
  • Disinfect all equipment in a 20% commercial bleach solution for 10 minutes or a 5% bleach solution for 1 hour.
  • If chlorine disinfection is not used, an alternative is to ensure all equipment is thoroughly cleaned with hot water such as in a bucket or bathtub and allowed to soak for sufficient time to allow components to reach water temperature, and allowed to dry completely for as long as possible between visits to different sites.
  • Do not transfer any water, mud, vegetation or animals between sites.
  • Always work from upstream to downstream.

Report a Suspected AIS

If you see a boat or trailer with aquatic organisms attached to it, call TIP-MONT (406) 847-6668 immediately.

If you see or suspect a new infestation of an invasive plant or animal, please save a specimen and complete a Report a Suspected AIS form.

You can also notify the FWP Fisheries office at (406) 444-2449.

Control of AIS

Once an aquatic invasive species is established in a water body, complete eradication is usually impossible or prohibitively expensive, which is why prevention is so important. However, control options do exist, and The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) offers state-funded grants for the prevention and control of AIS. The goal of the grants is to protect the natural resources of Montana from severe and unacceptable damage from AIS.

Volunteer Opportunities

Multiple opportunities exist for people to get involved in the fight against invasive species. The following list provides examples of local groups who welcome volunteer efforts. If you would like your group to be included in this list, please e-mail us.

  • Clearwater Resource Council has multiple volunteer opportunities within the Clearwater River Watershed. 
  • The Flathead Basin Commission works to monitor and protect water quality in the Flathead Basin.  You can volunteer to help with a variety of activities, including watercraft inspections.
  • The Madison River Stream Team, in conjunction with the Madison Conservation District, is a group of volunteers who help monitor the Madison River for water quality and AIS issues.
  • Montana Trout Unlimited offers many opportunities for you to volunteer your time to help conserve, protect, and restore Montana’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. 
  • Whitefish Lake Institute, in partnership with Montana FWP and the Flathead Basin Commission, runs the Northwest Montana Lakes Volunteer Monitoring Network.  This program trains volunteers to monitor 40 lakes in Flathead, Lincoln, Lake, and Missoula Counties by collecting basic water quality measurements and checking for AIS. 

If you would like to organize a volunteer group to help protect water resources in your area, please contact your local FWP office and ask for the Fisheries Biologist that oversees your particular water body.