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Laws and Regulations

Summary of Montana AIS Laws

Watercraft Inspections
  • If you are carrying or towing any watercraft or water-based equipment (non-motorized and motorized), you MUST stop at all watercraft inspection stations you encounter in Montana.
Illegal Transportation and Release

It is illegal:

  • To transport AIS into or within Montana.
  • To transport live fish, even baitfish, into Montana.  Leeches may be imported if purchased from an approved dealer and accompanied by a receipt.
  • To move live fish, aquatic plants, or invertebrates from one water body to another without FWP authorization.
  • To release live aquarium or bait fish into Montana waters.
Enforcement
  • You can be charged with a felony and fined up to $5000 if you knowingly or purposely attempt to introduce AIS into Montana waters.
  • You can be cited for driving past an inspections station if you are hauling or carrying a watercraft.
  • Different areas of the state have different fishing regulations, especially the transportation of live fish.  Do not assume that regulations you follow in eastern Montana apply to central and western Montana.  KNOW THE REGULATIONS before heading out to fish.
Commercial Watercraft Haulers
  • Commercial boat haulers and those towing oversize boats must contact the Fisheries Office with FWP at (406) 444-2449 prior to entry into Montana.

At this time Montana does not have an AIS boat sticker or other pass that you have to purchase before launching your boat in Montana. However, we ask all water users to voluntarily Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat and equipment before using in Montana waters.

AIS Rules Effective April 15, 2017

NEW LAW – All watercraft entering Montana are required to be inspected.

New watercraft inspection regulations:

  • All watercraft entering Montana are required to be inspected for aquatic invasive species prior to launching in the waters of the state.
  • All watercraft crossing the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin are also required to be inspected prior to launch.
    • Vessels and equipment traveling into the Flathead Basin that have been used on waters outside of the Flathead Basin must be inspected at a department inspection station prior to launching within the Flathead Basin.
  • Due to the detection of invasive mussel larvae in Tiber Reservoir and suspected detection in Canyon Ferry Reservoir, all watercraft exiting those waters are required to be inspected as per MCA 12.5.706.

See Map Infested States and Waterbodies 261 KB.

AIS Statutes and Rules

Aquatic Invasive Species - establishes a mechanism for Montana to take concerted action to detect, control, and manage invasive species, (80-7-1001-1019 MCA)

  • Aquatic Invasive Species Rules - the prevention, inspection, and decontamination processes for aquatic invasive species in Montana, (ARM Rule 12.5.706 and 707)
  • Flathead Basin Inspection Rules, (ARM Rule 12.5.709) - mandatory inspection launching anywhere within the Flathead Basin.
  • Fish Health and Import Statutes - requires annual permits for importation, including health certificates, and provides for inspection, quarantine, and disinfection of fish culture facilities (87-3-209 through 87-3-277 MCA)
  • Transplantation of Wildlife - Authority to regulate importation, introduction and transplantation of wildlife species, including aquatics (87-5-701 through 87-5-721 MCA)
  • Leech Rules (12.7.540 through 12.7.542 ARM) - Regulation of leach importation and development of approved leech dealers.

Federal Law

The Lacey Act prohibits import and interstate transport of any live specimens of those species listed as injurious without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The maximum penalty for violating the injurious wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act is six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.