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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

New AIS Rules Effective May 21, 2016

Drain plug – You must remove your drain plug and other devices that prevent water drainage before you leave the boat ramp or associated parking area, except where otherwise provided in current published fishing regulations.

Aquatic vegetation – You must remove all aquatic vegetation from your watercraft, trailer and gear before you leave the boat ramp or associated parking area.

Decontamination of infested watercraft – If AIS are found on a watercraft or the watercraft has been in a mussel infested waterway in the last 30 days, your watercraft will be decontaminated. Decontaminations include proper dry time. To ensure watercrafts are dried properly, FWP may lock your watercraft to the trailer to prevent launching, while staying in your possession. Each circumstance is unique and the amount of time your watercraft may be locked depends on the watercraft complexity, temperature and humidity. FWP staff will arrange for the watercraft to be unlocked.

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, (80-7-1001-1015 MCA)
  • Aquatic Invasive Species Rules - the prevention, inspection, and decontamination processes for aquatic invasive species in Montana, (ARM 12.11.341-12.11.342) 
  • Fish Health and Import Statutes - requires 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.