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Conservation > AIS AIS Laws & Rules

The following is a summary of Montana's Aquatic Invasive Species laws and rules.

Watercraft Inspection Regulations

Transporting watercraft WITHIN Montana:

  • If you carry or tow any watercraft (non-motorized and motorized) or water-based equipment, you must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations you encounter.

  • All watercraft crossing the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin are required to be inspected prior to launch.

  • Boats with ballast tanks or bladders, such as wakeboard or wake-surfing boats, crossing into the Columbia River Basin must obtain a decontamination before launching.

  • Vessels and equipment traveling into the Flathead Basin that have been used on waters outside of the Flathead Basin must be inspected prior to launching.

  • At Tiber Reservoir, due to the detection of invasive mussel larvae, all watercraft exiting Tiber are required to be inspected.

  • When removing a vessel from the waters and before leaving the associated boat launch or parking area remove all aquatic vegetation from the vessel, trailer, and equipment. Drain and dry all compartments or spaces that hold water, including bilges, live wells, pumps, motors, ballast tanks and bait buckets.

Transporting watercraft INTO Montana:

  • All watercraft entering Montana are required to be inspected for aquatic invasive species. You must obtain an inspection before launching on Montana waters. Stop at all open inspections stations you encounter. Find inspections stations here.

    • Montana will accept inspections conducted in Idaho and Wyoming. Proof of inspection is required. You must stop at ALL open inspection stations you encounter in Montana.

  • Boats with a ballast or bladder, such as wakeboard or wake-surfing boats, that intend to launch on Montana waters must obtain a decontamination before launching.

  • Non-resident watercraft launching in Montana must purchase a Vessel AIS Prevention Pass (AISPP) available at FWP regional offices or on-line here.

    • Motorized watercraft fee is $30.  Required for all watercraft that have a motor.

    • Nonmotorized watercraft fee is $10.  Required for all nonmotorized watercraft.

    • Proof of purchase is electronic (cell phone) or paper receipt, there is no decal.

    • The Vessel AISPP expires on December 31.

    • The Vessel AISPP is not transferable between vessels.

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 (PDF) 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.

It is unlawful to transport surface water.

  • Anglers, where allowed to transport live aquatic bait and bait fish, must use clean non-surface water. 

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 Montana FWP Fisheries Office at (406) 444-2440 prior to entry into Montana.

AIS Laws and Rules

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

Aquatic Invasive Species Rules - the prevention, inspection, and decontamination processes for aquatic invasive species in Montana. (ARM Rule 12.5.706)

Bodies of Water with Invasive Mussels – rules to prevent the further spread of aquatic invasive mussels on confirmed or suspected bodies of water. (ARM Rule 12.5.707)

Flathead Basin Inspection Rules - mandatory inspection when launching anywhere within the Flathead Basin. (ARM Rule 12.5.709)

Fish Health and Import Laws - 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)

Introduction or Transplantation of Wildlife - regulates the importing, introduction and transplanting of wildlife species, including aquatics. (87-5-701 through 87-5-721 MCA)

Leech Rules – regulates importing leeches and permitting of approved leech dealers. (ARM Rule 12.7.540 through 12.7.542 ARM)

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.