Skip to main content
Go to search page


Inspection station

Conservation > AIS Watercraft Inspection FAQ

Why do inspections?

Watercraft inspections are a way of intercepting vessels and equipment that have the potential to spread aquatic invasive species (AIS) and to decontaminate them (if necessary) before launching into Montana waters. Data collected at watercraft inspection stations also provide valuable information on boater movement, cleaning habits, and bait use while providing information and education about invasive species to the public.

What can I expect at a watercraft inspection station?

A watercraft inspection typically takes less than 10 minutes. Watercraft inspection stations serve to inform the public of the threat of AIS and to physically inspect vessels for aquatic invasive species. Inspectors examine boats, trailers, and gear to  ensure no invasive plants, animals, mud or water are tranported.

The inspection consists of a boater interview, a watercraft inspection and decontamination (if necessary). The interview consists of questions relating to boater origin and movement, water user type, live bait usage, knowledge of AIS, cleaning methods, cleaning frequency, and number of launches per year.

What is expected of you?

Your help is needed to complete the inspection.  Please be prepared to remove covers, raise and lower the engine/motor, and provide other assistance as needed.

CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY your watercraft prior to arrival at a watercraft inspection station. Drain your bilge, ballast tanks, live wells, and any storage compartments. Dispose of all plants and animals away from lakes or rivers. If you have an outboard engine, lower the outdrive on the engine to release any residual water. Know your local fishing regulations. It is prohibited in some areas to be in possession of live fish/bait. Failure to follow these steps will result in a longer inspection. If you arrive prepared, inspections should take only a few minutes.

I've already had my watercraft inspected today. Do I still need to stop at inspection stations?

Yes, you must stop at ALL open watercraft inspection station you encounter. Subsequent inspections will be brief, but you must stop. 

What is watercraft decontamination?

Watercraft decontamination can take an average of up to 30 minutes and includes spraying the exterior and flushing interior compartments with pressurized hot water (140°F). In the most extreme cases, the motor’s cooling system will need to be flushed. Generally, decontamination only will require thoroughly cleaning, draining, and drying, which will take much less time. Decontamination can be as simple as Clean. Drain. Dry.

I'm bringing a boat from out of state. What should I do?

All watercraft entering Montana are required to be inspected for aquatic invasive species. You must obtain an inspection before launching on Montana waters.

Nonresident watercraft launching in Montana must purchase a Vessel AIS Prevention Pass (AISPP). 

How much does the inspection or decontamination cost?

There is no cost. We only ask that you support this important effort with your patience as we work together to protect Montana’s waters

What can I do to clean my watercraft and avoid transporting AIS?

The three steps of Clean Drain Dry greatly minimizes the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species into new locations.

CLEAN: Before leaving any waterbody, always inspect your boat, trailer and equipment (anchors, waders, boots, fishing gear, nets, decoys) and clean off all plants, animals and mud. This is an essential step for all watercraft every time you use a waterbody.

DRAIN: Before leaving the boat ramp or parking area, eliminate water from all equipment including bait buckets, livewells, pumps, motors and bilges. Remember to lower and drain your motor and remove the drain plug. If possible, flush live wells and ballast tanks between water bodies. For kayaks and canoes, ensure all water is drained and/or sponged out prior to hitting the road.

DRY: Before launching a boat into another body of water, allow your boat and equipment to dry completely. Drying time depends on your boat and equipment, but ideally should be completely dry to the touch.

What is a Watercraft Inspection Passport?

The Watercraft Inspection Passport is a booklet that is intended to help expedite watercraft inspections for Montana boaters who frequently encounter inspection stations.

When you stop at a watercraft inspection station, use your Watercraft Inspection Passport to show proof of inspection and make the process quick and easy as possible. You’ll receive a stamp in your passport instead of a Proof of Inspection form.

What should commercial watercraft haulers or oversized boats do?

Commercial boat haulers and those towing oversize boats must contact the FWP Fisheries Office at (406) 444-2440 prior to entry into Montana.

What is the role of watercraft inspectors?

Watercraft Inspectors are seasonal employees, trained to give you the best most efficient inspection possible. A typical watercraft inspection consists of a boater interview, an inspection and decontamination (if necessary). The interview consists of questions relating to boater origin and movement, water user type, live bait usage, knowledge of AIS, cleaning methods, cleaning frequency, and number of launches per year. Inspection stations are generally manned by two trained inspectors. inspectors will be friendly, polite and courteous at all times, making the inspection process as pleasant and informative as possible.

Watercraft Inspector job openings can be found here:  Keyword: AIS