Aquatic hitchhikers have negatively impacted recreational fishing in many ways. These nuisance species have and will continue to cause significant changes in aquatic ecosystems. Non-native fish like sea lampreys, Asian swamp eels, Asian carp, and zebra mussels have harmed fish populations, including both prey and game fish. Some plants (e.g., hydrilla and water hyacinth) limit access to good fishing spots and could potentially eliminate all fishing by taking over entire aquatic systems.
Whenever you fish, you have the potential to introduce or transport unwanted species into or from the area you are fishing. The equipment, clothing and boat used to fish have many places that a hitchhiker can hide. Unlike other recreational pursuits, fishing is a very diverse sport with a wide range of equipment. It is important to become aware this issue and your potential to transport aquatic hitchhikers, and take the necessary preventive steps.
Remove mud, dirt, sand and all visible plants, fish and animals from:
> Fishing rods and reels
> Fishing line
> Boots / shoes /waders
> Boat and trailer
> Trolling motor
> Wading stick
> Other items used in and around the water
Eliminate water from all equipment before transporting anywhere. If you wait until you get home to empty water, it is likely to run down the gutter into a storm drain, which could contaminate local waters or wetlands.
If any area of any equipment, clothing, boat, or trailer is moist, it can harbor a harmful hitchhiker for a long period of time. So even if it is a month before you go fishing again, you could be transporting a nuisance species. Eliminate and dry all equipment. Just a few of the items to consider:
> Boats and trailers
> Live wells
Clean and dry your equipment. Please follow the recommended cleaning procedures described in this and the "General Prevention Procedures for Stopping Aquatic Hitchhikers" and the "Stopping Aquatic Hitchhikers! Prevention Procedures for Boaters" articles to clean items, such as the ones mentioned above and other items that you used in and around the water.
Do not release fish into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water. Often at the end of a good day on the water, anglers release their unused live bait. While this may seem like the humane thing to do, it actually is a dangerous practice that could have significant consequences. The bait you are using may not be native to the area you are fishing. Thus, by releasing unused live bait, you could be facilitating the spread of a harmful, non-native species. If you find yourself with a bucket of live bait at the end of the day, either dispose of your unwated live bait on land or give your bait to another angler for his or her use.