Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!
Inside the Outdoors, May 14, 2010

Each of you whom have received your fishing license this year received a 2010 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary booklet. However, I have a feeling not many anglers ever get beyond the first few pages when they browse through it.

If by chance you can put your fingers on that dark green tabloid, I want you to turn to page 37. There you will see an article titled, “Clear Your Gear.” So far so good?

For now, look down to the last sentence in the third column and read it. For those who may not have found their handbooks or do not have this collection of articles, etc., let me quote: “Dump unused bait in a trash can.”

If ever there was “music to my eyes,” this has to be one of the all time wonderful statements I have read in a long, long time. Here is why.

Under the title of this article is the subtitle – “Help reduce the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species.” But this also applies to the other invasive species as well, particularly the invasive earthworms that I have written twice about before.

I hope you can sense my excitement when I saw this sentence in print. The fact that the state officials have recognized that there is a growing problem with invasive species whether they are earthly or aquatic is a fantastic step in the right direction to educate those who love the great outdoors.

The question that many have asked me is “What can we do to help curb this situation?”

Concerning the earthworms, the public has to be educated and understand, there is a major problem. But much more has to be considered, particularly with the aquatic invaders.

“Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)”, according to the manual, “are plants and animals that have been introduced into new ecosystems and have environmental, recreational, economic or health impacts. These invaders may damage equipment and compete with native species. Anglers and boaters may unknowingly introduce AIS into new waters,” the author said in the publication.

As a former boat owner, I think I speak for many who still have these floatation devices, that there are three things on our minds concerning the ownership of these units – putting our boats in the water, recreating, and pulling them out to take them home. Period. There was never ever thought as to the possibility as to transporting aquatic invasive species home and then to the next basin of water visited.

With that said, there are things you can do to help the further spread of AIS.

Check you equipment before leaving any body of water. Inspect every inch of your boat, trailer and fishing gear. Remove and leave behind plants, mud and aquatic life.

Drain water from all equipment before leaving the area you are visiting. Some species may live for months in water that has not been removed.

The Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission recommends following specified cleaning instructions after the water has been removed from your boat.

“Use hot (104° F) or salt water to clean your equipment. Spray equipment with a high-pressure washer. If hot water is not available, a commercial hot water car wash also makes an ideal location to wash your boat, motor and trailer.”

There are also recipes for hard to treat equipment mention in the Summary. They are found in the third column, half way down. I suggest if you have this problem to check out and follow the recommendations.

“Dry everything before entering new waters,” it was disclosed. “Allow equipment to dry to the touch, and then allow it to dry another 48 hours. Thick and dense material like life jackets will hold moistures longer, take longer to dry and be more difficult to clean."

And referring back to the last paragraph of the third column, the whole paragraph reads – “Do not transport any plants, fish or other aquatic life from one body of water to another.” And, “Do not release unused bait into the waters you are fishing.”

I hope I have given you something to think about next time when you take your boat out into the waters.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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