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Clean Boats, Boots After Holiday Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer in Montana and boaters and anglers need to remember to clean, drain and dry their watercraft and gear before leaving a water access site.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and partner agencies operate more than 25 road-side watercraft inspection stations across the state. “We couldn’t be as effective in detecting mussel-fouled boats and protecting Montana waters without the help of our partner agencies, particularly conservation districts and tribal governments who help us with many inspection stations across the state,” said FWP Fisheries Division Administrator Eileen Ryce. “So far, FWP and our partners have inspected more than 9,800 watercraft, 17 of which were mussel-fouled.”

When a mussel-fouled boat is intercepted, Montana inspectors typically clean it, lock it to the trailer to prohibit launching and contact the destination state so they can arrange for follow-up and, if needed, a full decontamination when it reaches its destination.

Typically, boat inspections are brief and include a short interview and check to make sure watercraft are not transporting mud, water, plants, or invasive organisms. Larger or more complex boats may require additional time for an inspection.

As boaters venture out to our rivers and lakes, please keep in mind the rules aimed at protecting our waters and preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. Be sure to always clean, drain and dry your boat and stop at inspection stations this holiday weekend.

All boats must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter. Failure to stop at inspection stations could result in a fine of up to $500.

Non-residents transporting watercraft into Montana must purchase a Vessel AIS Prevention Pass before launching. The fee is $30 for motorized and $10 for nonmotorized watercraft. The pass is valid until Dec. 31.

Inspection is required for Montana residents before launch if the boat is entering the state, crossing west over the Continental Divide or entering the Flathead Basin.

Anglers: Clean off plants, animals and mud from gear and equipment including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines and field gear before leaving water access. Scrub off any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush.

Drain water from waders, watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell and portable bait containers before leaving water access. Replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water when keeping live bait before leaving water access.

Dry everything five days or more when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen or wipe with a towel before reuse. Dispose of unwanted bait, fish parts, and packing materials, in the trash. Do not dump them in the water or on land. Use non-felt soled boots to further reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.

To find a watercraft inspection station or to learn more, go to or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at 406-444-2440.

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