If you are an angler, then you may see a variety of invasive plant and animal species, depending on where you go. In lakes and rivers, you may encounter invasive crayfish, New Zealand mud snails, or bullfrogs, or plants such as Brazilian elodea, Eurasian watermilfoil, or saltcedar. In marine environments, you might see tunicates, or the European green crab.
These species could hitch a ride in your boat or gear and spread to other waters. Other species that aren’t currently found in Washington's waters but could be here soon include the mitten crab, the northern snakehead fish, zebra and quagga mussels, and water chestnut.
You may release unused live bait at the end of a day of fishing. 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 or the material that the bait is packed in may not be native to the area you are fishing. By releasing unused live bait, you could be facilitating the spread of an invasive species such as red swamp crayfish or rusty crayfish, or Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus.
What can you do to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species?
Clean your boat, trailers, and other equipment that entered the water. Specifically, you can:
- Inspect your equipment for mud, plants, fish, and animals, and remove everything you see.
- Drain water from all equipment.
- Clean your boat and any other equipment that entered the water, and allow them to dry thoroughly before moving them. Learn cleaning techniques.
- Agree to stop at boat inspection checkpoints in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and other states. You will not be subject to penalties or fines if staff find aquatic invasive species on your boat.
Don't release live bait. Do your best not to release live bait to the waters where you’re fishing. To prevent the possible spread of these animals, you can take the following steps:
- Avoid purchasing or using invasive species for bait. You can talk with your bait suppliers about whether they sell non-native species such as crayfish.
- Dispose of your unwanted, live bait in the trash, or give your bait to another angler.
- Be careful not to let bait escape unintentionally.
- Take the following steps if you plan to harvest bait for your own use or for sale.
For more information:
- Why should I care about invasive species?
- How to inspect your boat for invasive species
- Detailed gear cleaning practices
- Live bait issues, from Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management
- Defending Favorite Places (video)
- Clean Angling Pledge
- Focus on Fish Health