Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Water Recreationists, Property Owners Asked to Help Search for ANS

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking water recreationists and property owners to check for zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species when removing boat lifts, docks and other equipment from area lakes.

ANS coordinator Jessica Howell said zebra mussels attach to hard surfaces that are left in the water for long periods of time, first settling in tight spaces and areas that are protected from sunlight. She said this can make searching for them in the lake difficult when there are few mussels present.

“It makes it easier to do a thorough search on equipment when it’s taken out of the water in the fall,” Howell said. “Pay special attention to wheel wells, right angles on frames, and areas that are otherwise protected from sunlight. Feel for attached organisms that have small hair-like structures holding them in place. Small mussels can feel like rough sandpaper, and adults can be as large as two inches long.”

Howell said if you think you’ve found a zebra mussel, take pictures, write down any relevant information such as how many were found and where, and report it online at the Game and Fish website gf.nd.gov/ans, or email Howell at jmhowell@nd.gov.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas and were introduced to the United States in the mid-1980s. Since then, they have caused massive damage to infrastructure, increased costs to electric and water users, and altered the ecosystems into which they were introduced. They were first discovered in North Dakota in the Red River in 2015 as a result of downstream drift from infested Minnesota lakes. Most recently, zebra mussels were discovered earlier this year in Lake Ashtabula.

“Help stop the spread by reporting anything that seems out of place, and remember to clean, drain and dry equipment before moving between waters,” Howell said.

Bighead Carp Caught in James River

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department recently collected and verified bighead carp in the James River near LaMoure during silver carp monitoring efforts. Bighead carp, an exotic species, are established in the lower Missouri River and in the James River in South Dakota. This is the first report of this aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota waters.

Jessica Howell, Game and Fish aquatic nuisance species coordinator, said department personnel are disappointed but not surprised that bighead carp have entered the state.

“High water levels in the James River this year have facilitated their movements upstream, providing an opportunity for them to enter the state from the South Dakota portions,” Howell said.

Game and Fish staff will continue to sample the James River on a regular basis to monitor the silver and bighead carp populations as well as to detect any new potential species that migrate during high flows.

“Once established in a large river system they are virtually impossible to eliminate,” Howell said.

Like the closely related silver carp that showed up in 2011, bighead carp can out-compete native and other game fish in large river systems. They eat phytoplankton, a food item used by zooplankton, which in turn are eaten by small game fish. They concentrate below dams and in confluence areas and can drive out desirable fish.

Traveling Boaters Take Note of ANS Regulations

North Dakota boaters who are traveling to or through other states or Canadian provinces, are reminded to check the aquatic nuisance species regulations of their destination, to make sure they are in compliance.

 

Mandatory boat inspections may be required along highways or at lakes based on destination or route taken. In general, to ensure compliance, boaters are encouraged to clean, drain and dry equipment.

  • Clean: remove plants, animals and excessive mud from trailers, hulls, motors and other equipment such as fishing rods.
  • Drain: drain all water, including bilges, livewells and bait buckets.
  • Dry: allow all equipment to dry completely, as an inspection might be failed in a neighboring state if any standing water is present. If necessary, use sponges or towels to remove excess water and leave compartments open to dry.

More information on bordering state and provincial ANS regulations is available at the following web addresses.

North Dakota ANS Plan on Web

The North Dakota Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan, an update of the original version prepared in 2005, has been signed by Gov. Doug Burgum and is available for viewing on the state Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

Completed and revised by the North Dakota Aquatic Invasive Species Committee, the goal of the 25-page plan “is to prevent the introduction and spread of ANS into and within North Dakota while mitigating ecological, economic and social impacts of existing populations where feasible.”

NDAISC is comprised of state, tribal, local and private stakeholders to guide ANS efforts across the state.

Anglers May Not Bring Aquatic Bait into North Dakota

Anglers are reminded that it is illegal to import minnows and other forms of live aquatic bait into North Dakota.

 

Anglers should buy bait from a licensed North Dakota retail bait vendor. Bait vendors can properly identify species and have taken steps to ensure all bait is clean of any aquatic nuisance species.

For more information, refer to the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide, available at license vendors or online at the state Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

Waterfowl Hunters Reminded of ANS Regulations

Waterfowl hunters are reminded to do their part in preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species into or within North Dakota.

Waterfowl hunters must remove plants and plant fragments from decoys, strings and anchors; remove plants seeds and plant fragments from waders and other equipment before leaving hunting areas; remove all water from decoys, boats, motors, trailers and other watercraft; and remove all aquatic plants from boats and trailers before leaving a marsh or lake. In addition, hunters are encouraged to brush their hunting dogs free of mud and seeds.

Cattails and bulrushes may be transported as camouflage on boats. All other aquatic vegetation must be cleaned from boats prior to transportation into or within North Dakota.

In addition, drain plugs on boats must remain pulled when a boat is in transit away from a water body.

More ANS information, including regulations, is available by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

Drain Water from Boats

North Dakota anglers and water recreationists are reminded that all water must be drained from boats before leaving a water body.

 

This regulation, intended to help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species, includes all watercraft and associated bilges, livewells, baitwells and motors. However, anglers can transport fish on ice in a separate container.

 

In addition, all drain plugs that may hold back water must be removed, and water draining devices must be open, on all watercraft and recreational, commercial and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces, during any out-of-water transport.

 

Other ANS regulations require:

  • All aquatic vegetation must be removed from boats, personal watercraft, trailers and fishing equipment such as fishing rods, bait buckets, lures and waders before leaving a body of water. That means “vegetation free” when transporting watercraft and/or equipment away from a boat ramp, landing area or shoreline. Time out of the water needed to remove aquatic vegetation at the immediate water access area is allowed.
  • All legal live aquatic organisms used by anglers, including legal baitfish (fathead minnows), amphibians (salamanders and frogs), invertebrates (crayfish and leeches) and insects must be purchased and/or trapped in North Dakota. Anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of five gallons or less in volume. The only exception is that anglers may not transport live bait in water away from the Red River (Class I ANS infested waters). At Class I ANS infested waters, all water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore, or remove their boat from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the river, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal.
  • Transportation of live white suckers, other than within Richland, Cass, Traill, Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties, is illegal.

Waterfowl Hunters Reminded of ANS Regulations

Waterfowl hunters are reminded to do their part in preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species into or within North Dakota.

Waterfowl hunters must remove plants and plant fragments from decoys, strings and anchors; remove plants seeds and plant fragments from waders and other equipment before leaving hunting areas; remove all water from decoys, boats, motors, trailers and other watercraft; and remove all aquatic plants from boats and trailers before leaving a marsh or lake. In addition, hunters are encouraged to brush their hunting dogs free of mud and seeds.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish

Cattails and bulrushes may be transported as camouflage on boats. All other aquatic vegetation must be cleaned from boats prior to transportation into or within North Dakota.

In addition, drain plugs on boats must remain pulled when the boat is in transit away from a water body.

More ANS information, including regulations, is available by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

Aquatic Vegetation Deserves Attention

 

Extensive vegetation growth along docks and boat ramps serves as a good reminder for anglers and boaters to follow aquatic nuisance species regulations.

 

North Dakota Game and Fish Department ANS coordinator Jessica Howell said the Department has received reports of increased vegetation in local waters.

 

“Aquatic plants can be the most abundant in the warmer months due to a combination of available nutrients, light and steadily increasing water temperatures,” Howell said.

 

State regulations require all aquatic vegetation be removed from boats, personal watercraft, trailers and fishing equipment such as fishing rods, bait buckets, lures and waders before leaving a body of water. Howell said that means “vegetation free” when transporting watercraft and/or equipment away from a boat ramp, landing area or shoreline. She said time out of the water needed to remove aquatic vegetation at the immediate water access area is allowed.

 

“Some plant species are highly invasive, and other ANS can hitch a ride in vegetation as well,” Howell said.

 

In addition to removing vegetation, other ANS regulations require:

 

  • All water must be drained from boats and other watercraft, including bilges, livewells, baitwells and motors before leaving a water body. Anglers can transport fish on ice in a separate container.
  • All drain plugs that may hold back water must be removed, and water draining devices must be open, on all watercraft and recreational, commercial and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces, during any out-of-water transport of same.
  • All legal live aquatic organisms used by anglers, including legal baitfish (fathead minnows), amphibians (salamanders and frogs), invertebrates (crayfish and leeches) and insects must be purchased and/or trapped in North Dakota. Anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of five gallons or less in volume. The only exception is that anglers may not transport live bait in water away from the Red River (Class I ANS infested waters). At Class I ANS infested waters, all water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore, or remove their boat from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the river, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal.

clean under boat