Be AIS smart this fishing season

Minnesota Fishing Opener is coming up on May 13 and, as is the case in most years, it is also the weekend of Mother’s Day.

Fun fact: Did you know that a 1989 Minnesota State Law allows mothers to fish without a license during the Fishing Opener weekend? If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself in Minnesota State Statute 97A.445 subd.4, “Any mother who is a resident of Minnesota may take fish by angling without a license during the Saturday and Sunday of the angling season that coincides with Mother’s Day.”

Proof that I do sometimes fish. Just not on Mother’s Day.

Now, though I am a mother and a certified nature nerd, I do not want to spend my Mother’s Day fishing. I want to go to an art museum, buy flowers, and eat fancy little teacakes. There’s plenty of time for fishing in June.

Whether you’ve got your tackle box packed and ready to go, or are waiting for a quieter day to fish, there are several simple steps you can take this fishing season to help protect our Minnesota lakes from aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Aquatic invasive species include plants, animals, and even diseases that come from outside locations and wreak havoc on our aquatic ecosystems. AIS impact fishing, boating, and water recreation and create big economic costs for local communities. Currently, only 8% of the lakes in Minnesota have invasive species present and we need everyone’s help to keep it that way.

In recent years, AIS prevention efforts have focused on making sure that boaters clean, drain and dry their watercraft and trailers after exiting lakes. For people shore-fishing, there are also some additional recommendations.

If you use waders or hip boots when fishing, be sure to clean off any visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud when you’re done and use a stiff brush to scrub the bottom of your boots where mud gets stuck in the treads. Using non-felt soled boots will further reduce the risk of spreading AIS.

It is also important to dispose of unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash instead of throwing them in the water or on the shore. Many public boat launches have a compost area on site where you can dispose of this organic waste. If you have live bait that you’re keeping to use again, drain the lake water out of the container and replace it with tap water or bottled water to avoid transporting microscopic invaders like zebra mussel veligers or spiny waterflea.

If you’re lucky enough to live on a lake, be sure to only hire DNR certified providers to help install and remove docks and lifts. These companies and individuals have been trained in proper procedures to avoid spreading AIS. Visit the DNR website to find a list of providers in every county.

Last, but not least, please be nice to the watercraft inspectors you see at public launches this summer! They’re working hard work to keep our Minnesota Lakes healthy and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.