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Game & Fish

Aquatic Nuisance Species

07/01/2007 - Wyoming is home to well known rivers such as the North Platte and Snake Rivers, and popular lakes such as Glendo, Seminoe and Pathfinder. Protecting these resources is everyone's responsibility if we expect them to provide fishing enjoyment into the future.

Mud stuck to boots, boats and other equipment can spread aquatic nuisance species. Cleaning equipment between uses can help minimize impact to our fishery resources. (click for larger version)
You can help protect Wyoming's waters by learning what to do to stop aquatic nuisance species, which can "hitchhike" on your boat or other aquatic equipment and be unknowingly spread from one body of water to another.

Aquatic nuisance species are non-native species that can disrupt entire ecosystems by destroying habitat and altering food chains. They can be plants, animals, fish, amphibians, crustaceans, mollusks, or diseases, and are becoming a problem in Wyoming.

"We've seen a lot of instances where fish appear where they do not belong," said Game and Fish Information Specialist Robin Kepple. "People bring their own bait fish, or they release their aquarium fish into the waterways. Some of these fish survive and go on to cause serious problems in the ecosystems."

In the past, walleye have been found in Harry Yesness Pond in Casper despite the fact that it is managed as a trout fishery. Game and Fish Department removed the walleye, and the problem now seems to be under control. But other waters in the state have not been so fortunate.

Red-rim melania, a type of snail often sold in pet stores for aquariums, were found in Midwest Reservoir. The water source of that reservoir is from a warm-water well and the warm temperature allows them to survive.

New Zealand mudsnails were found in waters in Yellowstone National Park in recent years. The snails are thought to have come into the Great Lakes region in water released from a ship's ballast, or perhaps in the water of live game fish shipped from infested waters to western rivers in the United States.

The snails compete for food and space occupied by native snail species. Trout and other game fish may also avoid them as prey, which reduces the food source available to these fish. Mudsnails reproduce asexually, with females born with developing embryos in their reproductive systems. "So it only takes one to reproduce into a new population," Kepple said.

Aquatic nuisance species can be spread through something as simple as water in a live well or even muddy boots or equipment. Anglers are encouraged to thoroughly clean their boat, trailer, fishing gear, waders and boots when they leave each body of water. A high-pressure rinse with warm water at a car wash is usually enough to remove any unwanted species that may be clinging to a boat or trailer, and washing waders and other gear by hand can also do the trick.

Biologists ask anglers to learn all they can about aquatic nuisance species and assist in preventing their spread in Wyoming. "Sometimes we can't do anything to control these species once they are established, so we have to work to prevent it," Kepple said.

So it is important to follow this general procedure every time you leave any body of water.

·Before leaving any body of water, examine your boat, trailer, clothing, boots, buckets and other equipment. Remove any visible plants or plant fragments, fish or animals and clean mud and dirt, which can also harbor hitchhikers.

·Eliminate water from all equipment and every conceivable item: motors, jet drives, live wells, boat hulls, scuba tanks and regulators, boots, waders, bait buckets, swimming floats, etc.

·Clean and dry anything that came in contact with the water, such as boats, trailers, equipment, boots, clothing, etc. Use hot or salt water to clean your equipment or spray equipment with high-pressure water. If possible, allow equipment to dry in the sun for three to five days before entering new waters.

·Do not release or put live bait, aquarium plants, fish, or aquatic animals into any body of water. Dump unused bait in a trashcan or on the land, far enough away from the water that it cannot impact the resource.

For more information on aquatic nuisance species, contact the Game and Fish Department at 473-3400 or online at http://gf.state.wy.us.

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