Boaters play an important role in protecting Minnesota waters from aquatic invasive species (AIS).  

Invasive species impact boating. Invasive plants, such as mats of starry stonewort, curly-leaf pondweed, or Eurasian watermilfoil can make navigation difficult and impact swimming activities from your boat. Zebra mussels can damage engines and their sharp shells can cut the feet of swimmers and dogs. Invasive species change how we use and enjoy Minnesota waters.  

Boaters can unintentionally transport aquatic invasive species. Seeds, eggs, larvae, small animals, plant fragments and water can be trapped inside your equipment. For example: 

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  • Microscopic larvae of zebra mussels can be in the water of engines, live wells, bait wells, and ballast tanks.  
  • Aquatic plants can entangle on equipment.  
  • Mud on anchors or ropes may contain small invasive species, such as zebra mussels, starry stonewort bulbils, or faucet snails.  
  • Spiny waterfleas may collect on anchor lines, fishing lines, or downriggers. 


To help protect Minnesota waters and comply with state law, here are some best practices to reduce your risk of spreading invasive species from one water body to another:

Before Your Trip

Plan your visit and gear. If you are planning to go to multiple locations: 

Always arrive cleaned and drained. Double-check all gear and equipment to ensure it is cleaned and drained before heading out. Always drain water from boats and equipment away from a waterbody. For storage, repair or cleaning:

Know the laws: 

  • It is illegal to transport aquatic plants or prohibited invasive species, dead or alive.
  • It is illegal to launch watercraft or place a trailer in the water if it has aquatic plants or prohibited invasive species attached, or water present in compartments.
  • It is illegal to transport water away from Minnesota lakes and rivers. You must remove all drain plugs and all water must be drained before transporting equipment off the access site or riparian property.
  • It is illegal to release bait or non-native species into Minnesota waters.

Know what to look for. Learn how to identify aquatic invasive species.


After You Are Done on the Water

Take these required steps before leaving the lake, river or wetland: 

  • Clean your boat and any recreational equipment to remove plants, small animals, mud, and debris. Check around bunks and rollers, axels, and near the license plate on the trailer. Check the back of the boat, around the engine, trim tabs, and transducers for vegetation or attached invasive species. Clean mud from anchors and anchor rope.
  • Drain all water. This includes your engine, bait well, live well, ballast tanks, bilge, and any recreational equipment. Lower the motor or lower unit to ensure excess water is drained. Leave plugs out during transport.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
  • Never Release bait, aquarium pets or aquatic plants.

Consider these additional recommendations. Some invasive species are small and difficult to see. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another lake or river:

  • Decontaminate your boat, equipment and gear by rinsing with hot water at 120 degrees for 2 minutes or 140 degrees for 10 seconds. If needed, spray with high pressure to remove attached debris.
  • Spray your equipment with high-pressure water. 
  • Rinse your gear with tap water.
  • Dry your gear for 5 days before using it in another lake or river, whenever possible. 

Report suspicious aquatic plants and animals to the DNR. Take a picture or collect a specimen, note the exact location, and contact your DNR Invasive Species Specialist or log in and submit a report through EDDMapS.


Learn More

Learn about how to prevent the spread of invasive species while doing other activities on Minnesota waters.



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