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

Invasive species impact anglers. Invasive species can impact water quality, plant abundance and diversity, and food availability which can negatively impact fish populations. Invasive species change how we use and enjoy Minnesota waters.  

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

  • 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.


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Did you know? Releasing bait is illegal because it threatens Minnesota’s fisheries. Bait and bait water can harbor fish diseases and invasive species. All earthworms are non-native to Minnesota and damage forests if released.


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.

  • Bring extra bottled or dechlorinated tap water and leave it in your vehicle to keep leftover baitfish.
  • Bring a cooler with ice to keep your catch fresh.
  • Be prepared to bring unwanted bait with you when you leave, since most fishing and boating access points do not have trash cans.
  • Use non-felt soled boots whenever possible.
  • 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 or equipment away from a waterbody. 

Know the laws:

  • It is illegal to transport water away from a lake or river. All water must be drained from containers, gear and equipment before transporting off the access site or riparian property.
  • It is illegal to release bait into Minnesota waters.  
  • It is illegal to transport caught fish in water.
  • It is illegal to bring live minnows and leeches into Minnesota from out of state.

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

After You Are Done Fishing

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

  • Clean your gear and equipment to remove plants, small animals, mud, and debris. 
    • Gear: Wipe down fishing poles, scrub boots, and clean anchors and anchor rope. 
    • Watercraft and trailer: 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.
  • Drain all water from your watercraft, bait containers, and container with your catch.
    • Bait container: To keep baitfish after a fishing trip, follow these steps: Bring extra bottled or dechlorinated tap water and leave it in your vehicle. Before leaving, drain your bait container on shore and refill it with the extra water.
    • Watercraft: Includes 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.
    • If a trash can is not available on site, bring all unwanted bait with you to dispose of in the trash elsewhere.
  • Never Release bait into the water or onto the land.

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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