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MADISON — This summer, thousands of Wisconsin anglers will leave the boat landing with a free ice pack to go with their daily catch. The packs come with a friendly reminder from their local boat inspector or conservation warden: Drain water from live wells or buckets to stop the spread of invasive species.
The reminder is part of a statewide “Drain Campaign” taking place this summer to get the word out on a law that is sometimes overlooked. Most anglers and boaters already know to pull weeds and animals off their gear, but it is also against the law to transport lake or river water and live fish. Once fish are out of water, they aren’t considered live and can be transported home.
Aquatic invasive species educator Christal Campbell says the rule against moving water between lakes exists because invaders like zebra mussel larvae or Spiny water fleas, which are too small to see, can survive in water left in a live well, bucket, bilge, motor or other equipment and then flourish after arriving at a new lake or river.
Campbell explains, “Once these hitchhikers reach a new lake or river, they can cause problems. Spiny water fleas impact the food web, and zebra mussels can clog gear, cover beaches or lead to increased blue-green algae blooms.”
Since last year, the Campbell notes that the program has been successful in raising awareness.
“Anglers are some of the most dedicated stewards of Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. This whole effort came about because they told the DNR in surveys and focus groups, that the rules for transporting live fish and water just weren’t as clear to them,” says Campbell. “Anglers want to do the right thing and protect the resource, so we’re making sure they know how.”
Anglers may also hear about the “Draining Campaign” from a couple of big names on the radio this summer. Pro angler Joe Bucher and Wisconsin Foodie chef Kyle Cherek are featured in radio advertisements that air statewide this month to remind anglers of these steps to drain water and to encourage them to put their fish on ice as a way to keep the fish fresh and avoid problems with water-borne invasives.