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Be prepared to check boats for AIS this week

Bruce Anspach, DNR aquatic specialist, trains volunteers from Emma, Stocking and Bottle lakes Saturday. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By Sarah Smith

If you’re launching your boat for the first time this weekend, you should have no worries.

But if you’ve been fishing since the Opener and are launching in Hubbard County, prepare to be greeted by an army of volunteers to inspect your watercraft.

Last weekend the DNR put on another session to train two dozen more inspectors on Emma-Stocking-Bottles lakes.

Bruce Anspach, DNR Department of Eco Water Resources, advised letting your propeller run a couple minutes before putting your boat in the water. You can do this two to three minutes without harming the motor, Anspach maintains, but generally the DNR recommends five to 10 seconds.

Prepare to get dirty. Don’t use gloves or you won’t be able to feel the differences in a crusted hull or a non-crusted one.

So here’s a DIY for AIS:

n Touch the hull to feel for veligers, zebra mussels in the hatching stage. Start at the water line and work your way down. Mussels like to attach to the bottom paint. They’ll feel like sandpaper.

n Check the bunks and cross markers on your trailer, another place invasive species like to lurk. It’s best to work bow to stern so you have a system you can follow. Work bottom to top, exterior to interior.

n Personal floatation devices, ropes and toys can harbor veligers because they’re absorbent, so check and clean those, too.

n Boat fenders can harbor veligers. So can an anchor. Anchors can snag clusters of adult mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and other prohibited greenery.

Did we mention it’s illegal in Minnesota to transport any aquatic plants? If you see something hanging on your trailer, pull it off.

n Clean, drain, dry and dispose of aquatic plants five days between launchings, so if you’re fishing a new lake, it’s best to pull your boat the weekend before. Five days of drying is recommended by water quality experts.

n A good power wash, flushing your boat with hot tap water, is recommended. But you still need the finger inspection. A small fishing pole or stick can be used to snag plants from underneath the trailer.

n Scrub visible material off with a stiff brush. Always carry a sponge with you.

n A zebra mussel or veliger can attach to your boat or trailer if you drive over a watery pothole in the access.

One of the things that trips up most anglers is what to do with the catch.

n You cannot transport your fish in lake water. It’s best to bring ice for the fish you will keep and ice down the fresh catch.

n You also cannot release live bait into the water or dump your worms onto the ground. They must go into the trash.

n Another law that trips up anglers is the drain plug. In Minnesota it’s against the law to transport a boat with the drain plug in or to arrive at a public access with the plug in place.

Recognize that you can pick up plants by fishing from shore, so watch what your pole reels up.

n Docks and boat lifts should be dried 21 days before placing them in different waters.

Sailboats can also transport AIS. So can personal watercraft, so these must be scrubbed down upon entering or exiting a Minnesota lake. Scuba diving equipment must also be checked and cleaned.

n Coolers should be drained if they came into the boat with you.

“It’s getting to be a bigger Bible all the time,” said lake resident Elmer Wendt.

“It’s too bad we have to do it” at all, Lois Wendt agreed.

One of Anspach’s key messages is courtesy. Many out-of-state anglers resent being stopped on their way to their favorite fishing hole. They don’t want to be lectured.

“I can tell you horror stories about confrontations with boaters,” Anspach said, advising watercraft inspectors to approach boaters off to the side or stand at an angle facing boaters so your body language doesn’t look confrontational.

“Especially if they’re drunk and hostile boaters,” he added. “Step away from confrontation.”

But inspectors should call authorities if problems arise. If you don’t know the name or phone number of your conservation officer, a 911 call should be made.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364