At the end of a fishing trip, it’s not uncommon for anglers to release some straggling minnows, worms or other unused bait into the water or to save and use the bait at another body of water.
But dumping live bait into the water or on shore has helped many nonnative animals become established in new waterways. Although unintentional, the results have been catastrophic. These invaders are often aggressive and lack natural predators in their new environment, so they tend to spread or reproduce quickly. They contribute to habitat destruction, loss of native species, changes in food webs and the spread of pathogens.
These changes can affect commercially valuable species and are typically irreversible. In many cases, efforts to eradicate or control invasive species are prohibitively expensive. Prevention and early detection are the best ways to control new invasions and anglers are the greatest line of defense.
What can anglers do?
1. Learn to identify invasive species.
2. Only buy live bait from reputable dealers and follow state regulations.
3. Don’t release fish, plants or animals into the water unless they came out of that body of water.
4. Dispose of unused bait, dead fish and fish parts in a secure trash area away from the water.
And remember: Freezing bait doesn’t kill viruses or disease.
5. Empty all water from boats, buckets, bilges, live wells and other equipment and remove all mud, plants and aquatic life from equipment before moving it to another body of water.
6. Thoroughly clean and dry all fishing and boating equipment, including bait buckets, boots, boats, and trailers before moving them to another body of water.
7. Report any new invaders at http://fishandboat.com/ais-reporting.htm.
Whether you fish or not, you can help spread the word! Inform your angler friends about properly disposing live bait.